A natural organization, a natural society

We take the Copernican Revolution for granted today. Of course the sun is in the centre of the system! Of course we should trust the observations of things as they are rather than the dogma of the authorities!

But most of us are still happy to believe the dogma that our organizations are machines when observation reminds us that they are not.

The machine view – silos – spans of control – reporting lines – job grading – departments – top down – princes and peons – had utility in a simpler world. But now, many of us at work are finding that we have to work around all of this stuff. What project does not involve many departments? In Pub Radio and TV what department does not involve the web or the viewer/audience? Today what effective organization does not work tightly with suppliers and contractors? What really great organization does not work with its customers? Some even work with competitors.

What organization today would not like to cut its costs by 70% and increase its productivity by 100%? But with the current way of organizing – this is impossible.

The traditional org chart works against all of this! None of these results or relationships can be found on the traditional org chart. There are no budget lines that support these relationships. Budgets fight these relationships.

Surely, we are organized to own and to control a simple controllable world that no longer exists. We are organized like a machine in a Networked World.

If we are making the shift to a world that is complex and “Natural” we have to have a organizational model that fits this new reality.



This is very important, high level material, looking at how entire cultures have changed throught out previous revolutions in social structures. Take a look at the interlocking S-curves and compare them this this:


This is a graph of the adoption of a novel hybrid corn by a group of farmers in the 30s. It shows that spread of an innovation throughout a group. This curve is repeated again and again as novel changes make their way across a population, whether the innovation is an antibiotic or an idea. The only difference in the various curves seen in groups is the time from beginning to end. Some happen faster than others because the community is more connected, more innovative or just ready for change.

I’ve talked about this before. The S-curves Robert uses display societal or even larger global changes in the entire world around us, not just a sub-population. The core of all S-curves is that when a tipping point is reached, the rate of adoption of the idea/innovation goes exponential, resulting in tremendous changes in a short period of time.

These changes present dislocations that can be devastating to groups that are unable to accept the altering landscape. We saw the largest uptick in civil violence, along with some of the largest concentrations of financial power during the last shift in American society, between about 1870 and 1920. But these changes also present opportunities for entire societies to become much more efficient at supporting themselves, while distributing resources, such as food and energy, more evenly.

Robert’s interlocking curves simply demonstrate a larger-scale, longer timeline view of the same S-curves seen in smaller groups. It takes some time for change to propagate through a society but the overall trajectory is the same.

So, just as there are individuals that are innovators. early adopters , early middle, etc., there are social groups that fill the same roles. As the innovative groups adopt the changes, they begin to affect the majority that are in the middle, moving them along the societal S-curve.

With the speed that things are now changing, I would say we are at the beginning of the exponential rate of change seen in these S-curves. Organizations that are earlier in the innovation cycle will be able to take greater advantage of the new changes than slower adopting groups. The power of the laggards will diminish.

Robert and I have been discussing so many of the same things over the years. It is pretty cool to me that he has looked at the same sorts of changes from an overall societal perspective while I have been focussing on groups of individuals. But the overall dynamics would appear to be very similar.

So the goal is to increase the rate of innovation diffusion through a group and thus through a society. The sooner we make the transition, the sooner we get to a leveling off area and can take a breath, figuratively.

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