Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The meaning of Life .... A Self-Organising Network

Philosophers have spent lifetimes agonising about what they mean by the word "life" or "living". Many attempts define life in terms of its characteristics such as growth or reproduction but that does not really advance our thinking much. A few years back a Chilean Biologist, Dr Humberto Maturana, turned all this on its head with a radically new definition of life as Autopoiesis - a special kind of self-organizing network:

"What is distinctive about them (living systems), however, is that their organization is such that their only product is themselves, with no separation between the producer and the product. The being and doing of a living system are inseparable, and this is their specific mode of organisation" [The Tree of Knowledge - The Biological Roots of Human Understanding, pp. 48-49].

If you accept that organisations and teams are also living systems then Maturana's work opens up a whole new approach to organisational and team design. You can find out more about this field by reading Design better social software using Living Systems Theory

Ken Thompson (aka The BumbleBee) blogs about bioteams, virtual collaboration  and business simulation at