management by matrices

a fresh perspective on management.

Emergence

I read about this interesting concept today.

Emergence is one of the founding principles of agility, and is the closest one to pure magic. Emergent properties aren't designed or built in, they simply happen as a dynamic result of the rest of the system. "Emergence" comes from middle 17th century Latin in the sense of an "unforeseen occurrence." You can't plan for it or schedule it, but you can cultivate an environment where you can let it happen and benefit from it.

A classic example of emergence lies in the flocking behavior of birds. A computer simulation can use as few as three simple rules (along the lines of "don't run into each other") and suddenly you get very complex behavior as the flock wends and wafts its way gracefully through the sky, reforming around obstacles, and so on. None of this advanced behavior (such as reforming the same shape around an obstacle) is specified by the rules; it emerges from the dynamics of the system.

Link via 37signals. Source: Andrew Hunt - The pragmatic programmers.

Sometimes the best ways to create complex outcomes is to create simple mantras to be followed religiously by all stakeholders.

The concept can be extended to organizations as a whole. If an organization has 3-5 pithy mantras that it will abide by in all its decisions, it can lead to complex positive outcomes. On the other hand if one were to start from the complex outcome and work backwards, failure is guaranteed. I believe that great vision statements perform this function in aligning the actions of organizational stakeholders.

2 comments:

  1. gravatar

    why do you think I named my firm Imagence (Imagine+Emergence)

    :D

    9:48 AM
  2. gravatar

    Hey GG
    Imagination itself could be thought of as an emergent property of neurons acting in isolation. :)

    I suppose Imagence could thus mean that you use your firm's collective imagination to lead to higher level emergent outcomes for your clients.

    Hope that made sense :)

    2:40 PM