To create an environment in which self organisation can occur, there has to be some level of distributed authority or control to be able to communicate within close knits or pockets of teams within a greater organisation. There has to be some recognition of each others agency and what the boundaries are of this so called ‘domain of agency’ of which a person or team can exert their influence on. So this occurs then on a structural level ‘parts on parts level’ rather then focusing on exerting influence on the greater arching aspects of a self-organising system. So this concept is build around the premise that there should be some operational and/or strategic freedom to organise ‘members’ around a particular (evolutionary) goal. Furthermore, that every individual, subgroup and group has a level of choice to exerts it own freedom within the boundaries that are defined by the friction that exist between the agents. That this freedom is then limited to the freedom of other agents and the structures we live in is an accompanying fact we have to reconcile with. We are simply no one man island, and, therefore, co-depended upon others. Some people believe that such ideas will resort to anarchistic proportions, but what likely will occur are natural hierarchies of systems and subsystems that codependent on each other while enjoying a certain level of autonomy within the domain of ones sphere. This creates synergistic relationships in which there is a mutual benefit for both parties, which are in turn responsible for highly complex forms of organisations.
So decentralisation does not imply equality or ‘flat organisations’, it simply implies the notion that every agent has in potential a level of control to influence its surroundings. The recognition and respect of each others individual agency is key in coming to a collective intelligence that becomes more intelligent then just a few very smart individuals. In my view this is the power of numbers, and the reason why a self-organising system as a whole seems to be more intelligent then its individual parts. In a school of fish, or a flock of birds, there is no need for consent and integrative decision making, because the fish and bird already know on an instinctive level that there is power in numbers and there is no need in having them to consciously do this. Humans are more complex then fish and birds obviously, however, we are also capable of organising in such a way that each individual member can contribute his or hers intelligence in such a way that the whole becomes more then the individual. Compared to fish however, fish have ‘no choice’ but to self-organise, whereas we as humans do have to make choices, also those that can block the creative forces of self-organisation. Hence, the reason why we need principles like consent, in order to distribute authority consciously. Rather then having a vote or a voice in a democratic system, which is more a passive participation in the decision-making process, consent means that each individual can object against a proposal by using reasonable arguments. If they don’t have a reasonable objection, or have no objection, the new decision will be implemented. Otherwise the reasonable objections have to be integrated into the decisions until there are no more objections. This bypasses all the struggles, political small-talk, framing and majority vote winning that occurs when trying to come to consensus. It does require agents to learn how to think critically, otherwise there is no objection possible. There is more to it in detail off course, but the idea is simple, integrate the individual intelligence of all agents so that the whole becomes more then merely the sum of its parts.
So that being said, emergence can occur in an autocratic system where authority is centralised, since we are inclined to self-organise based on evolutionary principles anyway, but one can imagine that it isn’t encouraged to act one ones agency since then you can be punished, fired etc. Emergence also occurs in democratic systems, where people can have a voice and a vote, but also here, we think in terms of majorities and minorities in which the majority vote can be manipulated through framing, the minority can be right, but is not acted upon, herd behaviour and it is difficult to achieve consensus trying to integrate so many different wishes and needs. All though authority is more distributed, in reality, power is still very centralised around majorities.
Consent on the other end, directly empowers each agent in a system so that emergent processes increase exponentially. This might increase the chaos and complexity of the system exponentially, but this is exactly what you want to create or better said induce; a novel and innovative organisation. The chaos and diversity is necessary to figure out the best possible solution(s) or pathways(s) to take as an organisation in navigating around surthrival related challenges. Deviant behaviour in an ant colony where some ants are randomly exploring new routes, might lead to coincidences in which one ant finds a new food source for the whole colony. Key is to allow deviant behaviour and fuel these tensions between agents in an organisation correctly and transform it into a creative force by aligning these tensions around an evolutionary purpose of the whole organisation.
I think the consent-principle is one of these key elements to allow self-organisation and emergence to occur.
To order this creative chaos, a clear purpose or evolutionary goal for the whole organisation has to be formed and put under consistent scrutiny for retirement and dynamic day to day governance in a world where change is like quick sand, more about this in future articles.
What do you think?