Organising for flow?

Tim Kastelle wonders how we can get out of our thinking ruts. He pulls together several different threads including this argument from Jeffrey Phillips:

Most businesses are about identifying a few important patterns, determining that the patterns are viable and sustainable, and reducing the patterns to an algorithm which can be improved and made more efficient.

In a nutshell, we invest in deepening ruts. There’s big money in ruts… and breaking out of them costs money and at least initially can sound terrible.

Tim then links to John Hagel and John Seeley Brown’s article in The Economist blog. This also pushes back on the benefits of efficiency, arguing we should organise for flow. They cite (keep up at the back) ideas from constructal theory. Here’s how Hagel and Seeley Brown put it:

In order to survive, all systems must evolve by providing greater and greater access to the currents that flow through them. This applies to all physical, biological and social systems that survive and thrive. Whether we are talking about river basins, trees, lung design or our cities, it turns out they all obey this constructal law.

That has shades of Margaret Wheatley’s line about connecting the system to itself.

I see some of these tensions being played out in workshops and meetings, where we seem to get into all sort of ruts – powerpoints etc. Often, it’s only when these break down that we get what might be called a breakthrough. I’m not sure we can really organise for this to happen but we can at least try to be open to it rather than resistant.

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