An object hanging from a string, moving back and forth, is more than something used to entertain cats or hypnotize patients in old horror movies. It’s called a pendulum. By definition, it is a weight suspended from a pivot that is free to swing. When displaced from its resting place, called the equilibrium, the weight’s acceleration and gravity will oscillate it back and forth over that equilibrium.

The first to observe this phenomenon was Galileo Galilei in the early 17th century. The rather famous story tells that Galileo observed a swinging lamp in a Pisa cathedral and noticed the oscillations were predictable with his pulse. It lead to developments in time-keeping that were considered the most accurate in the world into the 1930s.

Perhaps more relevant to today is the strength of the pendulum as a metaphor, particularly as a metaphor for change and its predictability as the one constant in life. But more than that is the change between two, seemingly opposing forces.

The analogy has been perceived in business, politics, and even sports. You’ll often hear the pundits argue which is more important, offense or defense, hitting or pitching. The answer seems to depend on where you are in the evolution of the sport.

In business, it’s often “the swing” between centralized and decentralized, insourcing and outsourcing, hierarchical and flat, and—enter policy—regulation and deregulation. Some would even say there is a consistent “swing” in the administrations societies elect—from conservative to progressive.

As the blog “Watch out for the pendulum swing,” by Mark Holmgren, points out, “Societal and organizational pendulum swings are a metaphor for major change or transformation in thinking and action. They are in and of themselves neither good nor bad, positive nor negative. They tend to reflect as well as point to major trends.”

A major change, or transformation, in manufacturing may already be here with software, AI, and Industry 4.0. Read all about it in “Inspection Software Evolving to All-In-One QMS Solutions for Practical Data Management,” “How Edge AI Can Improve the Visual Inspection Process,” and “A Pandemic is No Match for Industry 4.0,” as well as everything else we have to offer in this month’s Quality.

Enjoy and thanks for reading!