Symbiosis in LOs LO11259

Mnr AM de Lange (
Wed, 4 Dec 1996 09:44:55 GMT+2

Robert Bacal wrote LO11196
> On 29 Nov 96 at 7:58, Mnr AM de Lange wrote:
> > By now tracing chains of chains or clusters as well as clusters of chains
> > or clusters, the complex whole may be traced. The unofficial/informal
> > structure of an organisation in its day to day actions exhibit this
> > complex chain/cluster network and the various types of symbiosis in it.
> Forgive what is truly an ignorant question, but could you suggest the
> utility of such an analysis--eg. how it could, or better, is used to
> improve organizations and org. learning? Thanks.

Dear Robert (and all others),

Thank you very much for an extremely important question. Symbiosis means
to live together while giving and taking. If I interpret your question as
a 'take' one, then I will have to 'give' by explaining how a symbiotic
analysis may improve the functioning of an organisation. Maybe I will do
so somewhere in the future.

However, it is also possible to interpret you question as a 'give' one. By
this I mean the following. Every question has something of the answer
already contained in it. In other words, every question is loaded with
some vital information. This vital information may be used to answer the
question. But it may also be used for something else. Thus I will 'take'
your question and make another living out of it.

When I suggested that we might have a new thread, namely Symbiosis in LOs,
I was excited about using symbiosis to organise my thoughts. Although I am
not a trained biologist, botanist or zoologist, I have had so much
experiences (direct and through literature) in the world of plants and
animals that I immediately recognised the METAPHORIC power of symbiosis.

However, many members of an organisation may have far less bio-
experiences so that symbiosis as metaphor for them have far less value.
Ben Compton, through the help of his wife trained in chemistry and
biology, had been able to sense the metaphoric value of symbiosis by
measuring it against his own experiences, namely computer networking. I
think that he is more comfortable with the computer network as metaphor
than with symbiosis as metaphor. But let him be the judge.

You have made a very valuable observation through a question; of what
utility is an analysis (metaphor) if one cannot relate to it. The first
part of my answer is simple: do not try to use a metaphore if you cannot
relate to it. The second part of my answer is complex. Whether we 'live'
(biosis) 'together' (sym), compute together (Ben Compton's metaphor) or
learn together (Peter Senge's metaphor), we have to ACT TOGETHER.

In an LO we have to learn together. The orginal Greek word (diavaso) for
learning do not occur in the English language. The word diavaso means
'seeing' (vaso) 'through' (dia). Thus it is silly to try and make the
alien word symvasis (learning together) stick. However, we have the word
diagnosis in English which means 'knowing' (gnosko) 'through' (dia). Thus,
whereas the word symvasis would be completely alien to us, the word
symgnosis (knowing together) has some meaningful and even spiritual ring
to it. Moreover, symgnosis is to a LO what symbiosis is to an ecological

Apart from the main idea 'living together' in symbiosis, we have the idea
of 'producers and consumers'. The three types of symbiotic behaviours
describe some of the sixteen producer-consumer relationships which are
possible. To describe these sixteen relationships, we have to use a
logical anlysis by employing the sixteen binary connectives such as 'and,
or, xor, imply, etc.

The first point which I wish to make, is we again have to ACT CREATIVELY
by connecting two ideas in LOs, namely the idea of 'symgnosis' (knowing
together) and the idea of 'producers and consumers'. If we go back to
Michael McMaster's original contribution from which I suggested the thread
'Symbiosis in LOs', it was exactly these two ideas which Michael
presented. But let Michael be the judge of that.

The second point which I wish to make, is that we should have to learn how
to communicate in terms of different paradigms. In other words, we should
be able to translate our metaphors into other metaphors. The more complex
a LO, the better we should be in metaphoric translations. Here in Africa
many of the indigenous languages have far less vocabulary and grammer than
the IndoEuropean languages. The reason is that these indigenous languages
makes far more use of metaphoric descriptions. For example, if I have a
beautiful garden, I will decribe it in a paragraph full of adverbs and
adjectives to any one not from Africa. But an African will most probably
decibe it as: the man has garden with name 'come look'. Here the command
'come look' acts as a metaphor descibing the splendour of the garden.

My own language Afrikaans, also indigenous to Africa, is in a unique
position. It has a vocabulary typical to that of Dutch fro which it
developed. It also has a simplified grammer which is fully functional. But
most important of all, since it was born in Africa in symbiosis with other
indigenous languages, it is astoundingly rich in its metaphoric
descriptions. Thus it bridges the cultures of two continents: Europe and

I am a trained physicist and chemist. In terms of this training and
experience, I would be quite comfortable with the metaphor LUMO-HOMO QM
(Lower Unoccupied Molecular Orbitals and Higher Occupied MOs in Quantum
Mechanics) for what we have been discussing in the thread Symbiosis in
LOs. I will not even try to explain LUMO-HOMO QM and its value to LOs. And
all of you, except probably a chemist or physicist or two, will agree.
However, by stressing one importing thing of the metaphor LUMO- HOMO QM,
namely the
active sharing of electrons between atoms in a molecule
we may easily recognise its relationship to symbiosis, namely
active sharing of food between organisms in an ecological niche.
This 'food' in the biological metaphor is more complex than the
'electrons' in the chemical metaphor.

The fact is that in a LO the shared 'things' are even more complex! These
'things' are material such as money and abstract such as information.
Maybe we should start using the word 'symgnosis' to indicate this
difference (jump, shift) in complexity.

The third point which I wish to make, is that, although we should improve
our ability to communicate in metaphors, we should also develop a common
terminology for what we wish to communicate. In this forum much of it is
about managing organisations. However, reality is much more complex. Go to
any leading library and observe its books on the natural sciences,
engineering, economics, languages, geography, politics, law, history,
education, art, theology, etc. Each of these 'fields of learning' has
developed some sort of terminology common to that field. In fact, the
terminology which has been CREATED in such a field, is one of the signs of
LEARNING for such a field.

But let us now think of 'deep symgnosis', i.e. a LO in which all the
fields of learning is part of the give and take! It cannot operate merely
by means of metaphoric translations. We have to create a terminology for
it to assist our learning. I believe with all that I have that this
terminology will have to be built on three concepts: deep entropy, deep
creativity and deep learning.

At de Lange
Gold Fields Computer Centre for Education
University of Pretoria
Pretoria, South Africa


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