self organizing?complex adaptive system?chaos theory?

Birgitt Bolton birgitt at
Sun Feb 28 14:22:35 PST 1999

I try so very hard to understand when people in this OS world of ours speak
of self organizing systems or complex adaptive system or chaos theory and
its relationship to these. I've even read volumes of books relating to these
topics. (and I would ask, if something is so simple, why does so much need
to be written about it in order for even a spark of understanding?).
So....I'm going out on a limb here, showing my absolute lack of
understanding of how all of this applies to Open Space and hope that we have
enough conversation about this to get this all through my head. I'd
appreciate that. I feel like I'm in a fog, with sage heads around me nodding
with complete understanding about something that I just don't get.

It seems to me that when we speak of a self organizing system in relation to
OS, that there is incongruity here. By the very fact that we have "opened
the space", we have introduced something that "bounds" the self organizing
system within a confine of some basics (basic laws so to speak). So, I would
think that this is no longer  a self organizing system but a group of people
that self organize within a set framework, albeit a minimal framework. They
know they are to look for certain topics in certain areas with certain
leaders at certain times.

Likewise, I don't think we can think of OS in light of a complex adaptive
system. Or am I missing something here?

For me, a self organizing or complex adaptive system (and I'm not believing
that they mean the same thing) would be achieved if people were invited to a
particular space and time within a purpose and that was it. They would stand
or sit around, look at each other, gaze at their navels, whatever, and
eventually something would happen. And they would do what needs to be done
in relation to the purpose, or not. They might "adapt" or "self organize"
around something completely different altogether.

I think we need OST mostly  because of time restraints. If we didn't do OST,
the achievements that are needed would likely not take place within the
allotted time. I would think that a totally self organizing exercise might
take several days to really get off of the ground. OR getting the task done
would get off of the ground right away because someone would do the command
and control number and get things moving. Is this command and control
number, when it appears also part of self organizing? With this latter,
those of us who believe in the value of OST would think that the best
possible results wouldn't be possible in these circumstances.

On a personal note, I have come to love the word matrix (definition includes
a womb). My belief is that in order for anything to self organize, it needs
a matrix to self organize within. OST provides that, if all we have is a day
or two to get a complex task done, with maximum results. And so, I am on the
opposite side of a point that Harrison raised. I believe he said that the
sooner OST isn't done, the better, or some such thing in his advocacy for
self organizing systems, or complex adaptive systems, or whatever---I do get
confused. I believe that we should be striving for more OST more often in
the world, so that it becomes available everywhere that people are in
organizations (collectives). I don't see a time of it not being needed. I
believe that we need a matrix within which to self organize.

Warmest regards,

Birgitt Bolton of Dalar Associates
55 Ravina Cres., Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
 L9G 2E8
phone: 905-648-5775  fax: 905-648-2262

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