Nothing is completely irrelevant LO5499

Michael McMaster (
Sat, 10 Feb 1996 13:04:44 +0000

Replying to LO5458 --

Roberto, I cannot decipher your objection to my biological approach.
There appears to be a typo in my received message but I'm not sure if that
would clear anything up. The point of clearing this up for me is for my
own learning and for the possibility of generating organisational design
principles and management practices.

Let me attempt to unravel what we have said so far and see if it gets us
somewhere. I said, " Breakthroughs happen at the edges". You said,
"Creativity, etc. do not happen in the center". .... Didn't we say the
same thing in different ways? At any rate, I agree with your statement.


I suggesteed that they happen at the edges "because that is where there is
contact with something that is not totally self-generated." You said,
"because there is no gradient, no incentive to drive change." Do these
argue with each other? They seem very similar although not identical to

So far are we in agreement and consistent with a biological model? I'm
using more of an information theory model at this point but I think that
they are largely overlapped.

Then I go on to make a possibly more contentious point. That is, there is
not centre except from a point of view or context or circumstance. What I
mean to say is the centre is not a fixed point nor is it a constant
specialised "part". A cell might have a centre when looked at from that
perspective but not even be near a centre when looked at from the
perspective of the larger system. What I mean to point at is the
phenomenon, say, of the executive being "at the centre" from the point of
view of formal control or strategic information but at the edges from the
point of view of production activity or customers.

You say there is a centre and it "where there is NO contact with something
that is not totally self-generated". I think part of my problem is with
the double negative. I use your definition frequently from a perspective
of information theory. That is, I say that there is the minimum
information at the centre. My problem with your expression as a
biological one applying to organisation - I know of no such place. There
is no place completely devoid of self-generated action and thus no centre
anywhere trying to apply your definition to my model.

The point of my work is freedom and effectiveness. Hence my statement,
"That frees creativity, innovation and breakthrough to happen anywhere in
an organisation."

I argue with your following point and it is the heart of the matter of
interest for me, "To generate creativity there you have to introduce a
disruption, a breakdown, create disequilibrium."

The model that I strongly disagree with is one of equilibrium and
disequilibrium. No living system is in equilibrium as I understand them
and equilibrium. This is where the economics has gone severely wrong
through most of its history. There is not market equilibrium nor even a
tendency for that to occur. I think that much of biology has sufferred
from a similar mistake - using linear, physical models to understand
living processes.

If a system is in equilibrium (presumably therefor non-living, in my
interpretation), then I agree that it takes a disruption "from the
outside" to generate anything - not just creativity. But the model I am
working with emergence. Here we are dealing with systems that tensions
and balancing requirements built in to their organisation. The challenge
is not to disrupt them but to access or nurture their inherent forces of

Now for the really interesting stuff (IMHO)! This idea of centres. The
best work in the area I know is a very expensive book by Christopher
Alexander called "A Foreshadowing of 21st Century Art" which is based in
his approach to centres from architecture and urban planning but uses
"color and geometry of bery early Turkish carpets" as its source of
understanding of centres. Some chapter titles will provide an enrolling
(hopefully) perspective on this work: The building blocks of wholeness,
The multiplicity of centers, Centers and local symmetries, Positive space,
Differentiation, Levels of scale, The creation of a complex center,
Emergence of being.

I have developed the application of the ideas of centres from my
interpretation and application of complexity theory as developed by Murray
Gell-Mann and others at SFI and the relationship of that to design,
linguistics and information theory. These approaches are proving
effective in assisting managers in their challenges of transforming

My test, as always, is pragmatic.

Thanks for the challenge and opportunity of your quality disagreement.

Michael McMaster

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>