e. Social Interactions Part 2

Social Interactions (Part 2)

Inter-organisational Interactions

Three main factors affect whether an organisation interacts co-operatively with another, or engages in positive or negative competition. The same principles apply to individuals except that they are their own leader. These are:

  1. Leadership. Organisations reflect their leadership. Their behaviour differs according to whether the leader acts in his or her personal interest or in that of the organisation. Usually, there is a balance between the two.
  2. Resources. If a necessary input or resource is plentiful, then there will normally be co-operation or positive competition for it. On the other hand, if it is, or is becoming, insufficient to satisfy all parties, then negative competition will result. The planning, establishment, existence, or growth of an organisation can act as negative motivator to another that, either directly or indirectly, needs the same resource. If a threatened organisation already exists, it will engage in negative competition. If it does not, then one may be established with the same result. When two organisations are in negative competition, then the belief system and culture of each is progressively strengthened and becomes more selfish. Positive feedback then occurs, in which stronger identity and self-interest leads to greater perceived threat, which in turn leads to stronger identity and self-interest. Ultimately, conflict can result. Usually, both parties lose, but negative competition can also lead to some maintaining or even improving their situation, whilst making the situation worse for others.
  3. Distance. The effect that one organisation can have on another depends on distance, i.e., how many causally connected organisations form a chain. Clearly, if there is a chain of such connections between organisations, then it is also possible for there to be positive, negative, or regulating feedback. The example of negatively competing organisations given above embodies positive feedback. With just one organisation in a causal chain, feedback must, by definition, exist, i.e., the organisation’s outputs become its inputs. This is the basis of self-maintenance and growth. For example, a business normally reinvests some of its income. If there are two organisations in a chain, then the outputs from one form inputs for the other. As explained above, the former’s outputs may be necessary for the latter, or there may be other organisations providing the same inputs, i.e., redundancy, and this makes the recipient more resilient. A particular input may also be necessary, but not sufficient, and others are usually required for an organisation to carry out its function. Thus, the relationships on the input side of an organisation are more like a tree, with several organisations providing inputs for one, several also providing inputs to each of those, and so on. Nevertheless, a chain exists between any two organisations in this tree. For example, a farmer provides flour to a wholesaler, who refines it and supplies it to a baker, who in turn supplies bread to a supermarket. In general, the longer the chain, the more likely it is that redundancies will occur, and the less influence a supplier at one end will have over a consumer at the other. Nevertheless, there may still exist critical suppliers or consumers whose failure will either directly impact on an organisation or indirectly via the demise of others in the chain. For example, a critical supplier may source resources unethically, or a critical consumer may cause pollution, thereby generating opposition and their ultimate demise. So, longer term organisational survival depends on the identification of any such critical external organisations, and the introduction of changes or redundancies.

Intra-organisational Interactions

Social intra-organisational interactions are not possible for individuals. For an individual, internal interactions are biological. Thus, social interactions apply only to organisations comprising two people or more.

The same three factors, i.e., leadership, resources, and distance, affect intra-organisational interactions. Their impact is, however, via the attributes necessary for an organisation to carry out its purpose or function successfully. These are:

  1. The purpose or function of the organisation:
    • relates to an external demand or need;
    • is agreed by members of the organisation, i.e., individuals and component organisations;
    • is clearly defined and communicated;
    • has the commitment of members of the organisation; and
    • is consistent with the culture of the organisation.
  2. Organisational structure:
    • is effectively divided into component functions;
    • includes effective operational systems;
    • includes effective interaction between component functions, including the transmission of information; and
    • includes an acceptable balance of effort vs. reward for individuals and sub-organisations.
  3. Leadership:
    • has the appropriate skills;
    • is effectively structured; and
    • comprises effective management, monitoring, and control.
  4. Resources.
    • There is adequate availability of the necessary resources.

If all these attributes exist, then attitudes will be ones of of co-operation or positive competition. However, negative competition can arise if just one is deficient. There are causal relationships between these attributes, and a deficiency in one can lead to negative competition, which, in turn, can lead to a deficiency in another. For example, if the purpose of the organisation is not clearly defined and communicated, then competing opinions can arise. If these are expressed in the form of positive competition, then ultimately there will be agreement on the better option. However, if competition becomes negative, then members of the organisation will commit to one or the other, interactions between parts of the organisation will be less effective, and so on. There are many possibilities, and the range is too great to list here.

Extra-organisational Interactions

Positive extra-organisational competition is the natural order, i.e., both the natural world and humanity are evolving, in different ways, thereby improving our likelihood of survival. The outcome is unknown but, as mentioned in a previous article, the direction of travel seems to be one of subsuming the natural environment into the human economy.

For the present at least, the non-human environment generally lacks agency, and any agency that it does have cannot successfully compete with that of humanity. The natural world cannot engage in negative competition, therefore. Any apparent pushback, e.g., viral pandemics, is simply a matter of evolutionary adaptation to the existence of humanity.

We rely on the environment for our continued existence, and any environmental damage, depletion of resources, or other form of misuse ultimately has an adverse effect on us. If extra-organisational interactions comprise negative competition, i.e., if we prevent our environment from carrying out its function, then people will see this as a threat and engage in negative competition on the environment’s behalf.

