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Reflecting deeply about change, whether in business, social or personal affairs, takes us back to the ancients - the Chinese and the Greeks.

Among the ancient Greeks, Heraclitus is commonly quoted as the philosopher of change.

"All is flux." "The only constant is change"

This is how Plato interprets Heraclitus - but it's at best a partial view of a complex and paradoxical philosopher. A careful reading of Heraclitus reveals him as focusing, not on things as constantly changing, but on things as constant while changing.

He is therefore an invaluable touchstone for practical thinking about change in relation to organizations, people and technology. 

 

Heraclitus

 
heraclitus

Rivers

Running water never disappointed.
Crossing water always furthered something.
Stepping stones were stations of the soul.
Seamus Heaney

Change

Change isnít a new phenomenon.   The ancient Greeks were aware of the paradoxes of change; and the words of Heraclitus are much quoted, although usually misunderstood.   Heraclitus wasnít just interested in the fact that thereís a lot of change about, but in how we (and rivers) can continue to exist despite change.  This remains a crucial question.

Prompted by Heraclitus, we can ask: how can markets survive through change?  Partly by forcing greater competition between business organizations.  And how can business organizations survive through change?  Partly by taking advantage of the increasing competition between software solutions.

Practical Implications

In several practical domains, we are confronted with the paradoxes of change. How do things evolve, and how can we hold onto the things (or aspects) that are not evolving?
 
business strategy How can a company survive? What identity can a company preserve through change?
business rules How do we enforce rules, without setting them in concrete?
customer identity How do customers evolve? How can we understand our customers as retaining some identity, retaining some consistency and continuity of behaviour?

Author

Richard Veryard is a technology consultant.

Reading

 
The sourcebook for authentic Heraclitus material - in both Greek and English - with useful comments ... Heraclitus.  Fragments: A Text and Translation with a Commentary by T.M. Robinson
University of Toronto Press, 1987.
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Heidegger is by far the most interesting and important modern philosopher to pay attention to preSocratic philosophy. Martin Heidegger & Eugen Fink. Heraclitus Seminar.
Translated by Charles H. Seibert.  University of Alabama Press, 1979.  Reprinted by Northwestern University Press, 1993.
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Internet Links

Heraclitus on the Logos
Heidegger's Reading of Heraclitus
Heraclitus? or Xenophanes?
Presocratic Paradoxes
Greek Philosophy: Heraclitus

Heraclitus of Ephesos


veryard projects - innovation for demanding change veryard projects > people > heraclitus
Last updated February 12th, 2000
Copyright © 1999, 2000 Richard Veryard
http://www.veryard.com/demcha/heraclitus.htm