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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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I agree deeply with this article. Indeed it is remarkable how the structuring of organizational procedures develops a life on its own.

People are keeping processes going on that have been established at a certain point of time in specific environmental conditions. Processes serve a specific purpose and try to optimize the tension between available resources and desired output. Optimization means vertical streamlining (just like in supply-chains), specialization in certain procedures and controlling input parameters.

Economy of mind:
The attention of the people involved is dedicated to control and refine, and as people always learn when interacting with their environment, they end up being specialist of their processes. They develop logical algorithms that allow quick assessments of recurring situations. On the other hand these algorithms, once functioning satisfactory (a tolerable degree of variance between actual observation and estimated outcome), become automated mechanisms that can be very dangerous to healthy self- organisation. Those who installed the processes become victims of their own reality; they fooled themselves by creating systems that give them the impression to be able to predict the future.
Trying to make reality predictable is the main error of postindustrial optimization frenzy...
This has economic advantages, of course, as the process owners can minimize the investment of attention and reflection necessary to be operational.

In a way, it is an economy of mind, that itself tries to optimize the tension between limited mental resources that need to cope with a multitude of sensory stimuli.

Acting inside- out:
Through routinizing perception by creating perceptive patterns or algorithms, people once more act inside-out. Inside- out means that people always apply internal mental models when making sense of reality. The consequence is that reality needs to be adapted to their underlying logic, in order to be "true" for the model owner.

This is where the core of the problem is: Processes are enacted mental models (collective or individual) that feedback onto the ground out of which they emerged. Organisational double loop learning is shaped by the interaction between organisational environment that is characterized by procedures, and the actors inside the organisation that create, use and depend on these procedures. Once again we are dealing with a self-referential system. No objective statement about thruth, right and wrong, good or bad is possible.
Procedures already include potential axes of development and affects what is and will be experienced / learned in those settings.

Bureaucracy and Fitness landscapes:
Automated process routinizing reflects rigidness of individual mental processes. In a highly efficient organisation, we will most probably find highly routinized bureaucratically structures. That does not mean that a highly efficient organisation is able to perform at sustainable top level. It only means that it has adapted itself better than its competitors to the current topology of the fitness-landscape "market".

But as the market is a dynamic network, the topology is evolving constantly. Organisations will have to face change and adapt. The capacity of adaptation strongly depends on the organisations flexibility to restructure. Now, if a highly bureaucratic organisation with institutionalized processes is confronted with change- it hurts.

Acting outside- in:
As all people are organized around those core structures and perfectly adapted to perform in them, we face the problem to walk the way back that enabled us to optimize: we have to go outside-in. We need to open up our mind to make new experiences. What we need to see must be new, at least different, as the environment has changed. Only if new experiences are made on individual levels, the company as a hole is able to change. Then, starting from another mental model frame, the inside-out procedure will let new, innovative processes emerge.
The only problem is to know when to change. But if we look at the nature of the dynamic evolution, we can establish one principle: we always need to change as change is the only constant.

Innovation and the cocoon of organisational reality:
Innovation is therefore not a plus, but the base of economic activity. It must be the principal purpose of any successful company in any environment. Innovation is like a snake peeling of its old skin, getting rid of rigid and used up frameworks, staying healthy and following the course of evolution.
Most organisations still try to remain in their comfortable cocoon of private "corporate reality", despite the price they are paying for this... Innovation is automatically a paradigm-shift (minor or major) and results from a change in perception. Concepts reflect capacities of perception, and therefore nothing is as important as a good concept.

On a changing topological surface it is better to own a compass and keep moving than trying to establish maps, chosing a specific destination and building a railway to it. If the surface suddenly breaks and gaps emerge, the railway is broken.
We all know what happens to trains that run on broken railways... For me, a concept is a compass, a procedure a railway. One element remains: Who the hell is running the train?!?

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