h. A Systems Model of Human Organisation (Part 2)

A Systems Model of Human Organisation (Part 2)

This post is part two of the article begun last week. Due to its length, I have split the article down into three posts, but if you would like to read it in one sitting a copy can be downloaded here

Internal Feedback

Adapting internal processes involves an internal feedback loop in which the command component’s role is to:

  1. gather information from subordinate components. This information is subject to darkness and miscommunication. Darkness implies that the full picture can never be known. Miscommunication may involve subordinate components providing  misinformation or failing to supply relevant facts. Thus, the role of the command component is also to ensure that the supply of information is relevant and policed.
  2. issue instructions, laws, rules, regulations, norms, etc. to subordinate components and to police them. As will be explained later, ideally, this should also include rules to prevent negative competition. There can be difficulties when a command component polices itself, and thus, in a democracy for example, law-making and enforcement are separated.

External Feedback

Influencing the organisation’s external environment also involves a feedback loop. Outputs from the organisation act as inputs to other organisations in the environment. These may then be processed to yield the original organisation’s desired inputs. At its simplest level, an individual may pay for, or in some other way trade for food. At a higher level, a business may lobby government for reduced taxation or regulation. These external feedback loops are what bond levels in the organizational hierarchy together into society.

Each component organisation’s demand for inputs is a motivator. If, at the level in which external feedback occurs, other component organisations share the same motivator, they can act in one of three ways:

  1. Negative Unilateralism. The organisation acts unilaterally and in negative competition with others. The terms unilateral and multilateral are normally associated with international affairs, but here they are used more generically. Negative competition involves preventing competitors from achieving their goals. In this scenario, each organisation strives for its inputs from what may be a limited resource, and no functioning parent organisation emerges. Because negative competition leads to inefficiencies, the full potential benefits are unlikely to be achieved. Finally, open conflict can arise. It is notable that this largely reflects the state of global organisation today.
  2. Positive Unilateralism. The organisation acts unilaterally and in positive competition with others. Positive competition occurs when competitors each strive to be the best, as in the case of a running race. It leads to a  recognition of which component is best suited to what function. This, in turn, leads to co-operation. Each component finds the niche to which it is best suited and/or in which it is the most efficient. Thus, a functioning parent organisation with a command component ultimately evolves. On average, each component organisation will gain greater benefits than the previous option. However, sub-optimisation applies, and the benefits may not be as great as for those who are overwhelmingly successful in negative competition.
  3. Multilateralism. The organisation acts in co-operation with others. In this case a parent organisation with a command component is designed. The European Union is an example. However, because each component organisation strives for efficiency, there is a risk that they will exploit others, rather than contribute to the common effort. This would reduce the benefits for all.

In practice, the above options exist as points on a scale. There are numerous intermediate points between options a and b, and between options b and c, which depend on the attitudes and decisions of the component organisations.

Because we are a eusocial species, we must balance individual or unilateral action in our short-term interest with communal or multilateral action yielding longer-term benefits. For every organisation, there is an optimum efficiency which can be achieved by using positive unilateralism or multilateralism where appropriate. Nations with conflict between the political left, who favour collectivism, and the right, who favour individualism, should take note.

Optimisation applies to an organisation that acts unilaterally. If an organisation acts multilaterally, then we must rise up through the hierarchy until we reach either the global system or a parent or grandparent acting unilaterally. The requirement for optimization then cascades down through component and sub-component organisations, which may then need to operate sub-optimally.

When influencing its external environment, the role of the command component of an organisation is to:

  1. gather information from the external environment. In the systems model, this information is an input, which itself must be sought by influencing the external environment.
  2. make decisions in the interest of the relevant organisation as a whole. The relevant organisation may be the one commanded, its parent, or its grandparent, whichever operates unilaterally.
  3. manage the balance between unilateral and multilateral action to optimise the efficiency of the relevant organisation.
  4. issue commands to sub-ordinate components for the necessary outputs.

This article will conclude with part 3 next week.

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