About self-organising

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

self-organizing and the cde model, glenda eoyang

… container, difference, and exchange are the conditions that shape the path of the self-organizing processes …

… self-organizing is the process that moves from one state of coherence to another …

… it begins with one situation of the system-wide patterns and ends with another …

… other models, described above, discuss the initial and final states of the self-organizing system …

… by considering the interactions (exchanges), other models confirm that "something" is happening …

… but the exchanges themselves are not sufficient to generate a system-wide pattern in the course of the process …

… there must be something at the system level that influences the exchange among individual agents, otherwise the exchanges are merely isolated incidents …

… the path, speed, and resulting patterns of the self-organizing process depend on the context of the system as a whole …

… containers, differences, and exchanges are the meta-variables in the context that influence individual exchanges to form system-wide patterns over time …

… the path, speed, and outcomes of the self-organizing process are shaped by the system containers, differences, and exchanges, so they constitute the "conditions" for self-organizing …

… the three conditions are necessary to self-organizing …

… because any system that exists in reality has all three …

… though the patterns that emerge may not be efficient or considered effective …

… what would happen if you had a collection of agents that did not exchange any information, material, or energy? …

… regardless of the boundary around them or their individual characteristics, they would not generate system wide patterns …

… what would happen if you had a collection of agents that exchanged information, material or energy inside a boundary, but all the agents were identical? …

… no new system-wide patterns would emerge …

… what if you had agents with different characteristics that exchanged information, but there was no condition that held them together over time? …

… no system-wide patterns would develop …

… in the absence of any one of the conditions, the self-organizing process would not generate new system-wide patterns …

… so all three of the conditions must be necessary to the self-organizing process …

… a practical example will illustrate the necessity of the three conditions for self-organizing …

… imagine a team of ten people …

… if they don't talk to each other or engage each other in any way, would they come to common action? no …

… if they don't focus on the same thing (magnet), have anything in common (affinity), or operate in the same vicinity (fence), would they come to common action? no …

… if they are identical to each other, no significant differences, would they generate new common action? no …

… without all three of 19 the conditions for self-organizing, the team of ten would be unable to establish a foundation for shared understanding or action …

… the cde model is also sufficient to shape the path, speed, and outcomes of the self-organizing process …

… all of the critical factors that are present and shape the behavior in the self-organizing process of human systems function as one or another of the conditions …

… all factors either establish a system boundary (container), support transfer of information, material, or energy (exchange), or articulate tensions in the system (difference) …

… a traditional t-group is one living example of both the necessity and sufficiency of the three conditions …

… the t-group is an individual change mechanism and an organization development intervention that is used extensively by ntl practitioners …

… in a t-group, a group of individuals is brought together without agenda, leader, or explicit common purpose …

… in the course of the group interactions, all members learn how to give and receive feedback and to observe their effect on a group and the group's effect on them as individuals …

… the t-group establishes a container by having clear membership and by enclosing all members in a seated circle, and setting time limits for the interactions …

… within this container, differences and exchanges generate patterns of group behavior …

… sometimes the behavior is stable and coherent; sometimes patterns are neither stable nor coherent …

… by practice, t-group practitioners have developed procedures for establishing the conditions for productive group interaction …

… though they have not articulated hypotheses about the conditions for self-organizing, the practice consistently includes characteristics of container, difference, and exchange …

… the cde model describes the three metavariables that shape the speed, path, and outcomes of the self-organizing process in human systems …

… each of the conditions can be observed separately, though the nonlinear interactions among the conditions …

… and the dynamical evolution of the system as a whole requires that all three influence …

… and are influenced by the other metavariables and by the emergent patterns in the self-organizing system …