On the other hand, if extra-organisational interactions are co-operative, then this leads to stable and sustainable relationships with the environment, in which both are able to pursue their destiny without the one impeding the other. The environment is unable to actively co-operate with humanity and help us in this. However, the reverse is not true and is the path that I would advocate.

f. Communication, Assembly and Organisation

Communication, Assembly and Organisation

Communication and Assembly

In the context of an organisation, communication means an ability to find other individuals and organisations who wish to address the same motivator as oneself. Once communication is established and ongoing, the individuals have assembled and can be described as an organisation.

For much of the history of humanity we have only been able to communicate face to face, and this has limited our ability to form organisations. Indeed, it is interesting to note that the evolution of communication has followed that of the hierarchy of needs. Alarm calls are associated with a creature’s existence needs; mating displays with its procreation needs; behavioural symbols, such as grooming, dominance, etc., with its relatedness needs; writing and more long-distance communication with its growth needs.

Much of our interaction is still face to face, of course. So, individuals in an existing organisation, who experience the same motivator, can assemble physically to form a sub-organisation or an entirely separate one. Individuals in a community can also assemble physically. This is evidenced by the number of groups in the UK that protest against local building development.

However, in the present day, we also have technologies which enable us to communicate with many people over very long distances, e.g., the telephone, internet, etc. These technologies have developed over time. We have, therefore, become ever more capable of contacting others who are experiencing the same motivator, and thus, ever more capable of forming an organisation. This growth in our ability to communicate has contributed significantly to increasing social complexity. It has also contributed to our ability to respond to motivators, both positive and negative, and thus, to the nature of our societies. On the other hand, it has created new motivators of both types.

It may be necessary for a significant number of individuals to be affected by a motivator before they assemble into an organisation. The extent to which they are affected also has a bearing. The motivator must be of sufficient significance for people to find communication worth their time and effort. Thus, there can be a threshold below which an organisation does not form.

A charismatic individual or one willing to put in much time and effort can help in the assembly process. However, their personal motivation may or may not be the same as those affected by the motivator.


In the West, we have a fascination with organisational structure. Owing to their competitive nature, this is particularly the case for business organisations. There is, therefore, a vast body of information on the internet, and apart from describing the basics, I will not attempt to repeat it here.

Organisational structure defines how activities for the purpose and maintenance of the organisation are carried out. Usually, there is a division of labour. Each member’s role and how it fits into the overall system is defined. A simple club, for example, normally requires a chair, a secretary, and a treasurer as a minimum. Typically, organisations comprise a number of sub-organisations with particular responsibilities. They may be divided according to function, geography, or a matrix combining both. For example, a business may comprise several departments with responsibilities for procurement, production, marketing, and sales. A police force may be divided into northern, southern, and central departments.

Organisations also form part of larger parent organisations. For example, nations may combine to form political, cultural, economic, or geographical alliances. Smaller organisations in a nation may collaborate to form functional sectors, or geographical alliances.

j. Identifying Desirable Changes in Human Organisation

Identifying Desirable Changes in Human Organisation

This article is the introduction to a series of five. If you would like to read them all, a pdf containing them can be downloaded here.

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

H.G.Wells from “When the Sleeper Wakes”, 1899.

The description of an organisation given in the previous posts is relatively simple. However, there are very many organisations in the world, and each can interact with others in a variety of ways. This leads to enormous complexity and unpredictability, which can be daunting. Fortunately, human organisation has a recursive structure, comprising organisations within organisations, and each organisation has a limited number of variables. These are:

  • The quality of decision making and commands (discussed in more detail in the next two articles).
  • The quality of implementation of commands (discussed in more detail in a future article).
  • The quality of communication of commands.
  • The extent to which those with command responsibility are chosen by top-down or bottom-up representation (discussed in more detail in a future article).
  • The extent to which an organisation adapts internally to changes in its inputs, as opposed to influencing its environment to maintain them.
  • The attitude of the organisation in its relationships with others.
  • The proportion of the organisation’s inputs spent on self-maintenance, as opposed to producing outputs.
  • The extent to which the organisation is efficient.
  • The extent to which the organisation contains redundancies and is resilient.

To help understand these variables, I have designed causal diagrams which can be downloaded here. These diagrams can be translated into the natural language explanations given in the following articles. It is recommended that the reader downloads the diagrams and follows them as he or she reads each article. This will give a better understanding of both the diagrams and the text.

Desirable changes to organisational behaviour can be identified in several ways. However, each involves asking the following three questions:

  • What do we wish to achieve?
  • What key changes in basic organisational behaviour will achieve that?
  • How do we go about making those changes?

A simple root cause analysis can be carried out. This involves identifying an undesirable event, repetitively asking the question “why?”, and backtracking through the diagrams from effect to cause.

The diagrams can also be translated into Symbolic Logic. This enables formal deductions and inductions to be carried out. The method of translation can be downloaded here, and the methods for carrying out deductions and inductions are described in my book, “The Mathematics of Language and Thought”, which can be downloaded here.

Theoretically, system dynamics can also be applied to the diagrams. However, this would require numerical quantification of the variables. Unfortunately, the quantification of human beliefs and attitudes is fraught with difficulty. Thus, much research effort would first be needed before a systems dynamics approach to human organisation was practicable.