Prof. Ilya Prigogine

Harrison Owen owenhh at
Thu Feb 1 04:18:38 PST 2001

>At 18:05 31-01-2001 -0500, Harrison Owen wrote:

>>But on the question above... I know that every organization would like to
>>think that it is a "constrained system" -- therefore a "closed system --
>>and I AM IN CHARGE. Whoever "I" is. But I think the truth is rather that
>>there is no such thing as a closed system, particularly in the world of
>>organizations -- and so they are all self-organizing systems.

>At 11:58 PM 1/31/01 +0000, Artur wrote:
>Sorry, Harrison, it is seams that I am arguing, but I have not completely
>undestood your point.

Go for it -- Just good  give and take!!! By the way, after I had dispatched
the last message, it occurred to me  that what I intended as a
flippant/humorous tone might be taken seriously -- which would be a
disaster. To be clear, I am playfully serious.

>I was not claimng that a "constrained system" is a closed one, and is not
>self-organized. I was only saying that there is a diference between self
>organization at Open Systems, that are "constrained", and therefore
>"close to equilibrium" (good or bad, that's not the question). And self
>organization at Open System that are "far from equilibrium", the ones
>where Chaos theory apply.
>After all, Prigogine studied thermodinamical systems that were far from
>equilibrium and has discored chaos theory - that were not acting in
>systems at equlibrium or close to it.

I guess what I am suggesting is that the distinction between constrained
and not constrained, functionally considered, is not all that much, or
maybe nothing at all. I know the conventional wisdom understands that in
most organizations the job of management is to keep things under control
(constrained), and that when they do this, supposedly they are doing a good
job, witness the fact that the system is apparently "close to equilibrium."
On the other hand, when things get out of control, the managers are fired,
and clearly it is all chaos ("far from equilibrium"). What I am suggesting
is that everything is a question of scale (fractal) and just when you think
you have eliminated all the chaos, it turns out that you weren't looking in
the right places (scale). Worse, since chaos is essential to life (it
provides the open space where new things grow), should management succeed
in its mission (eliminating chaos) it would fail -- the organization would
die. So -- shortly put -- If you think you have it all under control, you
don't. And thank God for that.

Harrison Owen
7808 River Falls Drive
Potomac, MD 20854 USA
phone 301-469-9269
fax 301-983-9314
Open Space Training
Open Space Institute
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