About coherence

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overview

source [Conditions for Self Organising, Glenda Eoyang, 2004]

truisms

  • … a sacred location constitutes ‘a break in the homogeneity of space', m eliade, the sacred and the profane …

extract from Conditions for Self Organising, G Eoyang

… coherence is the state of the system in which the parts fit together to establish system wide patterns …

… some of the emergent patterns in a self organizing system are coherent, and others are not …

… coherence is a state of the system in which:

  • meaning is shared among agents
  • internal tension is reduced
  • actions of agents and sub-systems are aligned with system-wide intentionality
  • patterns are repeated across scales and in different parts of the system
  • a minimum amount of energy of the system is dissipated through internal interactions
  • parts of the system function in complementary ways

… system-wide patterns in which the parts are aligned and mutually reinforcing (coherent) are more stable than other self-organized patterns …

… because of the mutually reinforcing dynamics of a coherent pattern…

… the effort required to change the pattern is greater than the effort to maintain it…

… so coherent patterns are more stable than incoherent ones …

… when the system reaches a state of coherence, it has dissipated the entropie noise of its earlier stages…

… tensions within the system are reduced…

… and the available energy of the system is aligned and focused on system-wide behaviors…

… rather than diverse and disruptive behavior of individual agents or sub-system clusters …

… not all self-organizing processes, however, lead to coherent behavior at a particular level or scale …

… self-organizing processes that are acting at lower levels within the focus scale…

… or higher levels surrounding or intersecting with the focus scale…

… can take precedence over self-organizing processes of current focus …

… in such situations, coherence within one set of system boundaries is sacrificed by the system in preference to more stable…

… and resilient self-organizing patterns within another set of system boundaries …

… for example, one individual's coherent belief structures may persist and disrupt his or her ability to participate in patterns of behavior that are coherent within the boundary of a team …

… or, institution-wide patterns may maintain their coherence and dissipate the potential for a team to establish new ways to work together …

… in this way, self-organizing at different levels or within different sets of system boundaries may disrupt the self-organizing processes within a given domain, boundary, or container …

… any approach to self-organizing in human systems introduces complex issues about the nature of the system…

… and the nature of interventions to affect the system's dynamics …

… though many of these questions are beyond the scope of this study, a brief discussion will provide context for the theoretical and practical issues that the study does address …

… the process of self-organizing can be considered as a cognitive construct to explain observations and patterns perceived in systems …

… in this epistemological view, emergence is a conceptual construct representing the characteristics of the observer more than the observed …

… alternatively, self-organizing can be proposed as a natural phenomenon, with ontological reality, existing apart from any observer …

… this distinction, though interesting, is beyond the scope of this study …

… the model articulated and investigated in this study has practical application, whether the phenomenon it describes has cognitive or physical existence in reality …

… this study assumes that self-organizing processes in human systems are analogous to those in physical systems …

… human agents are conscious, exercise free will, and express intentionality, while agents in physical systems do not …

… in both cases, however, interactions of agents within the system generate observable systemwide patterns …

… perhaps, at some level of system structuration, the same conditions shape selforganizing in both human and physical systems…

… but this study focuses solely on the self organizing processes as they appear in human systems at the level of conceptual, team, institutional, and community development …

… organization development practitioners intervene in system dynamics to influence the emerging patterns of behavior and meaning …

… it would be difficult to consider the emergent processes in a human system as self-organization if the practitioner functioned as an objective, external agent …

… the assumption in this study is that the consultant takes the role of an active agent in the system and becomes a part of the self-organizing whole …

… he or she participates in the emerging dynamics and equally influences and is influenced by the processes of self-organizing …

… self-organizing processes are essentially value neutral …

… there is no guarantee that the results of an emergent process will be better or worse than the previous state or any other alternative state …

… in human organizational situations, however, some states are judged to be better or worse than others …

… for the purposes of this study, three factors were used to indicate the organizational preference for one outcome over another: clients' expectations, stability, and coherence …

… as a guide to action and evaluation, these three criteria serve to distinguish successful interventions from unsuccessful ones, though the self organizing processes themselves cannot be judged as more or less successful …

… in addition, the context of the interventions may determine that a client's expectations did not serve a system well in the long run …

… it may also be true in some circumstances that instability or decreased coherence is more conducive to system sustainability than stability or coherence …

… ultimately, fit with the environment is the gauge of survival and success for self-organizing systems, but within the constraints of this study, expectations, stability, and coherence will be used as measures of success …