doing self-organization

Pat Black patoitextiles at
Fri May 25 16:11:42 PDT 2007

Thank you Harrison for the challengeing discussion.  Part of what I
love about it is that at the end these divergent paths will deliver us
to embracing the same process.  We are dancing around the same spiral
observing different aspects of it.  And I am thank for all
opportunities to find partners in the dance

I think what is the primary element in play in self organizing systems
is driven by relationships. In any given moment their are gizzillions
of possibilities for relationships.  That is particularly true when
the system is simpler.  As the system becomes more complex their are
fewer open receptors available to relationship.  Open receptors remain
at the edges of the system.  Kaufmann would say that what drives the
sytem's evolution is for fitness.  I am just bold or arrogant enough
to disagree with him here.  I think what drives a system is
relationship.  Any relationship will do.  Simple physical and
biological systems are not too picky.  They just want to have all
their dance card  filled and something with the right charge and size
could be enough to decide it.  Now the truth is those relationship
slots can be filled with something that leads to death in a biological
entity while also creating a new entity that has life supported by a
totally different element.  Take the difference between bacteria that
is sustained by oxygen and those sustained by sulphur.  This is
evolution and it is not a single line path.  What may not be a
sustainable or productive relationship in this enviromental moment can
take off and become a dominant species with a slight transformation to
the environment.
> Pat -- I think what I have been learning is that while a self-organizing
> system works (by definition) all by itself, and for sure we neither created
> nor invented it, we still have a role to play which can be critical to the
> ongoing function of the system. How you understand that role (whether it is
> "work" or a privilege) is obviously a matter of personal perception. But
> there is a role either in the narrow confines of an OS event, or in the
> larger realm of any or all of our self-organizing systems. In a previous
> note I listed what I believe to be the Eight Essentials: 1) Do your Home
> work, 2) Issue an Invitation, 3) Come to the Circle, 4) Welcome Passion and
> Responsibility, 5) Remember the Four Principles, 6) Observe The Law, 7) Keep
> Grief Working, and 8) Formalize the System.
> If we did none of the above, it is quite likely that the system would still
> perform at some level. Even if we make what I take to be an egregious error
> and attempt to substitute our understanding of structure and controls for
> the emergent structure and control which the system has manifested, the
> probability is that the system will continue, which is a testimony to the
> natural endurance of a self-organizing system. And parenthetically, I would
> argue that we can thank this natural endurance for the continued existence
> of our systems (organizations, companies, countries) in spite of our
> malfeasance.

I think Harrison that the system will organize itself at the same
level that it always has.  It willlook for opportunities to build
relationships where ever possible and those relationships take us down
a path.  That path may lead to death or a new species or even a dead
end but the organizing I belief will go on with or without our
intention.  The closest metaphor that I can use to describe a self
organizing system is a jazz ensemble.  Everyone in the ensemble has an
identity and in the expression of their identity a composition
emerges.  The composition is never the same.  Like a jazz ensemble
self organizing systems are improvisational.  I just took my 10 month
old granddaughter to a jazz performance and sat her down at the edge
of the stage that the musicians were on.  In no time she was singing,
pounding and sounding and making sounds blowing air over her tongue
that were perfectly in rhythm and mostly in pitch with what the
muscians were doing.  I can tell you with certainty that she was not
doing any thinking about the experience and that she has a very
limited sound repetoire.  She was just present and added her identity
to the relationship.  It was such an inspiring experience the
musicians brought her up for a bow. She transformed the ensemble with
her presense.

> Having said all of that, I still think there is much to be done, and many
> skills to perfect -- most of which is not covered in the standard MBA
> program :-)

I don't know anything about MBA programs or really much about
corporate bodies or goverment bodies in any kind of experiential way.
I don't know what their capacities for relationship forming is.  I
will say that as an outsider I have experienced their systems as
closed.  That is not to say that I think they are closed but that what
ever makes relationship opprtunities possible is not obvious to me.

Having said all of this I totally agree with you that there is work to
be done.  I work very hard but my focus is on myself.  I work on being
more open and having more space available by noticing when I feel
closed and uncovering the relationships that associate with the
closing.  I do think the business of invitation is work and a journey.
 It is the discovery of language that orients the participants to
discover possiblity along a path which is at the point of crafting
invitation invisible.

For me the work of remaining open and richly diverse inside myself is
difficult but required because it creates more possibilities for
connection.  It requires a presence and mindfulness that is
challenging and frankly exhausting.  I have always understood the need
for naps.  But I also think what makes this work is not the self
organizing sytem.  To my mind what makes this difficult is a cognitive
propensity to recognize patterns, to aggregate sensory information, to
tag, to predict and to abstract.  It is a kind of headyness that I
find delightful and exciting and satisfying but I think it leads to
judgement rather than description or plain response.  The challenge
for me is to be the dance in the spiral and not the recorder of the
dance happening in the spiral.

In my understanding of self organizing systems they operate as the
dance not the dancers who make up the ensemble.  So  although I
believe we are looking at the same soup and we see all the same
elements swimming and interacting in the matrix our viewpoints are
from different perspectives.

> Take for example the business of invitation. And here I am thinking not only
> of the invitation for an Open Space Event, but the larger invitations to all
> those who might care to join us in the creation or renewal of a major
> project or business venture. A truly inviting invitation must be clear,
> focused, attractive, and with sufficient specificity to get the "guests" to
> the right place, time, and state of mind -- while still remaining open
> enough to encourage high levels of creativity and innovation. I suppose that
> some people can do all of this just naturally, but I think we all can do it
> better with thought and practice. Might I say "work?"
> And of course, an effective invitation is not simply a matter of words on a
> piece of paper. The personhood of the "inviter" is also important. At some
> deeper level I think we must be the invitation we seek to make. To make the
> point obvious just think of what happens when the "words" say "Please come!"
> but the body language says something quite different.
> Harrison
> Harrison Owen
> 7808 River Falls Drive
> Potomac, Maryland 20854
> Phone 301-365-2093
> Skype hhowen
> Open Space Training
> Open Space Institute
> Personal website
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