self organizing systems

Birgitt Bolton birgitt at
Sun Aug 22 18:12:48 PDT 1999

There have been many in this discussion and I am grateful to all of the
contributions and my thinking has certainly been stimulated. And Bryan Kidd,
my apologies for calling you Bruce in an earlier e-mail. Bruce Kidd is a
local tv personality:-)

I have been reading all of your comments and thinking and thinking. And then
returning to source books and reading about self organizing systems and
because I have a copy of the manuscript of Harrison's coming book in draft
form in which he covers this topic at length under the heading of self
organization at work (382 pages plus) I have read it again in his
description of open space for self organization at work. And I'm in one of
those places where the more I think I understand, the less I am sure I do.

And then today I read Peggy Holman's new book  The Change Handbook(she and
Tom Devane edited with contributions from about 30 authors including
Harrison Owen and Anne Stadler) and there on page 338 Peggy acknowledges
that when I was at the head of a social service organization we ran as an
Open Space Organization for four years and she says that we successfully
harnessed chaos and order into self-organization to serve ourselves and our
community. I thank Peggy for her kind words and acknowledgement and further
challenging my thinking about whether I would call that self organization.
(And Peggy, congratulations on a book very well done!!!!). It certainly fits
with how most of you are using the definition of self organization--that it
is self organization within basic laws or rules (that which I call the
"givens"). However, as the person that was at the head of that work, it sure
was hard work to keep the context safe for people to self manage within our
"givens". The words self organizing system would seem to me to not be about
so much work on the part of formal leadership to keep the space safe. So...I
will think about this as I struggle to grasp self organizing in this

I am pleased to see that self organization and manifesting Spirit seem to be
part of how the self organizing system is defined. It makes me think of the
struggle of understanding whether Fate is the determining factor in life or
whether we are self directed. For me personally, I have come to understand
that destiny and co-creation work together in a fascinating way. For me,
there is something of the same in the struggle of understanding the self
organizing system and the multi-dimensional world that is the universe with
all that we know and ever so much more that we don't, from our teeny "humans
on the earth" perspective.

I will continue to struggle with my understanding of self organizing
systems. I think I do have a grasp of the concepts and the scientific
findings. I am convinced that all of nature is a self organizing system. I
also believe it has something to do with harmonic frequencies and with
electromagnetic fields such as those which align our planets and so on. I
believe nature will ultimately take care of herself and self organize no
matter what the apparent devastation of any moment in time (ie: the regrowth
after many years following a volcano erupting, or the shift in poles when
the planets all move into alignment causing much earth change including
major flooding and reduction of water in other areas--I am curious about
what will happen in May of 2012 when the planets align as they do every
26,000 years or so---always causing earth changes). I think nature self
organizes no matter what. And nature, the universe, the one song (which is
that harmonic thing coming in again) is so much more than I think we have
yet understood.

It is human beings, especially human beings in our formal organizations that
I am not so sure about. And yes, I am separating us from the rest of nature
as I talk about us here.Mostly because that which differentiates us so much
from the rest of nature is that we have "will" and the freedom to make
choices from amongst so many. And we have a lot of emotions. And we have
tyrants and dictators and places where we aren't free to self organize.

Doing an Open Space meeting is an "intervention" into the natural way of
things. So, if the natural way of things is self organizing, why do we even
do Open Space? Harrison has pointed out that we do it to create the
conditions for self organization to be possible. So...if that is so, maybe
we are not about naturally being a self organizing system???? I have seen
self management operate in Open Space but I would not call this a  self
organizing system.

Regarding the website, until we can demonstrate with examples that we
achieve self organizing systems with Open Space, I think we should hold back
on saying that this is what Open Space Technology is about. I know I can't
make a case for it.

Thanks for bearing with my pondering,

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