Self-organizing systems

Larry Peterson lpasoc at
Tue Aug 24 05:48:13 PDT 1999

Are we being authentic if we talk about self-organizing systems at the
expense of spirit?  Are we operating from a fear base?  What exactly are we
afraid of?

Thanks Michelle for you thoughtful reflections on simultaneity.

I think for me the struggle is partly with the words/metaphors we use. I
don't see "self-organizing" as being at the expense of spirit, but it based
on my understanding of "self". At a very practical level, the facilitator is
a different "self" from the "self" of the client group or organization. (At
a deep level this may not be true. But, we constantly make arbitrary
distinctions or boundaries in the continuum of reality, cats, dogs other
people etc.)  In the process of working with a group, the facilitator can
"organize" much of the discussion or input with substantial precision --
e.g. Real Time Strategic Change. In the more guided approaches, the
facilitator frames the questions, suggests the process and is up front much
of the time. There are "spaces", say in a 1 hour table group discussion,
where the group "organizes" its own discussion in relation to the guidance
given. Proponents of those approaches would say that since the content of
those parts of the discussion come from the group they are "self-organized"
and often spirited.  I've led such events and seen some real breakthroughs
and dialogue in even short spaces between facilitator interventions.

Open Space is different. Yes the "self" of the facilitator does "open the
space" and give guidance to the overall process. However, the articulating
of the principles and the law and creation of the "container" for the
meeting creates the conditions for the "self" that is the group that's
gathered to then organize its own meeting, the process and the content. In
fact, for me the chaos at the wall is the point at which the "self" of the
group takes the meeting from the "self" of the facilitator which now fades
into the background to "hold the space".

I have seen what I experience to be Spirit emerge in guided meetings. I
experience it much more often in Open Space. The eastern religious
traditions often talk about the "self" (individuals) and the "Self" (the
one, the whole, God) as being difference in experience but one in essence.
Meditation is about making them one in experience as well. So
"self"-organizing in that context is the same as "Self" organizing. It is
aobut how we use our words to inadequately describe reality.

At least this is how I'm struggling to connect to the conversation.


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