The next day, Alex asks his staff if anyone has come up with a better way to organize information. Ralph explains that when he formerly studied chemistry, he learned about Dmitri Mendeleev, who came up with the periodic table of elements. Mendeleev’s system endured because it ordered the elements according to their weight, size, and behavior, and thus it could even predict the characteristics of other elements that weren’t yet discovered based on where they would sit in the periodic table.
Ralph’s description of Mendeleev and Jonah’s former career as a physicist both reinforce Goldratt’s conviction that business should be approached as a science; essentially, businesspeople should adopt a scientists’ approach of looking for relationships between phenomena.
Although Bob is skeptical of Ralph’s story, everyone else thinks Ralph is on to something. Ralph states that Mendeleev’s organization system revealed an “intrinsic order” of the elements, and if they can find an “intrinsic order” to organize events in the division, they can make real progress. Alex realizes that they are trying to make management into a science, just like Jonah is a scientist. At home, Julie tells Alex that she started reading Plato’s Socratic dialogues, since maybe it will help her learn to persuade her husband and children.
Ralph’s belief that an intrinsic order exists to any set of data suggests that if a manager can find the underlying relationships present in any complex problem—like Mendeleev found the relationship between an element’s weight, size, and behavior—that problem and all its data points will begin to organize itself. A manager will even be able to predict data that they do not yet have.