d. Social Interactions Part 1

Social Interactions (Part 1)


Any organisation, when treated as a system, comprises inputs, internal processes, and outputs. Inputs are external interactions that comprise the passing of space/place, matter, energy, and information from some unspecified source to the organisation. It is a causal relationship, but the cause is not specified. Outputs comprise the passage of the same from the organisation to an unspecified recipient. It is a causal relationship in which the effect is not stated. Finally, the organisation’s processes comprise internal systems, some of which are child organisations such as departments, others of which are physical processes such as production machinery, and the relationships between them. The latter are also causal relationships.

Although this system concept is helpful in focusing on the internal behaviour of an organisation, it does have its drawbacks. Typically, for example, it can result in the effects of an organisation’s outputs being neglected, resulting, for example, in social or environmental harms. It can also result in the sources of its inputs not being fully appreciated, resulting, for example, in their loss. A more wholistic approach to the management of an organisation is suggested in the section entitled “Distance” in my next article.

The functioning of an organisation can therefore be regarded as a matter of complex causality. Several inputs, i.e., causes, may be necessary, but only together may they be sufficient for the organisation to function, and thus, persist. If there is only one source of a necessary input, then the organisation is dependent on that source, and the one producing it has power over the one receiving it. A topical example is Europe’s current dependence on Russian gas. However, if there are several sources, then this power is much diminished.

Likewise, an organisation’s outputs can form the inputs of just one organisation, or of several. Clearly, if there is just one, and if the inputs are unnecessary or if there are several suppliers, then the customer has power over the supplier.


Organisations, in a very general sense and including individuals, are the elementary entities in social systems. However, it is their interactions that are important for social systems theory. They are what forms society. These interactions are of three types:

  1. Intra-organisational Interactions or Processes, i.e., interactions between an organisation and a familial organisation. These interactions can be vertical, i.e., parent/child, or horizontal, i.e., sibling/sibling.
  2. Inter-organisational Interactions, i.e., interactions between separate organisations.
  3. Extra-organisational Interactions or Environmental Impacts, i.e.,interactions between organisations and the non-human environment.

They all pass space/place, matter, energy, or information from one place to another and are, therefore, causal relationships.

In a previous article it was explained that organisations can interact with others in their environment in one of three ways: co-operation, positive competition in which each competitor strives to excel, and negative competition in which each competitor strives to prevent the other from achieving their aims. Thus, interactions are two dimensional as follows:

Asymmetrical Interactions

The discussion above assumes that all interactions are symmetrical, i.e., that the attitude of both parties is either co-operative, positively competitive, or negatively competitive. However, asymmetrical interactions are also possible, in the short term at least.

Co-operation or positive competition can deteriorate and become negative via asymmetrical interaction. If one party to co-operation feels under threat, or if one party engaging in positive competition feels they will lose, they may begin to engage in negative competition. If this is overt, then, unless the other party has ethical objections, they will reciprocate. Negative competition can, of course, be carried out covertly, whilst maintaining a façade of co-operation or positive competition. If so, then the interaction becomes asymmetrical, i.e., one party engaging in negative competition and the other in genuine co-operation or positive competition. Usually, however, the interaction becomes symmetrically negative when the deceit is discovered.

Theoretically, the reverse is also possible, i.e., negative competition can become positive or cooperative, but this requires reciprocal de-escalation, whilst the interaction remains symmetrical. If one party de-escalates unilaterally, they will lose.

Organisational Inputs and Outputs

The basis for inter- and intra-organisational interactions is the reciprocal trading of satisfiers, or in some cases contra-satisfiers. Such satisfiers or contra-satisfiers comprise outputs from one organisation, in the form of space/place, matter, energy or information, and inputs to the other.

In a co-operative interaction, satisfiers are exchanged by mutual agreement to the benefit of both parties. In a positively competitive interaction, there is no trade between the two. However, space/place, matter, energy, or information can be passed, inadvertently, from one to the other. Finally, negatively competitive interactions involve the provision of contra-satisfiers by one to the other and vice versa, as in the case of war. This is to the detriment of both, although one party may ultimately prevail. Negatively competitive interactions can also involve the extraction of satisfiers without reciprocation or with the threat of contra-satisfiers, e.g., robbery at gunpoint.

