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The Hidden Fermentation of Structures and Processes

Ilya Prigogine, the Nobel Prize-winning pioneer of the study of self-organizing systems, has observed that a breakdown of progress is frequently an illusion. Under the shattered fragments new structures and processes ferment. And from these innovations come fresh orders whose wonders appear numberless. The new organisms had vastly increased their capacities as individual information processors. If these advanced modules could be linked worldwide, the result would change the nature of the very game of life.

So Long

John Brehm ,
Poetry Magazine, June 2001,
pp. 136
Volume 178 No. 3.


To break this day
free from all
the others

to stand at the
morning end
of it and

push off from
the shore
sail beyond

the reach of all
my failures
calling after me

"You can't just
leave us here"
shaking their fists

crowding into
the water
clamoring "We

made you who
you are" to
feel their voices

growing small
the surf

the wide un-
knowable ocean
all before me.

The Intelligent Organization:
A Litmus Test

Douglas R. Hofstadter,
Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid,
pp. 26
Basic Books, 1979.

No one knows where the borderline between non-intelligent behavior and intelligent behavior lies; in fact, to suggest that a sharp borderline exists is probably silly. But essential abilites for intelligence are certainly:

to respond to situations very flexibly;
to take advantage of fortuitous circumstances;
to make sense out of ambiguous or contradictory messages;
to recognize the relative importance of different elements of a situation;
to find simularities between situations despite differences which may seperate them;
to draw distinctions between situations despite simularities which may link them;
to synthesize new concepts by taking old concepts and putting them together in new ways;
to come up with ideas which are novel.

The Purposeful System

Alan Briskin ,
The Stirring of Soul in the Workplace,
pp. 233 - 235
Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 1998.

The purposeful system perspective is concerned with the aims and intentions of the system, what the people who constitute the system seek to do. Unlike the internal focus of the preserving system, attention to the boundary between the organization and the environment is central to the purposeful system. The questions implicit to this perspective are about meaning and relevance: What are we about? What does the environment in which we operate need us to do? To answer these questions requires more than a mission statement, more than a catalog of values or simple prescriptions such as increasing quality at the lowest possible cost....

The purposeful system perspective is analogous to piecing together a puzzle without the picture on the box that tells you what the finished design should look like. Sir Arthur Eddington, the theoretical physicist, once told a story comparing the fitting together of a jigsaw puzzle with the nature of scientific discovery: "One day you ask the scientist how he is getting on; he replies, 'Finely. I have very nearly finished this piece of blue sky.' Another day you ask how the sky is progressing and are told, 'I have added a lot more, but it was sea, not sky; there's a boat floating on the top of it.' Perhaps next time it will have turned out to be a parasol upside down, but our friend is still enthusiastically delighted with the progress he is making" (Wilber, 1984, p. 205). Eddington is describing how a picture in our minds shifts with each new element that is added. If we remain open to new discovery, we may not need to disassemble the previous pieces, but we must be willing to revise our impression of what the whole puzzle (or purpose) will look like. There are times we may become absorbed with just a few pieces, but the trick is to remain open to new discovery and to delight in new pictures of the whole. In contrast to engineering a new system, purposeful thinking is responsive to how the whole is constructed, rather than simply defining the relationships among fragmentary pieces. Purposeful system thinking is therefore identified by how disciplined one is in creating a real dialogue about the nature of the work, its connection to one's own experience and to the organization's outcomes.

Unlearning, Unfolding

William Bridges,
The Way of Transition,
pp. 80 - 81, 83 - 84
Perseus Publishing, 2001.


In the West, we associate development with learning and adding to what is already there—as I realized at my meeting of consultants during the winter after Mondi died. But there is an older (and, I believe, deeper) wisdom that tells us that it is by unlearning and stripping away what is there that we grow.

We lack institutions which are based on a pedagogy and offer a curriculum of un-learning. The educational programs that are available emphasize learning, not unlearning. And the religious and therapeutic centers, where such things might happen, all have their dogma which the initiate is meant to learn. Where can we go to dis-identify with all that got us as far as we have gone in life?

Your life runs a perfect curriculum, and the tuition is modest. If you miss the offerings this year, you can catch them next year. Again and again, it offers us a correspondence course in letting go: Introductory Letting Go, Intermediate Letting Go and Advanced Letting Go. Life does so not because what we are identifying with is bad, but because we are ready for something else, something further, something in some way deeper.

Development is an interesting word derived from a linguistic root meaning "rolled" or "folded." An envelope is a folded sheet of paper, and to develop is to "unroll" something that has been heretofore so tightly rolled that we could not see what it really was...

The path of development is the fishtailing course we follow as we let go of what we have been and then discover a new thing to become—only to let go of that in time and become something new. This is the Way of Transition, the way or path of life itself, the alternating current of embodiment and disengagement, expansion and contraction.

Thought As Play

David Bohm and F. David Peat, Science, Order, and Creativity,
pp. 48, Routledge Books, 1987; Second Edition, 2000.


If science always insists that a new order must be immediately fruitful, or that it has some new predictive power, then creativity will be blocked. New thoughts generally arise with a play of the mind, and the failure to appreciate this is actually one of the major blocks to creativity. Thought is generally considered to be a sober and weighty business. But here it is being suggested that creative play is an essential element in forming new hypotheses and ideas. Indeed, thought which tries to avoid play is in fact playing false with itself. Play, it appears, is the very essence of thought.

