Prof. Ilya Prigogine

Artur F. Silva artsilva at
Thu Feb 1 06:06:08 PST 2001

At 07:18 01-02-2001 -0500, Harrison Owen wrote:

>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.

Thanks for your comments, Harrison. I now understand what you intended to
say. But, again, I wonder if we are not using the same name (chaos) to refer
to different things, because they have differences of "scale" and, because
of that, they are qualitatively different... (As there are molecular mouvements
in water, in ice or in a termonuclear explosion with different degrees and
consequences). Let me try to give a name and separate these different kinds.

Let me call "small constrained chaos" to refer to what happens in all
organizations, where the work is done, in many cases, in spite, and even
against, the rules and hierarchies, as in the meeting the two "communication
girls" were able to organize that you referred in one of your books.

Let me call "big disruptive chaos" to refer to what happens when a CEO
is fired.

And now let's talk about what happens when the all staff meets in an OST
meeting. Some time ago we mentiond the "magic" of it, as it allows
for a very different time of reality, where chaos is ackowledge and
embraced. My I call it "medium size productive chaos"?

I don' t know if my names are the good ones. My point is that this are
different types of chaos. If this is true, then when we talk about
"self-organizing systems" to refer to organization in different types
of situations, maybe we are confusing ourselves.

My main question is the following: what are the special and different
conditions that are at work durind OST? When we talk about
"chaos" and "self-organization" as it happens in an OST meeting,
is it the same sort of chaos and self-organization that, after all,
are allways present?

If it is a different type I would like to understand what are the differences.
If it is the SAME type, I question: why are we still talking about
OST or even using it?

Looking forward to see how you manage this...


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