Johnnie Moore

Fritjof Capra on structure and emergence

Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

I’ve been having a nice email exchange with Steve Moore of ICE3 who quoted Fritjof Capra to me:

Human organisations always contain both designed and emergent structures. The two types of structures are very different but every organisation needs both kinds. Designed structures provide the rules and routines that are necessary for the effective functioning of the organisation… Designed structures provide stability. Emergent structures, on the other hand provide novelty, creativity and flexibility. They are adaptive, capable of changing and evolving. In todays complex environment purely designed structures do not have the necessary responsiveness and learning capability. They are deficient in learning and changing and therefore likely to be left behind. There is always tension between the organisations designed structure which embody the relationships of power and the emergent, structures which represent the organisations aliveness. The central function of future leadership is to create harmony between the two

It’s a great quote.

One of the things that Improv work points to is the paradox of structure and freedom. People often see these as being polarised opposites: a slight challenging of rules is seen as threatening anarchy; or the creation of some standard procedures gets stygmatised as bureaucratic.

It actually turns out these are enfolded in each other. Set up a game (here’s one I described a while back) and people start testing the rules. They often unconsciouly invent some new rules of their own. They see how far they can go within the rules. Generally, they kind of stick to the rules but find ways to do unexpected things within them (A bit like how we used to have industrial disputes where workers disrupted business by the deliberate and clever rigidity of “working-to-rule”)

Take the rules away completely, however, and there is no game. It’s like there’s no space within which to experience freedom. I suppose innovative companies are the ones that somehow balance order and chaos dynamically.

If, however, you try too hard to codify what innovative companies do, you create some new rules which themselves will be tested, broken, improved, transcended by the next innovative organisation.

I think this is why Buddhists say if you meet Buddah on the road, kill him. And why for me, the best bit about “best practice” is the word practice – as in keep trying stuff, and keep learning.

This is the sort of thing I’m writing about in my chapter for More Space.

Share Post

More Posts

No comment

The value of not always saying something helpful


The space between who we are and who we are becoming

More Updates

Emotional debt

Releasing the hidden costs of pent up frustrations


Finding the aliveness below the surface of stuck

Johnnie Moore

Do you speak Funagalo?

Interesting short article by Tony Plant in People Management. Here’s a chunk: Having observed a lot of meetings and team activities I have concluded that many workers speak “Office Funagalo”.

Johnnie Moore

Lists, continued…

For those who enjoyed my previous posts on lists, here’s a kindred spirit. I offer a little snippet to lure you into reading more. I wonder what Michele’s return on

Johnnie Moore

Mirror, mirror….

A big hat-tip to Stefan Liute for his post The biological hardware for culture. He points to this article from the NY Times: Cells that read minds. Here are a

Johnnie Moore


I’ve just upgraded to MovableType 3.16 and I’m having a problem with some of the individual archives (the pages you use for adding comments and trackbacks). Apologies if you can’t