Emergence is simply what life does

Here are quotes of Harrison Owen on the World wide Open Space Technology email list March 7, 2015. (My highlights in bold.)

Emergence is simply what life does – it just pops up randomly and never follows a plan, or certainly not any plan we might have made. The shift from ‘self organization’ to ‘emergence’ is, I suspect, a lightly veiled effort to sugar coat the reality that Emergence (self organization) is the manager/executive’s worst nightmare.”

”…unless it were to turn out that our organizations were actually part of life. Life, of course is incredibly complicated with many unknowns, but it does seem that we have learned a few things. For example, living creatures really don’t do very well when locked in a box. They may survive, but in very reduced terms. Life always seems better with some basic fundamentals, such as fresh air to breath, space to move about in, interesting and diverse experiences and challenges, mountains to climb, and unknown hills to peer over. Always strange, always new, always a challenge, and never quite what we might expect. You could say Life is emergent.”

Most interestingly – Given the basics, living creatures naturally display amazing creativity, agile adaptation to new opportunities and changing environments, and are constantly in communication with their fellows and other creatures. Along the way, they create complex and elegant structures, manage such conflicts as they have in ways that create minimal damage and maximum gain, and they have been doing all this for a long, long time. However, deprived of such fundamentals, life turns nasty real quick.”

An odd thought does arise. It would seem that most everything we do in the name of organizational effectiveness is antithetical to what Life requires. Should our organizations be part of life it would then follow that such ills as we experience (loss of agility, creativity, leadership, etc) are actually self inflicted wounds. Doubtless our various attempts to aid the wounded through our multiple programs, interventions and tools, are commendable, but truthfully we are only dealing with problems we have created. It might make a lot more sense to just stop shooting ourselves in the foot (and elsewhere).”

For a next step, we might just open up some space for life to breath. Won’t solve everything, but it could be a good place to start. And we might just find that the Enemy (Emergence) is our friend…”

Related posts:
Pre-conditions for self-organization
Self-organization is the real operating system
Emergence is simply what life does
Empowerment is a red herring
Pre-conditions for self-organization
What if the organization is a living system?
Facilitating an Open Space
How to enable and sustain self-organization
TEDxTalk on Open Space Technology

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