This notion of falseness that can creep into play of thought is shown in the etymology of the words illusion, delusion, and collusion, all of which have as their Latin root ludere, "to play." So illusion implies playing false with perception; delusion, playing false with thought; collusion, playing false together in order to support each other's illusions and delusions. When thought plays false, the thinker may occasionally recognize this fact, and express it in the above words. Unfortunately, however, our English language does not have a word for thought which plays true. Perhaps this is a reflection of a work ethic which does not consider the importance of play and suggests that work itself is noble while play is, at best, recreational and, at worst, frivolous and nonserious. However, to observe children at play is to realize the serious intensity of their energy and concentration.

The Dynamic Enterprise

The Dynamic Enterprise continually transforms the multitude of changes occurring around it into coordinated strategic actions by its people to further the development of its products and services. The Dynamic Enterprise captures the momentum of change in the external environment and converts it into fuel for its own development....

The specific form of the Dynamic Enterprise depends on the conditions each particular business faces and on when the question is asked. The Dynamic Enterprise is not a business or institution defined by a particular form; having one of the new organizational structures, such as a networked or project-based organization, that attempts to support flexibility is no guarantee of dynamism. The Dynamic Enterprise is one whose people can respond to changes in the external and internal environments and can determine the best form for their particular conditions. The Dynamic Enterprise is described by its capabilities, not by its structure.

The Dynamic Enterprise is actually not a "thing" at all, not a static structure or end point that can be named or catagorized. Instead, the Dynamic Enterprise goes on creating and re-creating itself. It is the description of how an enterprise acts to integrate rapidly the dynamism in the environment into products and services responsive to that dynamism.

Rationality & Irrationality in Publishing

Herbert S. Bailey, Jr.,
The Art and Science of Book Publishing,
pp. 2 - 5, 1970


Publishing uses the power of modern machines to produce and disseminate its productions, it applies rationality to its own organization and functioning, and it is immersed in a sea of irrationality to which it responds and which it stimulates. Much of the creativity that feeds publishing grows out of irrationality, the workings of the subconscious thoughts and desires of authors; the multitudes of readers, whom we have been calling the market, are also moved by their own individual subconscious thoughts and desires. If a publishing house is a matching device . . . then it is often matching the irrationality of readers to the irrationality of authors-and vice versa. This is especially true in the fields of fiction and poetry, but it is also true in nonfiction. . . .

Style, after all, is an expression of personality-I mean style of thought, which includes literary style-and the difficulty of explaining or even defining style reveals its irrational aspect. And of course each publishing house has a style: the style of its editors (again, not literary style but style of performance), the style of its designers, the style of its advertising and selling, the style of its dealings with printers and booksellers and other external agencies, and the style of its management, which becomes an internal style and affects all the other manifestations of style. The personality of the publisher himself, his enthusiasms and moods and irrationalities as well as his rational decisions and carefully drawn policies, becomes an important influence on the publishing activity . . .

In short, a publishing house is not a book-producing machine, an assembly of parts each with its unique and specific function; it is organized group of human beings, each with his own rational and irrational characteristics, engaged in an activity that influences and reflects society with all its rationalities and irrationalities, its enthusiasms and problems and desires and fads and institutions and purposes. A publishing house is permeated with the interest and variety and excitement of the books it publishes. The management of this activity shares its rational and its irrational aspects, and although the book concentrates on the rational aspects, it should be kept in mind that both aspects are essential and that it is in the successful combination of both that the manager in publishing finds his satisfaction.

Another Boring Quote

Louise Van Swaaij & Jean Klare,
The Atlas of Experience,
pp. 30 - 31, Bloomsbury, 2000


'The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.'
- Ellen Parr

Here are some boring statistics. Or more accurately, some statistics about boredom, which is more interesting. The figures come from a study conducted by Cyber Dialogue, a New York-based research firm, and reported inn the January 1999 edition of American Demographics magazine:

21 per cent of Americans are regularly 'bored out of their mind.'

Most Americans respond to such boredom by switching TV channels.

44.4 per cent eat when they are bored.

27.3 per cent go for a drive.

8.9 per cent drink alcohol.

35.6 per cent feign illness.

19.4 per cent cancel subscriptions to boring magazines.

14 per cent take a vacation.

10.8 per cent have a haircut.

67.9 per cent say no time of the week is especially dull.

12.6 per cent say that Sundays are likely to be dull.

9.8 per cent say weekday afternoons are boring.

6.7 per cent are bored by week-nights.

1.9 per cent are bored by mornings.

33.7 per cent end boring relationships.

7.6 per cent cheat on their boring partners.

62.9 per cent of Americans are rarely bored.

16.2 per cent are never bored.

3.8 per cent seek counselling for boredom.

Bertrand Russell, the British philosopher, logician, essayist, social critic and author of books such as Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Its Limits, The Conquest of Happiness and The Philosophy of Logical Atomism, observed: 'Boredom is a vital problem for moralists since half the sins of mankind are caused by the fear of it.'

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