Symposium S. Design and Self-Organization in the Emergence of Effective Organizations

Chair: Raul Espejo, World Organisation of Systems and Cybernetics

Submission of theoretical and empirical papers, short presentations and debate

The purpose of this symposium is reflecting, among other aspects, upon policy-making, values, technologies, relationships, communications and interactions in the emergence of effective organizations.

Most organizations, whether commercial enterprises, third sector associations, public sector institutions, cities, multi-institutional set-ups and, in general, all kinds of organizational forms are the outcome, to different degrees, of design and self-organization.  The focus of this symposium is on the clarification of ‘different degrees’. We can say that some organizations, such as government institutions, are likely to need a good deal of design, while community organizations, such as cities and NGOs, are likely to be dominated by self-organizing processes. However, both types of organization structures have advantages and disadvantages.  The development of free for all, Wild West type of cities is likely to be painful and costly, at the same time, imposing formal, rigid, structures to their development is likely to make them unattractive and unresponsive; to a large degree they are the outcome of local problem-solving dependent on location, resources, politics and so forth. On the other hand, too strong planning and control of government bodies is likely to make them unresponsive. But their unregulated development is likely to support corruption and chaos. In either case, the emergence of effective organizations requires designing top-down structural and processual innovation and enabling bottom-up high complexity self-organization processes. In between the extremes of cities and public institutions we may think that market oriented enterprises offer a good balance between design and self-organization. For instance, the current restructuring of institutions such as the National Health Service in England appears to be driven by the belief that stronger markets are likely to increase its performance. There is also the belief that the old designs, built on centralized structures, are the culprit of its current under-performance. The question is to what degree policy-makers recognize that free health services for all the population imply both organizational design and flexible markets. Increasing our understanding of how to deal with these two aspects is the purpose of this symposium.

This Symposium wants to achieve a good balance between theoretical and empirical approaches to the issues of design and self-organization.


Session 1: Paper Presentation

Chair: Raúl Espejo

  • Markus Schwaninger: Towards Optimal Organizational Designs,The Fractal Dimension of Self-organizing Systems
  • Hans Arthur Losscher: Leadership and Chaos

Session 2: Paper Presentation

Chair: Markus Schwaninger

  • Penny Hart: Using an interpretivist methodology to investigate knowledge sharing in a research establishment
  • Uros Strel Lencic: Sharing Experiences and Improving Knowledge With Public Project Models
  • Tom Ryan: Working ‘Cybernetically’ at Organizational (Re)design

Session 3: Paper Presentation

Chair:  José Perez Rios

  • Louis Klein: Narrative Approaches to Organizational Research, Exploring the organisational collage of memetic paradigms
  • Helmut Nechansky: Problems of Organizational Cybernetics, beyond Beer’s Viable Systems Model
  • Zoraida Mendiwelso-Bendek: Supporting Civil Society’s Self-Organisation

Session 4: Paper Presentation

Chair: Tom Ryan

  • José Perez Rios & Xosé Lois Martínez Suárez: An Organizational Cybernetics approach to University Urban Planning
  • José Bermeo: Designing an effective conversation in an organization
  • Raúl Espejo & David Hooper: Variety Engineering and the Re-structuring of the English National Health Service