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Humanity's struggle to trust the superior self-organising capacity of Nature

Updated: Aug 31, 2022

The entire Universe is an adaptive self-organizing system. From the infinitesimally small, to the unimaginably large. It is an extremely adaptive, efficient and robust system. And for all its splendor, there's not a single manager involved. What incredible lessons could we humans learn from this? Or maybe the better question is, why don't we?

Evert Bleijenberg
Evert Bleijenberg MBA

To the watchful eye it is clear. Nature has much better answers to much bigger problems. It builds better structures, makes better use of physics laws and it simply organises things much more flexible and efficient. Compared to nature, we humans are just poor copy-cats that need machines, archaic energy systems and extensive management and control to get anything accomplished. Luckily more and more open minded people start to recognize this. They use the lessons of nature in a concept called "Biomimicry". This idea is predominantly used in electromechanical systems like robots, planes and cars. Yet for some enigmatic reason, humans have great difficulty accepting that Nature is much better at organising too. In the last 25 years several scholars (i.e. prof. Ricardo Semler, Bob de Wit, et al.) have pushed the agenda for self-organising collectives. Yet, why is it such an uphill battle?

Swarm Organisation
Swarm Organisation

The three plausible reasons

1. Conditioning, i.e. culture: It already starts the minute we are born. First with mom and dad, later the teacher in the class, the referee in the football match, later your boss at work and the government. Everywhere we go in society, we've been told there must be some one in charge and rules that we must obey. We have been programmed to believe there must be hierarchy and that there is no alternative.

2. The 25 pivot point: We all know about a pack of wolves or a pride of Lions. Thus Nature also uses hierarchy and since these groups exist for as long as we can remember, clearly they must work. Yet, here's the part that is often overlooked. Hierarchic collectives in Nature hardly ever exceed 25 individuals. If collectives are, or grow bigger, they either split up in smaller groups (cells) or they adopt self-organisation as their main principle for managing complexity. And this is where Human organisations fail. Basically all organisations start small using hierarchy. But when they grow beyond 25 individuals, they stick to hierarchy. This requires ever more rules, regulations, processes and control, and of course people to manage this.

3. Human ego: For some reason, we Humans believe we're better than Nature. Forces in our society have indoctrinated us with the believe that Nature has no intellect and that it exists only to serve the 'Crown on Creation': People. We refuse to acknowledge that there maybe something in Nature that is smarter than us and we resent taking any lessons from something as stupid as a murmuration of birds. Yet, we only learned how to fly a 100 years ago by copying those same birds. Our intellect has brought us great things. Yet it is now time to accept that this same intellect may keep us from surviving the hierarchy dogma.

If we can overcome the limiting convictions of our species, great things can be accomplished again. Adaptive self-Organisation is the next step in human evolution.

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