PATRICK HARKER, THE WHARTON SCHOOL

Like so many people, Patrick Harker, dean of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is searching for order in this new era of discontinuity. But Harker is looking for it in an unexpected place: physicist Brian Greene’s The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory (Vintage Books).

Why a book on physics?
This book is not just about physics; it’s about the triumph of human thought.

Why this book at this time?
Everyone is raising big questions to make sense of the times: What does it all mean, and where do we fit in? We’re striving for models. For my own business problems, I find that it’s useful to look outside of business and try to grasp how others are thinking about the world.

So what insights have you applied to business?
Consider string theory, which says that particles at the most microscopic level are actually tiny loops of vibrating string. It’s all about vibration and the frequencies we create. We see that all the time in business — the harmonics of an organization. We tend to have this very mechanistic, Newtonian view of companies, but the reality is that many leaders impose a kind of frequency on a company.

— C. Canabou