Clearly, feedback loops are involved. For example, organisation A may provide a satisfier for organisation B, which in turn provides a satisfier for organisation A. However, in the modern world, organisational distance is a significant factor. For example, if organisation A provides a satisfier to organisation B, then the latter may be unable to reciprocate with physical satisfiers. A much larger and more complex arrangement of feedback loops, comprising many organisations, may be necessary for the equitable satisfaction of all parties. Clearly, such complexity can become unmanageable, and so, money has been introduced as a token of exchange in markets, thereby forming the basis of economics.

c. Basic Social Systems Theory

Basic Social Systems Theory


The term “Social Systems Theory” has been used to describe the sociologist, Niklas Luhmann’s theory, but the one presented here differs in important respects. In this article I will describe its core principles.

Firstly, we use different terminology in different fields of study, but as can be seen from the table below it is all the same thing really. So, please refer to this table if in any doubt about the meaning of a term.

The Social Systems Concept

The basic framework of social systems theory can be described as follows:

  1. A general system comprises inputs, processes, and outputs. Processes, in turn, comprise components and their interactions. These components are also systems.
  2. Humanity is a social system which follows the same structure and rules as a general system. Its components are organisations. The reader may recall that, in these articles, an organisation is defined as any group of people who work together for a common purpose. Thus, an organisation may be a single individual, a club, a nation, or all of humanity.
  3. The interactions between organisations are the trade of satisfiers and contra-satisfiers between them. The satisfiers and contra-satisfiers traded take the form of information, matter, and energy. In more familiar terms, they comprise raw materials, products or artifacts, services and, as a general token of exchange, money.
  4. The satisfiers exchanged are related to the needs of the organisations concerned which, in general terms, are existence, relatedness and growth.

So, organisations are the elementary entities in social systems theory. At the next level of complexity up, i.e., ecology, the elementary entity is the species. Humanity is one such species and its inputs and outputs are those things that it takes from and gives to the natural ecosystem.  At the next level of complexity down, i.e., biology, the elementary entity it is the organ. The domain of social systems theory lies between these two boundaries.

The most notable aspect of organisational behaviour is its similarity to that of individual people. This is not because organisations have a “group mind”, but rather because every organisation is ultimately led by a single individual, and its specialist activities are also carried out by individuals. There are, however, important variations in the behaviour of both individuals and organisations which depend on their time, place, and size. These common features and the ways in which they vary are summarised below.


The following core principles apply to all organisations no matter what their size, location, or era. They are therefore universal and constant. They will be explained in more detail in future articles and only a simplified summary is given below.

  • Agency. All organisations have agency. They have choices available to them, they process information and act on it.
  • Purpose. All organisations have a purpose or function.
  • Needs. All organisations have needs which when prioritised form a hierarchy.
  • Satisfiers, Contra-satisfiers, and Motivators. Every organisation is affected by these and, together with its knowledge and needs, they influence its behaviour.
  • Inputs, Processes and Outputs. All organisations require inputs to carry out their function, which is to produce outputs. These inputs and outputs comprise materials, services, and/or information. However, information must always form a part.
  • Self-maintenance. All organisations are self-maintaining, i.e., they use a proportion of their inputs in self-maintenance as opposed to producing outputs.
  • Recursiveness. All organisations are recursive. Every organisation, except an individual person, comprises a number of component organisations and is a component of larger organisations.
  • Specialisation. All organisations comprise specialised sub-organisations or individuals. This is commonly known as a division of labour.
  • Co-ordination. All organisations require a control component, i.e., leaders, to co-ordinate specialised activities. This is carried out via an internal feedback loop with information passing upwards and instructions downwards.
  • Culture. Every organisation has a culture comprising values, norms, beliefs, operational knowledge, and symbols.
  • Schemata. Every organisation holds knowledge in schemata which are resistant to change. These include a schema for worldview/purpose, an internal ethical schema, external ethical schema, operating schemata, self-image, etc.
  • Misinformation. All organisations are capable of concealing information from others or supplying misinformation to them.
  • Adaptation. In response to both internal and external change, all organisations adapt their processes, attempt to adapt their environment, or both. Without adaptation, an organisation will eventually fail.
  • Evolution. The laws of evolution apply to organisations of all sizes, i.e., random mutation occurs within them, and natural selection occurs through the way in which they and their environment interact.
  • Inter-organisational Distance. Ultimately, every organisation interacts with every other. In some cases, they interact directly. In others there is no direct interaction. Rather any interaction is via a chain of direct connections.
  • Competition/Co-operation. The choice between co-operation, positive competition and negative competition always applies when one organisation interacts with another.

