Organisation is a key characteristic of life. In order to be alive, a living thing draws organisation to itself. Living things seem to overcome the second law of thermodynamics, which states that the entropy (disorder) of any isolated systems will increase over time. Of course, living things are not isolated systems, and draw “negative entropy” (order) from their environment.
Each of us has a great potential for organisational energy. A human being has an exquisitely high level of organisation, with energy vibrations organised into atoms organised into molecules organised into cells organised into tissues organised into organs organised into organ systems organised into a whole, highly interconnected organism with consciousness, thought and experience. In turn, our individual organism can organise our environment, consciously enacting changes to support our existence with such requirements as food and shelter. To take this organisation much further, we can co-operatively organise as groups, and groups of groups, pooling ideas, skills, resources and critical reflection to organise our society in a benign, convivial, abundant direction.
“Organisation arises at boundaries” – Hugh Lovel
Boundaries, edges, transition zones – in nature, these are the areas with maximum energy, diversity and interaction. They are where wholes greater than the sum of their parts emerge.
Rigid boundaries between groups, disciplines, worldviews, nations, races etc stymie this transition zone energy. Science becomes a fragmented catalogue of specialities, with specialists knowing more and more about less and less, religion becomes an inspiration for war and conquest, and conflict and competition dissipate order into destructive chaos.
Open, porous, interactive boundaries between individuals and groups in human society, are more like the boundaries in nature that give rise to diversity and abundance. Flexible boundaries (like an animal’s skin or a bacteria’s cell wall) allow growth and movement. Organisation becomes organic, adaptable and responsive like a living thing or a living ecosystem. Instead of a hierarchy that creates a “pyramid” structure and inefficient, competitive, top-down (dis)organisation, a holarchical organisational structure is “horizontal”, with no “top ranking” and no fixed centre. Holistic organisation is the resilient, dynamic organisational structure of a free human society.