Thursday, 28 May 2015

Beyond Hierarchy: Six Short Films Exploring Self-Organization


Today we are offering some short films on hirarchy and self organization, for the sake of discussion.


Video: Introduction to Self-Organisation Beyond Hierarchy
Source: YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v-g6pRxkwUI

That’s just the introduction to the series. So let’s dig into the first piece, culture:

Video: Creating Culture: Self-Organisation Beyond Hierarchy

Now, if you made it through part one without your eyes glazing over, congratulations! But wait, there’s more…

Video: Finding Fit: Self-Organisation Beyond Hierarchy

In this part, the obvious allegory used is that of nature in relation to the broader environment that organizations are a part of. The example used is that of a “fish in water” or “a fish out of water.”

The film proceeds with a mind-numbing intellectual elaboration on this grossly reductive view of nature: that organisms have needs which they take from the environment.  This is an anthropomorphized view of nature!

One cannot say “understanding natural systems is the way” and then anthropormize those systems, then say you are learning from nature!

Anyway, we are not going to make you watch all six parts of this series. Why? Because it’s an absolutely futile and useless waste of time; a mind-numbing intellectual exercise trying to solve a problem that was created by the very thinking that is being used to try and solve it.

Watch all Six parts at Films for Action: Self-Organisation Beyond Hierarchy

Flawed Thinking will never Solve Anything

Self-organization is not the antithesis of hierarchy. Hierarchies are everywhere in nature!  Hierarchies self-organize all the time. Even in human group dynamics, hierarchies can form organically, whether or not the individuals involved are cognizant of these formations or not.

Intellectualization and defining this structure versus that structure is so limiting, so reductive, so unlike anything which happens in nature—and this series of films likes to use the word “reality” and “complexity” a lot—that it is not going to answer the questions being asked and the problems being raised by this series of films.

So what will?

For starters, how about comprehending what self-organization actually is, and how it works? No, not intellectually, not theoretically, but PRACTICALLY. How do you do that? By becoming a part of a self-organizing entity. Now, since we are grossly unconscious of the self-organizing phenomena occurring in our own bodies, our only other recourse is to become conscious of self-organizing phenomena around us.

Start with getting an ecosystem.

Whether you realize it or not, when you are in an ecosystem’s field of influence, you are actually part of that ecosystem.  As it self-organizes, so you are being self-organized. As it seeks balance, so you are being balanced. As it assumes a posture of harmony and mutual symbiosis, so you are being harmonized and receiving the benefit of that symbiosis.

And how do you respond? As you imagine you might; unless you are cold-hearted, closed-minded, oblivious and uncaring, in which case no system of self-organization will connect consciously with you. An ecosystem will still try to “get through to you,” but even in nature, cancers and toxins exist. So, too, corrosive people and toxic attitudes can sabotage the best intentions of any effort at self-organization.

The point is, self-organization is intuitive. It is energetic, extra-sensory, and organic. Self-organization is not materialistic, and anything but intellectual! Trying to theorize your way through models of self-organization is like trying to understand infinite complexity. You can’t. No one can. The mind cannot grasp it. Nature doesn’t function that way. Nature senses, feels, intuits, and interprets flows of energy and influence. The physical reality we see is just the coarse veneer to what’s really going on. 

If you really pay attention to group dynamics and human interactions, you will see that it’s very much the same for people. We can feel good vibes and bad vibes in the workplace; and individual dynamics functioning on a base level independent of perceived or established social structures can be explosive.

Attempting to self-organize without the presence of an ecosystem is a recipe for disaster because the natural tensions which arise in the self-organizing process are effected by the immediate environment. In most organizational environments, lots of harsh, negative energy is bombarding participants—from fluorescent lights to computer screens to toxic off-gassing from industrial building materials and carpeting to VOC’s, noise pollution, the list goes on and on. 

An ecosystem provides the prerequisite for successful self-organization: harmony and mutual symbiosis; such that even self-organizing hierarchies, which in nature often require violent confrontation, are quickly calmed-down and dissipate once the selection process is complete. In the human context, disagreements and conflicts will arise. But an ecosystem is able to “take the edge off”.

Please refer to the following infographic: 



Again, here we see how the best of intentions related to self-organization are hamstrung without the power of an ecosystem.

Ecosystems are not the only way nature self-organizes; but they are the most powerful expression of the underlying process of self-organization which we can interact with in an everyday sort of way. In other words, the earth is a self-organizing biosphere, but is far too vast for us to interact with as biological creatures in totality…we are mere specks compared to it. No, ecosystems are the natural, biological phenomena which we can best relate to and be a part of.

It is precisely the oneness we can experience with ecosystems which can inform our relationships, groups dynamics, organizational behaviour and evolving organizational structure; as we attune ourselves intuitively to our inner ecosystem, and thus expand our sensitivity from an organizational perspective to the outer ecosystems of community, economy, business environment, etc.

The Bottom Line

The intellect cannot, will not, and should not attempt to understand infinite complexity. It’s not its job. It was never designed for that task. The consciousness is another matter entirely. It can, should and with patience and discipline will comprehend the nature of infinite complexity. But only through direct experience, and only with little baby steps.

Self-organization is the product of countless billions of organisms playing out conscious interrelationships defined by harmony and symbiosis. Even if sacrifice and death appear on a regular basis, these too are a part of that self-organizing process of renewal, evolution and devolution.

Unfortunately the mind doesn’t like dealing with sacrifice, death, conflict and other “messy” aspects of self-organization. It wants everything to be sanitized and controlled…like a Swiss watch or an iPod.  But watches and machines are designed. They do not; cannot self-organize.

To be comfortable in your own skin, to be comfortable in an ecosystem, to be one with the “messiness” of self-organization and evolution, going with the flow of events and not trying to control the process all the time…these are the keys to organic growth and evolving a self-organizing entity of harmony and mutual symbiosis. Having an ecosystem on site can make all the difference.


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