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More Self- Organization

责任编辑:ccpg  来源:  作者:  人气:927  发布时间:2014-03-11 17:05:58

artur silva, portugal:  

This thread is very interesting with many thought provoking posts. Thanks to all of you. I will came back to Harrison's first message (I have changed the numbers of the paragraphs - where K means Kauffman and H means Harrison):  

Harrison Owen wrote: The formulation of Self-organization theory which I find to be most attractive is that proposed by Stuart Kaufman of the Santa Fe Institute, which he describes in his book, At Home in the Universe (Oxford). Simply stated, Kaufman argues that given certain quite simple pre-conditions "order happens." These pre-conditions include the following: K1) A relatively safe and protected, nutrient environment, K2) High levels of diversity in terms of the elements present in that environment.K3) High levels of complexity in terms of potential inter-connections. K4) A drive for improvement, or in more standard evolutionary terminology, a search for fitness. K5) Sparse prior connections in terms of the available elements (everything is not previous "hardwired." K6) The whole thing is on the edge of chaos. (...)  

I was immediately struck with the similarity between his pre-conditions and what for years I have described as the presenting circumstances for the use of Open Space. Which are: H1) A real business issue of great concern. H2) High levels of complexity in terms of the elements of the issue. H3) High Levels of diversity in terms of those involved. H4) The presence of actual or potential conflict. H5) A decision time of yesterday -- ie an urgent need for improvement. Even without going through a detailed comparison I think a more detailed comparison could be interesting...  

First let me remember that we are comparing: (K) The preconditions for order to happen (to emerge) out of chaos and (H) The (good) preconditions for the use of OST. So (H) does not describe the conditions that we generally have within normal (conventional) organizations but special conditions that Harrison stated as preconditions for a good use of OST. Our problem is how does the set {K1,...,K6} relates with {H1,...,H5}?  

Clearly K2=H3 and K3=H2. I also suspect that H1+H4+H5 (+H2+H3?) are the conditions needed for an organization to be at the edge of chaos - so they are equivalent to (K6).  

So, it seems that in (H) we have no equivalent to: K1) A relatively safe and protected, nutrient environment, K4) A drive for improvement, or in  

more standard evolutionary terminology, a search for fitness. K5) Sparse prior connections in terms of the available elements (everything is not previous "hardwired."  


But I think that we all know that they also happen in OST. The point is that when Harrison stated (H)={H1,...,H5} he has not made explicit other things that are implicit in OST, namely:  

(H6)     - The Sponsor has accepted to adopt OST, has sent an invitation letter and some people have accepted (and others eventually not) the invitation. This (plus the rules of OST) creates the "safe and nutrient environment" (K1)  

One could think that K4 is implied in {H1,...,H5} but I don't think so. Faced with conditions {H1,...,H5} an organization may decide to use "business as usual" or may decide to use OST. So H6 is also needed to create "a drive for improvement"(K4).  

(H7)     (or is it also H6?) - The sponsor and the people that accepted the invitation have accepted to SUSPEND the normal rules of conducting meetings and relating to each other replacing them by "OST rules" that "unwire" or at least diminish previous connections (K6).  

I think you may be asking yourselves why I am stating all this. It is only a preface for what follows...  

Harrison: So what good is all this in practical terms? First of, it provides an interesting way of looking at, and possibly answering, the nagging question (for me) of why Open Space works anyhow. I was trained to know that organization at the human level only occurred as the product of prodigious efort and great skill. It required brilliant design, execution and endless maintenance. What we experience in Open Space simply cannot happen. But of course it does. It appears that quite inadvertently I stumbled upon the essential pre-conditions of self-organization.  

I completely agree with what is written. But I know that my understanding of what is written is different from the understanding of the Author... I am sorry to came back to this disagreement about what is NOT written above... For that I will rephrase part of it...  

"What we experience in Open Space simply cannot happen AND DOESN'T NORMALLY HAPPEN IN ESTABLISHED ORGANIZATIONS. But of course it does. It appears that quite inadvertently I (Harrison) stumbled upon the essential pre-conditions of self-organization - CONDITIONS THAT ARE NOT NORMALLY PRESENT IN CURRENT ORGANIZATIONS AND THAT OST HELPS TO CREATE (OR FACITATE?) IN THEM".  

So my point is not that I don't believe that Harrison "stumbled upon" something important. My point is that it is much more important than he believes... Let's continue...  

A related question for me has been why does Open Space work just about anywhere it has been tried, regardless of the education, ethnicity, economics, national origin, etc of the group? The answer would appear to be that the groups are "already there."  

No, the groups ARE NOT already there. The only thing that one can conclude from that is that any group has the potential to be there. But they don't normally behave in "Open Space mode" because they are constrained by other "social rules" that, even if they seem "invisible", are "out  


there" and act as "laws" of organizational life - those laws are responsible for the fact that the majority of our organizations are unsafe and non-nutrient. OST suspends those laws and, for the period of its duration, creates new "laws" and "a relatively safe and protected, nutrient environment" (K1) - the first precondition for self organization according to Kauffman, quoted by you...  

