Sunday, September 13, 2009

On Emergence (not emergent - or emergency)

A couple of extracts from an article by Margaret J Wheatley, called Using Emergence to take Social Innovations to Scale.

Wheatley explains 'emergence' this way:

Emergence violates so many of our Western assumptions of how change happens that it often takes quite a while to understand it. In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level. (Global here means a larger scale, not necessarily the entire planet.)

Emergence comes about through Networks:

Networks are the only form of organization used by living systems on this planet. These networks result from self-organization, where individuals or species recognize their interdependence and organize in ways that support the diversity and viability of all. Networks create the conditions for emergence, which is how Life changes. Because networks are the first stage in emergence, it is essential that we understand their dynamics and how they develop into communities and then systems.

This article was written back in 2006, but even at that stage, emergence (especially on the Net) was a considerable force: Linux, Wikipedia, Tribes to name a very few. The current strength of social media on the Net is another example; it may not entirely be what Wheatley had in mind, but is has the same sort of elements.

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