Bonnitta Roy on how self-organization happens

Bonnitta Roy writes in How Self-Organization Happens … and why you can trust it on that

Self-organization = Intention x Identity x Interaction.

Here is a summary of Bonnitta Roy’s article.

Values drive all organizational life
. Our thoughts are constantly floating on waves of shifting intention-motivational states, or value-streams. These value-streams create waves of thoughts and actions. There is no way to insulate oneself from these value-streams.

Furthermore, It’s easy to confuse official scripts for the value-streams, which are more precise than the abstractions commonly used to represent organizational life. The value-streams reflect what is most relevant and real. They surface the information needed when making decisions or solving problems.

Identities emerge from negotiating values
. We constantly size up each other and negotiate our power relations. We naturally fall into our roles, which are identities we assume in order to distribute the physical, cognitive, or psychic energy load required to fulfill our values (needs).

We are beginning to see how to allow for flexible identities and creative role-playing. Over time, a group of people with fixed roles can transform into a real team where roles and identities are in creative interplay, and outcomes are novel and emergent.

The challenge is that we are not used to letting go of old identities. This is probably because we have lived our lives inside institutions where role-identities represent authoritarian and disciplinary power. The roles and identities that people would want to perform need to emerge.

Trust supports interaction
. Trust cultivate the capacity to be with what is human and natural and real in organizational life. Trust is an outcome of being allowed to show up as we actually are, as we actually feel, with our actual dreams and fears. Trust is all about allowing what is actually happening, rather than what should be or is demanded to be.

We might be able to limit bodily behavior, but we cannot control internal thoughts. We might be able to constrain conversations to official roles and scripts, but we cannot constrain the unofficial conversations people share. We might be able to constrain actions to normative standards by using disciplinary power, but we will never be able to eliminate deviant activities that result from those constraints.

People intuitively know what is relevant in the moment, even if they have trouble communicating it. An honest response of how one feels about a decision often gets deeper to the root solution than a rational argument. The relevant content of what is actually happening need to inform decision-making and responsive action taking.

Related post:
Bonnitta Roy on an open architecture for self-organization

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years of experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. This is his personal blog where he shares his reading, book reviews, and learning.

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