Some relationships between organisations, and thus, social systems theories, change with size, time, and place. These changes are due to:

  • Availability of Resources. The availability of resources varies from time to time and from place to place. This affects culture, which also then varies in the same way. Culture in turn affects knowledge, the relative priorities of needs, satisfiers, motivators, and attitudes towards relationships, i.e., whether co-operation, positive competition, or negative competition is favoured.
  • Knowledge. This, including knowledge of social systems, is part of an organisation’s culture. Because knowledge is one component affecting behaviour, the latter also alters from place to place. Knowledge can also be gained or lost, and so varies with time. If new knowledge is gained this can alter culture, and thus, social theory. However, progress is not inevitable, shocks can occur, and knowledge can be lost, e.g., the collapse of the Roman Empire and the subsequent Dark Ages. Loss of knowledge can cause an organisation or society to revert to behaviours similar to those of earlier years.
  • Redundancy. The amount of redundancy, i.e., duplicated capability, in an organisation, and thus its resilience, varies depending on factors such as whether an organisation has been designed or has evolved. This includes redundancy of potential command.
  • Size. As organisations increase in size the following characteristics alter and affect their efficiency. The interaction of efficiencies and inefficiencies of scale usually results in an optimum organisational size.
    • Specialisation, Departmentalisation, and the Formalisation of roles generally increase. Departmentalisation is the collection of specialised tasks into groups under a leader. Formalisation is the specification of tasks and the introduction of rules and regulations regarding the way in which they are carried out.
    • Informal Innovation generally decreases.
    • Hierarchy, i.e., the number of levels of command, generally increases.
    • Distance of Intra-organisational Communication, including Leadership Distance and Peer Distance, i.e., the lengths of chains of communication, generally increase, and along with them, the likelihood of communication errors.
    • Decentralisation, i.e., the delegation of power and control, generally becomes increasingly necessary.
    • The relative amount of Self-maintenance or Administration generally increases.
    • Speed of Decision-making generally decreases.
    • Cultural Entrenchment, i.e., the unchangeability or otherwise of an organisation’s culture, generally increases.
    • Cultural Homogeneity, i.e., whether all members of an organisation share a common culture, generally decreases.
    • Frequency of Restructuring, i.e., reorganisation, generally decreases.
    • Social Traffic, i.e., irrelevant communication, generally increases.


The theory of social systems can be used to explain society, but not to predict it with certainty or to design an ideal system. This is because there are approximately seven and a half billion people in the world. So, the vast number of relationships between organisations, including individuals, leads to great complexity. Added to this is the vast number of relationships with the non-human environment. We do not have the mental capacity to understand such complexity. Even if we were able to model the human social system, then our understanding of it would change, and so too would its behaviour. Furthermore, predictability would diminish due to a build-up of un-anticipatable random events. The best we can do, therefore, is imagine relatively small, closed, sections of society, and make predictions about them, with reasonable confidence but no certainty, a short distance into the future.

j. Hierarchy Emergence - Introduction

Hierarchy Emergence – Introduction

A person’s social status in an organisation, from a club to a nation, is a measure of their attributes of leadership and power. Social status takes the form of a pyramidical hierarchy. Each level in the hierarchy is known as a stratum. Those in a higher stratum are normally fewer in number and have greater social status than those in a lower stratum. Such hierarchies are ubiquitous. Even organisations whose stated aims are socialist and progressive have hierarchies within them. The perception of relative status is important in determining how people interact with one another. Those of higher status will trade delegated status for the support of those of lower status, and vice versa. However, they will often compete with those of similar status.

An understanding of how status hierarchies arise can be gained by considering very small groups of individuals. In a group of just two people, the attributes of leadership and power in both are often similar. This leads to an equitable balance in social status. It is only where the attributes of one are greater than those of the other that differences emerge. For example, if person A clearly has more knowledge of how to tackle a situation than person B, then, in their mutual interest, B may defer to A. Similarly, if person B is more dominant through reasons of personality, physical strength, economic power, etc., then person A, in his own interest, may defer to B.

