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  • This BLOG has a double purpose. It aims to contribute to the discussion and development of the academic field that could be situated in between complexity theory, knowledge management, innovation and learning; in summary a more holistic and systemic approach to management. As such it reflects the activities that take place in the Euromed transversal research track on this subject. The Home Page and the Reading host this contribution. In the News and Discussion sections, this BLOG is used to animate courses in the area of “Complexity and the Networked Economy”, "Knowledge Management and Learning" and "A quantum interpreation of business".

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Pedagogical concepts



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Wilber developed a theory that tries to explain the structure and functioning of consciousness. According to him, reality has another dimension next to energy, matter, processes and ideas: Holons.

A Holon is something whole, but part of a superposed system that itself is to be seen as a whole. Reality, like a fractal, is composed of the superposition of Holons.

This comes pretty close to a theme that emerged in my mind when reasoning about information and knowledge circulating in CAOs (complex adaptive organisations):
“The fractal structure of knowledge”.

In this perspective it seems possible to me that there is a certain pattern in perception and the structure of knowledge. This pattern works / functions on different levels of abstraction, depending on the degree of complexity the brain of the observer is able to process. Underlying neural structures seem to shape a big part of these processes that can be seen as certain algorithms applied to sensory stimuli, in order to calculate appropriate re-actions.

Wilber formulates that every development follows certain sequences that a framed by a hierarchy encompassing different chronological and logical levels. There seems to be analogue to the processes of the human brain.

Now we can actually compare the informational network amongst actors in an organisation to the interconnection structure of neurons in a brain. Actors themselves are a complex and self-containing entity, a Holon. The agglomeration of actors inside an organisation is a Holon itself. The processes and rules the individual actors follow give birth to macro- behaviour of the Holon organisation. This emerging effect leads to the birth of an organisational consciousness and a certain sense of being: culture. The nature of this culture can not be predicted by the analysis of its constituting parts, the actors; the emergence happens in non-linear fashion in a dynamic environment…

But I don’t want to get too deep in my personal reflection. I’d rather like to share something which struck me when reading about Wilber’s approach. To me it seems that his theory of Holons offers a pretty enlightening perspective on the way how all this happens. It might be that Wilber discovered the pillars of the algorithm or its structure. He explains the 4 basic characteristics or features of Holons as follows:

• Autopoiesis/ Self Preservation: capacity of a Holon to maintain individuality, wholeness and autonomy. Holons are embedded in interactions with their environment, but not determined through the context

• Adaptation : Every Holon is part of a bigger system on which it depends and in which it needs to integrate participatory

• Transcendence / transformation: the possibility for qualitatively new forms to emerge. These transcendations can be of disruptive nature. For this reason they are sometimes labelled “quantum-evolution”, a term which underlines the non-linear dynamics.

• Dissolution / Disintegration: A Holon can dissolute if confronted with difficult conditions, if adaptation and self-preservation are contradictory necessities to survive. In this case the Holon reverses the direction of its evolution by falling back into old patterns or sub-Holons. This can be compared to the behaviour of managers that confronted with stress fall back into old behavioural structures…

For explanation of the terms I recommend the Web Dictionary of Cybernetics and Systems (

These four characteristics are sequences that are self-referential, which means they follow a kind of loop:

Autopoiesis > Adaptation > transcendence > Dissolution > Autopoiesis and so on

If we talk about evolution, we mean that there is a growth-factor in this sequence, which transforms the circle into a spiral. Wilber developed the idea stemming from the book “spiral dynamics” by Don Beck and Chris Cowan. For those of you interested- this is a great management book…

Anyway, to conclude: I think this is an interesting approach to be reflected upon. The more I think about it, the more obvious it becomes that we are indeed living in a closely interconnected, networked world. It becomes a reality that we are most of the time unaware of the complexity surrounding us and that most of the time we use our brains to filter and reduce this overwhelming flow of information.Good ol' reductionist style if you know what I mean... Phenomena like emergence remain wonders that we cannot understand whilst keeping a system- immanent perspective / position. But even by transcending one level of “reality”, we will never be “free”. Transcending one level means facing the next higher one with a similar hierarchy- structure encompassing different chronological and logical levels. This is what I call the “fractal structure of knowledge”


Hola faretaste

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