The Exponential Law Department: an Oxymoron?
Jorge Dengo, Senior Counsel, Philip Morris International, México
Till Olbrich, VP & Associate General Counsel, Philip Morris International, USA
Imagine you could fold a piece of paper as many times as you want. Every time you fold it, you make it thicker. The question is: how many times do you have to fold the paper so that its thickness can span the distance from the earth to the moon? The answer is: 42 times - yes, just 42. The distance from earth to moon is 384400 kilometers on average. Far away. A standard sheet of paper is 0.1 mm thick, and, initially, not much happens when you start to fold it, going from 0.1 mm to 0.2 mm, to 0.4 mm, to 0.8 mm, to 1.6 mm, to 3.2 mm, to 6.4 mm, to 1.28 cm, to 2.6 cm, to 5.2 cm. Ten steps in the folding process get you to just over 10 centimeters, but, soon after that, the exponential effect kicks in. At step twenty, you have already reached 105 meters, and, after ten more 107 kilometers.
Most people guess thousands or millions. No one will estimate anything as low as 42 folding steps. Why? Because our minds are not made for exponential thinking. Human minds, including those of lawyers, think linearly. Yet, some claim that human beings can design exponential organizations.
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