However, in a group of three, a hierarchy is almost inevitable. If person A clearly has greater attributes of leadership and power than B & C combined, then they will usually defer to him. However, if the attributes of A & C are roughly equal but greater than those of B, then there will be competition between A & C. Person B may acknowledge the higher status of both, but to avoid lowest status, may support whoever offers him greatest benefit in return, e.g., A. The attributes of an alliance of two are usually greater than those of one alone. The result is, therefore, that A gains highest status, followed by his supporter B, and C has lowest status. As a rule, the hierarchy ABC will offer greater benefit to every member than would be the case if each operated in isolation, and so, it may be accepted.

Another strategy for B is to remain neutral and encourage competition between A & C. B can then either wait for one of the others to negotiate with him, or alternatively, approach the person least confident of winning the competition.

Even at this very small scale, it is not necessarily the most competent leader who achieves highest status. Much depends on how highly the group members value competent leadership over personal interest. Unfortunately, it is also the case that power tends to trump leadership. A social hierarchy can, therefore, often be based on the former rather than the latter.

Although the interactions described above are between two or three individuals, they take place on a day-to-day basis between members of much larger organisations, the organisations themselves, and sub-organisations within them. Ultimately, a highest status individual, whose motives may or may not be the same as those of the organisation, either emerges from it or joins it.

However, hierarchies in very small groups can be dynamic, whilst those in larger groups are more entrenched. Small organisations tend to be informal and influenced by the character of particular individuals. Thus, when individuals or circumstances change, then so too does the nature of the hierarchy. However, as hierarchies become larger and more complex, they increasingly need a formal structure, with titles and reporting lines. These enable people to better understand their roles and co-operate. In formal hierarchies, roles and reporting lines are independent of individuals, who may change from time to time.

i. Belief System Emergence - Ideology

Belief System Emergence – Ideology

Ideology is a significant form of belief system. The term was first coined by the French philosopher Antoine Destutt de Tracy, in 1796, during the French Revolution. In response to the chaos it brought about, he originally used the term to describe a science of ideas. However, with time, it has come to mean the following, as described in the Encyclopedia Britannica:

  1. an explanatory theory, of a more or less comprehensive kind, about human experience and the external world;
  2. a program, in generalized and abstract terms, of social and political organization;
  3. entailing a struggle for the realization of this program;
  4. seeking not merely to persuade, but to recruit loyal adherents, demanding what is sometimes called commitment;
  5. addressing a wide public but tending to confer some special role of leadership on intellectuals.

    An ideology is a form of culture, and so, unites people into a group via its values, norms, beliefs, and symbols. Ideologies can be political, economic, business, social, or religious. The former four lay claim, correctly or incorrectly, to being rational and worldly, whilst the latter includes a significant element of superstition. An ideology can also be regarded as a collection of information, in the same way as a schema, paradigm or meme. Thus, it comprises, information which may be objectively true or false, information which satisfies the needs of an individual or group, and rationales which make it a consistent body of information.

    Individuals will follow an ideology for the following reasons:

    1. It may provide a pre-established explanation of the world in which we live and, thus, satisfy our need for understanding.
    2. It is much easier to adopt and understand a convincing ideology than it is to develop one’s own worldview.
    3. It may be expounded by a role model.
    4. Its acceptance may be necessary to satisfy the social need of belonging to a group.

    Unsurprisingly, people accept ideologies which appear to explain their condition and to be capable of providing satisfiers for their needs. Ideologies can also act as cognitive satisfiers by providing beliefs which are consistent with particular inherited predispositions and/or personality traits. Thus, people with a shared predisposition or personality trait, or people with a particular unsatisfied need, will often join an organisation that supports and promotes an ideology. This can result in a feedback process: the ideology attracts particular individuals who then modify, reinforce, support and promote it. Ideologies are not necessarily “bad” and in many cases they can be socially positive. However, this feedback process can lead to some extreme ideologies which diverge substantially from natural morality and ethics.

    Ideologies usually offer overly simplistic explanations. Furthermore, they can be dogmatic rather than realistic, unwilling to accept criticism, and resistant to change. They can be unwilling to accept views which challenge their dogma, and so, make attempts to undermine them.

    Everyone holds an ideology to some extent. Problems only arise when it is held strongly, and there is an unwillingness to change one’s view in the face of reality. The advantage of not holding an ideology strongly is that this frees the mind to alter one’s schemata so that they are consistent with the world that we actually observe. In this way, less effort is needed to psychologically manage any inconsistencies, resulting in greater mental wellbeing. More cognitive effort is, of course, needed to work out our own worldview, but this has the advantage of developing our cognitive skills and creativity.

    h. Belief System Emergence - Culture

    Belief System Emergence – Culture

    Worldviews were discussed in a previous article and tend to be a form of personal, rather than communal, belief system. I will now move on to discuss the latter, i.e., culture, therefore.

