Seeking Self-Organization in Self-Governing Systems: are we Looking in the Wrong Place?

22 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2021 Last revised: 12 Mar 2024

Date Written: March 11, 2024

Abstract

Self-organization refers to the emergence of global order without global structures of interdependence or influence. While the concept has been fruitful in studying order in physical and biological systems, it has remained largely metaphorical when applied to human organizations. In fact, when examined closely, many iconic cases of people organizing themselves do not seem to meet the criteria for being considered instances of self-organization, as they show patterns of global influence. I propose a resolution based on distinguishing between order produced directly through self-organization (“Level 0”), and through global influence structures (such as informal leaders or consensus processes) that themselves emerge through self-organization (“Level 1”). I argue that shifting our focus from Level 0 to the Level 1 self-organizing processes through which global structures of influence emerge is a promising and important path forward.

Keywords: Organization Design, Hierarchy and Complex Adaptive Systems

Suggested Citation

Puranam, Phanish, Seeking Self-Organization in Self-Governing Systems: are we Looking in the Wrong Place? (March 11, 2024). INSEAD Working Paper No. 2024/12/STR, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3959868 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3959868

Phanish Puranam (Contact Author)

INSEAD ( email )

1 Ayer Rajah Avenue
Singapore, 138676
Singapore

HOME PAGE: http://www.insead.edu/facultyresearch/faculty/profiles/ppuranam/

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