Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking

Metaphors both reflect and influence our thinking. The computing metaphor, for example, is popular in Holacracy, where Holacracy is likened with an operating system,1 and people are viewed as sensors acting on behalf of the organization.2 Both Holacracy and Sociocracy treat organizing as a cybernetic problem.3

But our thinking has consequences. People are neither sensors, nor actuators. Making use of control, not for the good of those who are in the system, but only for the system’s own benefit is problematic. Ultimately it leads to tyranny. If the organization is a living system, then cybernetics is a poor metaphor.

Notes (added 18 April 2017):
1 A description of Holacracy as ”a comprehensive new operating system” can be found in Brian Robertson’s book on Holacracy. See Brian Robertson, Holacracy: The Revolutionary Management System that Abolishes Hierarchy (Penguin, 2015), p. 12.
2 Ibid., pp. 4, 81, 166, 194.
3 The ”circle process” is a concept which comes from cybernetics. Gerard Endenburg uses two examples to describe the concept. The first is riding a bicycle, and the second is a central heating system. See Gerard Endenburg, Sociocracy: The organization of decision-making (Eburon, 1998), pp. 16–23.

Related posts:
What if the organization is a living system?
Holacratic tyranny
Cybernetics is a poor metaphor for living systems

Published by Jan Höglund

Jan Höglund has over 35 years experience in different roles as software developer, project manager, line manager, consultant, and researcher. This is his personal blog. A common theme is his search for better ways of working together.

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