From Machinic to Organic Organisations

Excerpted from Martin (King?):

“The 21st century environment is becoming faster, more diverse and complex – people want greater choice, customisation and speed. 20th century “Machine organisation” is not suited to fast, flexible and complex responses and cannot thrive in an environment of speed, choice and customisation. “Machine organisation” cannot easily cope with complex environments that change ever faster.

While technology, culture and social changes have stressed 20th century “machine organisation” they have at the same time provided the models and tools that can save them. Just as 20th century organisations used tools and techniques from their environments to create environmentally adapted “machine organisations” then 21st century organisations need to use the tools and techniques of their environments to create environmentally adapted systems.

21st century culture:technology is information-communications rich, symbolised by the Internet and most potently by web 2.0 and the emerging real world, real time, exponential change ideas of web squared. This culture:technology is distributed, decentralised, networked, interactive and collaborative. Organisations operating within information-communications rich environments need become environmentally adapted and become information-communications rich – they need to use web 2.0 type tools and ideas to become loosely coupled, distributed, decentralised, networked, interactive and collaborative. I would describe these organisations as live “organic organisations” – connected to; interactive with, and part of their environment. Their boundaries are soft and “porous”, the separations between employees, customers and competitors are increasingly blurred. Rather than exorcising human spirit “organic organisations” call back life and spirit by recognising people rather than suppliers, customers and “human resources”.

The ultimate organic organisation we know of is the human brain. Constructed from small and simple parts, intelligence and consciousness emerge from its complex and highly networked organisation. Not only should organisations allow people to use their brains they should also consider organising themselves like brains. A major feature of brains are their plasticity – the ability to re-organise. Plasticity allows the brain to change, learn and be resilient and “according to the theory of neuroplasticity, thinking, learning, and acting actually change both the brain’s physical structure (anatomy) and functional organization (physiology) from top to bottom.” The idea is that through the exercise of rich interconnections an organisation learns, changes and adapts to its environment by networked feedback from itself and its environment.

“Organic organisations” are complex, variable and non-deterministic – this gives them the agility to cope with a similarly complex, variable and non-deterministic environment but at the same time this makes them so different to the “machine organisations” we have grown up with and within that the change needed is just too scary. However, change is a journey and not a destination and the first step on the journey from “machine organisation” to “organic organisation” starts with the brain – think soft and richly networked.”

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