If At First…

If At First…

A sunny path under a blue sky

Since first naming the Antimatter Principle back in October 2013, it has featured in quite a few posts of mine. Even whilst composing that first post I suspected that I would have trouble adequately explaining such an “out there” idea.

And so, it seems, it has proven.

I say “it seems” because I have had very few folks engage with me on the topic. Reactions, one way or the other, have been sparse.

I reflect that “change”, as John Seddon is wont to observe, “is a normative process”. Folks have to experience a thing, first hand, to really begin to grasp that thing.

And, God knows, there’s precious few folks in precious few organisations consciously practicing “attending to folks’ needs” – or, indeed, anything even remotely like that.

“You only understand something relative to something you already understand.”

~ Richard Saul Wurman

For the vast majority of folks involved in “technical” work, where decades of collective wisdom has focussed on “process”, or leadership/management, I can appreciate that breaking out of those frames and exploring a very different, and alien, new frame may feel…discomforting?


So, by way of eating my own dogfood, I ask “To what – and to whose – needs am I attending with the Antimatter Principle?”

My own, certainly:
A need for joyful connection with others.
A need for dialogue and exchange of perspectives.
A need for fellowship in the mutual exploration of the mysteries of the Universe – and more specifically, the mysteries of software development.

And for others? I see folks everywhere trying to figure out “this software thing”. I.E. Looking for answers to questions about productivity, quality, mastery, job satisfaction, and other such matters. I offer the Antimatter Principle as one possibility for a path to pursue in seeking such answers.

Having signposted this particular path – what I call the people path – I feel it best to leave folks free to choose which path they may wish to follow, if any.

“The most essential prerequisite to understanding is to be able to admit when you don’t understand something”

~ Richard Saul Wurman

So why rake over these old coals? Am I flogging (sic) a dead horse? Is it time yet to dismount?

Would you be willing to suggest something, by way of explanation, that might help you grasp the concept – sufficiently at least to consider it’s implications and ramifications?

And would you be willing to share some of your needs in this regard?

– Bob

Further Reading

Interview: Richard Saul Wurman; In Search of the God of Understanding ~ Nadine Epstein

  1. Hello Bob,

    It may help if you choose to look at the situation from a particular vantage point. Which one? The Heideggerian one which states that we live in and from a technological age. What is the defining characteristic of such a mode of existence in the world? It is not that it is full of technology or technology gadget. No. It is rather that there is an obsession with conquest, output, efficiency, usage-utilisation. And within this context human beings, social systems, institutions, nature show up simply as resources. These have no value, no dignity, no sacredness in their existence.

    When you articulate the Antimatter Principle (which clearly is an expression of Rosenbergs’ Non Violent Communication philosophy and practice) you are relating to people as human beings. Conscious beings, all of value, who have needs and as such it is appropriate (in this context) and necessary to pay attention to needs – of all people. Martin Buber articulated this many tens of years ago by distinguishing between two radically different modes of encounter-relationship: I-Thou v I-It.

    So you are proposing an I-Thou mode of encounter-relating in a world the functions from and is dependent on the I-It mode of existence, encounter, relating. So you are experiencing a lack of listening to that which you speak. Your speaking can be compared to that of someone preaching the value of humanity, equality of man in God’s eyes, or “all men are born equal” in the days when the economic system in the southern US was powered by slavery. Or when the British knowing starved millions of Indian’s to death so that the plunder from India kept flowing to the UK. For most of us the pain in our little finger is more real-important than the death of millions from poverty, disease and war.

    It occurs to me that you have a choice: to stand for that which matters to you (the Antimatter Principle) or to cave in and go along with the dominant way of being-doing in the Western world. And here I leave you with two of my favourite quotes:

    “But man is not made for defeat. A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” Hemingway

    Defeat is … a state of mind, no one is ever defeated until defeat has been accepted as a reality. To me, defeat in anything is merely temporary, and its punishment is but an urge for me to greater effort to achieve my goal. Defeat simply tells me that something is wrong in my doing; it is a path leading to success and truth.” Bruce Lee

    I wish you well. And want you to know that you exist ‘on my radar’ ever since I found you speaking that which you speak. Why? Because your speaking speaks to me. You are not alone. A good place to start may be to connect more deeply with those who are already connected with you due to the resonance of your speaking, your stand.

    At your service / with my love

    • My thanks. I find it very reassuring to hear that I am not alone.

      – Bob

  2. Rick said:

    To the contrary Bob….,,it is not time to dismount. I actually think it’s time to snap the reigns, flick the crop and ride on. I have been following you for a short period of time on twitter and just very recently dug deeper into your blog – specifically the antimatter principal.

    What you are speaking to…..we have been working on and exploring as well, and I compliment your articulation of the opportunity “tend to folks needs” and naming the principal. While I do not work in software development, I work in a service/knowledge industry (architecture and building systems engineering (A/E)), which is very similar and has the same challenges based on what you speak to. The A/E industry is an old industry, historically viewed as a highly technical, somewhat specialized industry depending on your firm’s make-up and delivery, such as 1) highly specialized (coming up with new stuff), 2) execution-oriented (known for great execution of very complicated projects created by someone else), or 3) the larger market place where most firms exist, which is the commodity market (where limited creativity, consistency in execution, but moreover, price drives decisions).

    I represent a young business (7 years old), and while our leadership is seasoned (between 20-30 years in the industry), we just know there is a better and more meaningful way to execute our projects and work to be an adaptive, learning organization. Hence, our work over the last two years in a growing organization has been focused on our staff and the structures and environments we work in. Powerful influences on our work is learning to work from a Vision perspective (versus a reactive orientation) based on “The Path of Least Resistance” by Robert Fritz, and “The Fifth Discipline” by Peter Senge, which is all about a learning organization and the complexities of individual learning and team learning. While I could ramble on, for now let me say – what you are speaking to is being put into action in a service/knowledge business. While I have only very recently come across your posts and writings, they bring clarity and relevance to what we are trying to achieve. Perhaps to commiserate a little, we have found it extremely challenging to get others to think differently, and while an approach like the antimatter principal may appear and sound obvious, we find ourselves having to dog much deeper into our staff, parents and clients below the events and behavior levels, but down into the mental model level in order to get to real change beyond slogans and mission statements. Please keep up your work as I look forward to reading more about the antimatter principal.

  3. My thanks. I find it very encouraging to hear that some folks are actively pursuing these ideas.

    – Bob

  4. I was just writing a blog post in which I tried to tie together what the Antimatter Principle meant to me, when I came upon this post of yours.

    In short: The principle resonates a lot with me. It gives me a signpost to orientate in work and daily life.

    This having said: Thank you, Bob.

    You might be interested in the whole post: http://www.aribyland.ch/the-antimatter-principle/

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