Harrison: There is nothing new to learn or do, although there may be much to unlearn and stop doing.  

Indeed, I think that to unlearn is un essential precondition for learning, and for me "to learn" and "to unlearn" are synonymous...  

Harrison: One consequence of all this is that the notion of creating an Open Space Organization is a little absurd. It already is -- no creation necessary.  

Again, I don't think so. Like all meetings are not OST meetings, all organizations are not Open Space organizations. Like in OST someone must open and hold the space so must an OSO be nurtured. I will not continue to stress my point. But I would like to ask you a question that seems to me a contradiction in your argument, but I am probably wrong... Later in your post you wrote:  

I suspect the same thing is true with the laws of self-organization and their local manifestation every time we open space.  

So, you wrote - as many of us did in other occasions - "every time we open space". But why is it that we need to "open the space". Shouldn't we say, according to your argument, that it is already open, and hence there is no need to open it?  

larry peterson, ontario, canada:  

when people organize themselves out of a worldview.  

Open Space gives the experience of opening up the group and the individuals in it to organize according to the principles and the law (and post-its and breakouts). That allows people to deal with the content of the conversations in ways that make sense to them, individually and "collectively". (I see people in OS discussion groups using the latest group process approaches that have gone through their organization, be that flip charts or solution focused therapy). It allows the reactive folks to react, the proactive folks to plan and the interactive folks to interact with each other or not. The principles and process transcend the current diversity and allow individuals and the collective "self" to organize as is chosen.  


I agree that Open Space Technology is not the end. That the circle, the openness the principles stand in polarity with the emergent focus, direction, formal leadership that gives form and meaning to an organization. The many and the one are in a polarity that leads the spiral of consciousness to move.  

Wow, was that esoteric and likely incomprehensible. As to the nutrients, I think they are available, but some try to hoard them for awhile. Too much hoarding will eventually lead to the next crisis - a company may die. Too much blaming of the hoarders leads to actions that don't find where spirit is moving next.  

Joelle lyons everett, washington, usa:  

Thanks, Artur, for your thoughtful contribution to this conversation. I agree with you that the acceptance of different rules for the duration of a meeting (or longer!) is an important element in the success of the OS conference. It may be that these rules lay out the natural condition of the world--but most of us have acquired a lot of habits of behavior which serve as obstacles. I believe that there are other "rule changes" which affect behavior in a bounded space such as a meeting, but OST is far and away my favorite!  

fr brian bainbridge, melbourne, australia:  

Dear Artur, It's a while since October 9 when you sent this material to the OSLIST, but I take a while to digest and think and then express my thoughts. I'll add my comments - for what they are worth - in the text of your questions below.  

Artur F. Silva wrote: I am discussing in another list the problem of enhancing organizational learning, especially double loop learning and metanoia. I plan, in a near future, to present OST and discuss how it can improve double loop learning (or metanoia). In the last post to them I have presented Alberoni's conception of metanoia. I am asking for those of you who care about the subject to read that post and then answer, to the list or privately to me, to this questions, using always the meaning that Alberoni gives to "metanoia ":  

1)   From your experience with OST, do you think that OST is an important way to enhance metanoiaic states in organizations and communities?  

I do think OST is a way of enhancing, as you suggest and as Alberoni seems to be working at.  

2)   Do you think that some concepts current in the OST community may facilitate this? and others may make it dificult? What concepts?  


My own experience/thinking is that the concepts that are used - the 4 rules, the Law - do facilitate this very strongly. Again, from my experience, I haven't found any difficulty-making arising from these concepts.  

3)   Do you think that the OS community qualifies in itself as a "birth stage" (of a movement or of a Community of Practice, as Etienne Wenger defines CoP's)?  

Actually, I don't think this is so. Rather, as per Harrison, I sense that the hugeness of the impact of OST in a group/organization/community is that the "self-managing" is already alive and well in the system and has been suppressed, oppressed or ignored, and that OST simply allows the participants (even 2) to recognize, name, honour, and then enjoy and build on the sense or soul or spirit that such recognition uncovers and then encourages.  

The stories I have from events I have been part of all involve "surprise" by participants that our ideas and sense are OK after all, that what we thought we knew - and weren't allowed to express - really matters, that we are now able to take forward these ideas and apply them the way we always knew should have been the case - but have never been allowed to do so. Hence the oppression of "modern management" and "systems" and "rules and regulations".  

This is not to say that management/systems/rules have no place. They have. But their place is not that of utter control and "closed space" the way most people experience them.  

