Saturday, July 19, 2008


I work in Information Technology as a Business Analyst. My background is in Human Relations and Community Development - so I've ventured a long way from home. I feel rather like an anthropologist working with an tribe on some isolated island somewhere. I wonder what Margaret Mead would say if she studied Information Technologists?

My point is this. My management, and many others around me persist in the notion that an organization, and the systems that inhabit them it, as a big machine - which, if we could make it work and keep it properly greased would operate flawlessly. This mechanistic view was spawned by Sir Issac Newton (1643 - 1727). No question, Sir Issac was brilliant - I saw his biography on TV once. He must be great.

The mechanistic view (mechanism theory) is a theory that proposes all natural phenomena can be explained by physical causes. It suggests that if one understood it, one could write a mathematical formula to adequately express it. This working premise has served us well during the Industrial Revolution - but will it take us beyond? I think not. There are flaws.

When we look at organizations as mechanisms or machines we fail to understand an essence deeper than that of a machine. The organization, which is an assemblage of human beings, has the desire to survive. Therefore it must learn to self-adapt - according to the Red Queen Principle.

Organization are not machines, they are living entities or systems that have a will of their own. A will to service. Next question, are organization self-aware. Certainly they must react to the environment in which they exist - else they won't survive for long, but self-ware, that is questionable.

In the early 1980s I became aware of the term metanoic (from the greek word metanoia) - as it relates to organizations. The paper I refer to is entitled, "Metanoic Organizations in the Transition to a Sustainable Society" and was written in 1982, by a guy named Peter Senge - more. I first came across the notion around 1985 through this article, and a guy named Brian Smith who introduced me to the work of Robert Fritz and his notion of Structural Tension.

Anyway, one thing leads to another and all these years later I bump into another article by Peter Senge called - "Awakening Faith in an Alternative Future - A consideration of Presence - 2004."

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