Are organizations really living systems ?


Different Systemics approaches invite us to draw parallels between the patterns we perceive in living systems, and those observable in organizations.

Thus, it becomes easy to appropriate metaphors and speak of the birth of this start up or the death of that one. But do we not risk to move towards a disappearance of the distinction between what is a living being and what is a virtual entity ?

In everyday language, we already use the same words to define a business and a community of people : society, corporation, organization, company or to speak of a business and a human with certain rules of conduct : a moral person. Is this really healthy ?

From words to acts

Today, we face a transfer of power from governments to businesses – which are not bound to preserve the common good.

More than 50 countries and currently discussing the secret agreement TiSA and otherTTIP and TPP. These will among others

  • enable businesses to sue governments,
  • enable foreign governments to obtain national data on citizens,
  • prohibit the use of free software in government,
  • prohibit national rules that restrict the use of certain products.

However, this is a logical extension to the power we granted virtual entities. In the late decades, whole areas of Living – land, water, seeds, human genome, cultural artifacts, ideas, social interaction, etc. – have been privatized at the expense of the common good.

Today, banks have enabled to speculate on the life expectancy of sick people whileothers have quoted endangered species on the stock exchange, arguing that only what is rare and has a price will be preserved.

Multinationals speak of “consumer welfare” while they reject a transparent labeling of their products. Others suggest that the concept of personal data disappear to the benefit of “research”. Is this what we want ?

Towards a duty to be

Is it not time to address inconvenient issues and question our own responsibility as citizens ? What is our role as professionals with a certain autonomy, with a capacity of questioning that others may not have ? What impact do the words we use have ?

Is positive intention sufficient or should we also avoid bad habits ? Is it sufficient to guide organizations towards wellbeing, or do we also have to fight against harmful behaviors, against organizational criminality ?

Why is it so challenging to stand up against mainstream beliefs, against social conventions ? What is our individual responsibility when we take part to unethical actions ? Who is the guardian of the common good in a business ? Which are the best practices to ensure integrity and justice for everyone ?

Can governments or corporations be part of sustainable solutions ?  What is the role of the Civil Society ? How can the Living inspire new practices ? Would we come to the idea of talking about a living system by observing the structure, texture, tunnels of an anthill ?

Thank you for your comments.



By Fabio Balli from praneo and SENSORICA, partner of ACES-CAKE

Post imported from Fabio’s blog.

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