Monthly Archives: February 2023

Shared Traits of Persistent Organizations

For any organization (including biological organisms) to persist over time, a certain balance between what might appear on the surface to be competing priorities determined by environmental context must be expressed. Safety vs. the need for food, for instance. Regular patterns of structure and behavior are surrounded by increasingly dynamic and less frequent ones that work together to maintain coherence in the context of the environment. This is the bone and flesh of coherence that applies to any coherent system. Out of this pool of necessities emerges a particular structural-behavioral form. The more persistent patterns form a “bone structure” architecture of the system. This is the grammar from which increasingly dynamic flexible elements of structure and behavior appear. These more flexible elements of structure are more suited to contend with wider ranges of environmental variables. This is the essence of persistently coherent systems in the context of the environment.

One of the most useful lenses to make this grammatical pattern of structures more visible and able to be acted on is the Wardley model. It parses organizations into pioneers, settlers, and town planners. Using this lens, the town planner types are the bone structure of an organization and the pioneers are the flexible explorers who contend with the future and embrace discovery. A specific blend of each that is proportional to contexts such as marketplaces and social economy environments is required for organizations to persist over time.

This model of persistently coherent organizations also applies to civilization. How well we manage the embrace of traditions and innovation that are relevant to successfully navigating our present and future environments will determine whether we persist or not. Negotiating in this nuanced multifaceted context is key.

Pioneers, Settlers, Town Planners – How Innovation Works