So, rather than seeing OST qualifying as a "birth stage", I rather think of it as a discovery of reality, as perhaps a mature recognition of a state of existence which has co-existed with the "oppression systems", but which is now able to emerge and flourish.  

understood it. Then again, I see it as a stage of development in human "civilization" rather than a real metanoia.  

development, mostly without any clarity about where it will end up until after it has happened and after it has come to some decision/conclusion.  

4)   If so, do you think that there is a risk that the community may disperse in diferent "sub-practices", and that can diminish the overall metanoiaic potential of OST?  

Metanoia or not, I do think there is a real risk and cost in the sort of "sub-practices" which do occur in the OST field. Like Harrison, (and unlike Birgitt Williams) I don't think we can do anything about that by way of certification or licensing for practitioners. But I do know of a number of examples where people have "done" Open Space and really come away with bad taste and bad vibes. In every case I know of, the person opening the space has really seemed to bastardize the process, using control mechanisms and not letting-go, using other interventions instead of disappearing or becoming invisible (the way Angeles Arrien reminds us), or simply  


naming what they already do as "Open Space" and allowing a little more time for people to ask questions which the facilitator then sets out to address. I shudder especially when I see conference agenda which have programmed inputs followed by "Open Space time", which I know is a travesty of truth.  

And yet. There are other examples where I know the facilitator has done some of this sort of thing and the program has worked out well - as one participant put it "In spite of the Facilitator".  

And this always leads me back to the "Whatever happens is the only thing that could have" rule - reminding me that perhaps the organization/community/group was only able to go as far as they did, that it perhaps wasn't just the "fault" of the Facilitator, that in the longer-term scheme of things, we can often try to see meanings which are not yet ready to emerge and which, given the patience and "letting-go" so much needed in our world and time, may yet grow and happen. The real metanoia that can and perhaps does happen - but as shock, not development, as I have expressed above - is the perception by controller persons that there is another way which is better and which is easier and which can work with a whole lot less energy and controlling. And Open Space can do that. And the fear such people have built up over decades of experience is very hard to overcome or replace, generally. Hence they flop back into the control-and-command mode as soon as they can, whatever of the good intentions and initiatives that have been uncovered and fostered in the Open Space event.  

Artur, some of the thinking that is in my mind.  

It may not be connected at all, but I do observe that the great number of Open Space events in this country, and perhaps elsewhere, occur in the services industry sector of the community. Very few Open Space events seem to happen in business and strictly-for-profit or manufacturing organisations, I suspect. That may or may not impinge on the aspects of metanoia that you are working with in terms of where such changes can and do occur.  

If that adds to your thinking at all, that's nice. In any case, it has been good to sit and explore the thoughts that you have stimulated for me.  

Thanks. Cheers and blessings, BRIAN.  

meg salter, ontario, canada:  

Most of my experience "using" OS has been in the private, for-profit sector. As expected, it works very well, and is often much less of a "hard convincing" job than I would have expected. Now this is not to say that the likes of big banks are turning into conscious open space organizations! But they are getting good experience in other ways of meeting/leading, and certainly recognize that there is NO TIME to deal with business in the usual way. The attraction is speed, flexibility, open flowing conversations, and a chance to "get real". And some may be beginning to learn when to plan and manage, and when to let go and open up to self-organization............................................................... food for thought.  


artur silva, portugal:  

Thank you very much for your comments, dear Brian. Indeed, when I came to the conclusion that for an ordinary organization to become a learning organization a profound paradigm shift or metanoia would be needed I was mainly thinking about companies and organizations of the public sector (like universities - mainly public in continental Europe - or services of the central administration). I was not thinking at all in NGO's or social service organizations. Thank you for calling my attention for the differences between those sectors.  

florian fisher, berlin, germany:  

please, would someone of you explain to me about the meaning of "metanoia"  

artur silva, portugal:  

Metanoia has a Greek origin and means "profound shift of mind" or paradigm shift. It was repeatedly used by Paul to refer to his own conversion. The word is used in English but is not included in Dictionaries :-( It has been largely used by the Italian sociologist Alberoni to refer to the birth phase of all civilizational movements (as well to the birth phase of love).  

re inhard kuche nmue lle r, munich, germany:  

In my little duden - German dictionary for words from foreign languages - it says (in my translation): metanoia: inner turning back, penanceso I was wondering a bit about the connection with OS???  

harris on owen, maryland, usa:  

The problem, I think, lies not with "metanoia" -- which in Koine Greek (New Testament Greek) literally means " a turning around" -- a very major turn around -- as in transformation. When the New Testament was translated into English (and I am sure German) it came out "repentance." Which is probably correct, but limited. Anyhow the association works for me. And who knows --Open Space may be good for Sin too.  

ralph copleman, new jersey, usa  

And who knows -- Open Space may be good for Sin too  

Now HERE"S a string I could really get interested in!  

Ralph Copleman -- Archdeacon, Church of What's Happening Now  

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