Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Another angle on human collections

"The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them." attributed to Albert Einstein

Been reading "Finding our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time" by Margaret Wheatley. It's a look at human systems (organizations, companies, groups, pairs, etc.) through the lens of biological systems. From these evolutionist (and often Evolutionist) biologist comes the following set of needs organisms have (note: the more complex the being, the more these needs are felt):
1) the need to be myself and live (or create) out of my sense of self
2) the need to be with others, in actual community

Here's the basics of their framework . . .

3 Conditions for a Sustainable, self-organizing Organization (human or otherwise!):

1) Identity: the making-sense capacity of the organization
- core values, lenses/filters, intent of the org.
- the "self" is an internal construct
- self generated
- creates filters, values, etc.
- canNOT be created externally, only externally disturbed
- why try to shape what cannot be reached?!?

2) Information: the Medium of an Organization
- in-form, what forms from the Inside
- data becomes information when it is used by the "in" to form itself

3) Relationships: the Pathways of Organization
- data/information is passed, shared, amplified down these paths
- identity is created and re-created
- community is had, held, formed, given to new members

I find the #2-Information point interesting. Have I, as a pastor, tried too hard to change what I cannot even touch? Granted, the Spirit can mold there, but I cannot form in those places (values, ethics, morals, habits) that I was trying to reach with sermons, advice, meetings, events. [this point is directly tied to the ideas of "teachable moments" and "salting the oats"]
- I also like how date becomes information

#3-Relationships is expanded on quite a bit throughout the book. It is definitely a two-way system. More than just feedback, there is a equality that 's interesting: the head (human head, for example) that cannot get data except by Relationship, but the members only pass along that data which they consider Informative!!

This angle of bio-systems is fascinating my mind!


BAB said...

Just a question on the organism needs thing. Isn't it traditionally thought that the sense of self in relationship to others is something only possessed by higher organisms (some would say by the human organism alone)?

I don't know if it has any consequence to the validity to the 3 points other than maybe they got there by invalid means.

David Malouf -- said...

Think more in terms of the double-walled cell of most organisms' cells (or even protozoa). The cell wall creates a set of valid and invalid forms of interaction with the world - certain atoms, molecules, organisms, etc. can pass in, certain ones out, certain ones are rejected, etc. This, therein, is a sense of "self" for the cell. It is the distinction necessary for a part to be a part and not a piece-of-the-whole. As opposed to a chromosome which does not have nor need a fully distinguished, self-identity (if it did, we'd have problems - think of an arm that is not connected to the body ;-) )

Does that make sense?

BAB said...

I was getting a little existential there. Sorry.

Where does purpose fit in, I suppose in #1? In other words, all organisms live to do something; likewise, organizations are formed and sustained by a clears sense of purpose.

What is the point of the book (i.e. what are we supposed to walk away with)?

David Malouf -- said...

I think purpose is actually more grand than the 3 points. This is more the workings of an organization, not it's purpose.

The point of the book is not to be had. It's a collection of essays and articles in chronological order so that one can see the authors' progress of thought from more idea to more application.

The goal of the authors, though, is to change the way leaders/workers see organizations - to see if organismic principles can/should apply to organization principles. Are there any commonalities, distinctions, misreads, etc.