    Community, whether it be a family, clan, organisation, or nation, is based on the economics of needs. It allows individuals to specialise and to create satisfiers more efficiently by developing specific tools, knowledge, and skills. In turn, this benefits all members of the community through the process of trading. One individual or group of individuals will provide a satisfier to address the needs of another, and in return, reasonable reciprocation is expected. The community can also satisfy the social needs of an individual member, and in return, that member is expected to contribute to the group. Community relies on the reciprocal satisfaction of one another’s needs and this reciprocation relies on trading in the social sense and not necessarily the commercial sense.

    The majority but not all of us have an inherited predisposition to create and abide by the cultures which bind us together into co-operative groups. A culture comprises: norms or acceptable forms of behaviour; values or things held good by the community; beliefs or those things that the community holds true; and symbols, i.e., modes of dress, logos, rituals, and other physical things with a shared meaning which identify individuals as being members the community.

    Norms and values are developed to ensure that satisfiers and resources are equitably traded and do, of course, include morality and ethics. They can be described as good or bad. For example, it is usually held bad simply to take or steal from others. Thus, what we sometimes refer to as the ethics and morals of a community do not have a religious source, but rather a practical secular one.

    The norms, values, beliefs, and symbols of a community are initially of a pragmatic nature and are enforced through the process of socialisation. That is, members are rewarded for correct behaviour and receive disapproval for incorrect behaviour. However, with time, these norms may become formally established as laws.

    The detail of a culture is not genetically inherited. The diversity of cultures across the world and the manner in which they can rapidly change from generation to generation suggest that cultures, and hence our morals and ethics, are acquired, respond to circumstances and are passed on via social learning. As Richard Dawkins has pointed out, for a culture to be hereditary and change at the rate at which it does, it would be necessary for those who participate in it to breed far more rapidly and successfully than those who do not. This is clearly not the case. However, cultures do form memes, and there is a degree of competition for acceptance between them. This is more so in a global economy where contact between different cultures is greater than it has ever been.

    In response to globalisation of the economy, culture in the West is currently moving from a more national/tribal one to a more global one. Many see the global economy as group co-operation on a grand scale, and as bringing great benefits to humanity. We are learning that it requires a more tolerant and inclusive attitude to enable us to co-operate successfully at that scale. However, this change is not without resistance from ideological and other interest groups concerned that they may lose what they currently hold. Difficulties have also been caused by the transfer of consumerism to nations without the infrastructure to support it.

    Humanity also faces great risks at the global scale and the move from national/tribal to global morals and ethics needs to be encouraged so that we can better co-operate in tackling these risks.

    The political scientist, Ronald Inglehart, using the extensive research of the World Values Survey, identified two key independent dimensions in national culture. These are:

    1. Traditional vs. Secular-rational values. The World Values Survey describes these values as follows. “Traditional values emphasize the importance of religion, parent-child ties, deference to authority and traditional family values. People who embrace these values also reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride and a nationalistic outlook.”. On the other hand, “Secular-rational values have the opposite preferences to the traditional values. These societies place less emphasis on religion, traditional family values and authority. Divorce, abortion, euthanasia and suicide are seen as relatively acceptable. (Suicide is not necessarily more common.)”
    2. Survival vs. Self Expression Values. Again, these are described by the World Values Survey as follows. “Survival values place emphasis on economic and physical security. It is linked with a relatively ethnocentric outlook and low levels of trust and tolerance.”. On the other hand, “Self-expression values give high priority to environmental protection, growing tolerance of foreigners, gays and lesbians and gender equality, and rising demands for participation in decision-making in economic and political life.”

    It is argued that a national culture can be measured by assessing where it sits between the two extremes on the two dimensions. More details, including a fascinating map of where each nation currently sits on these two dimensions can be found at:

    g. Belief System Emergence - Introduction

    Belief System Emergence – Introduction

    Belief systems include cultures, ideologies, and individual worldviews. The latter was discussed in a previous article. The former apply to organisations of all scales, including small clubs and nations. There are differences between cultures and ideologies, however. The former is normally established and voluntarily accepted by its members. The latter, through its historical association with political movements, is now regarded as a more authoritarian belief system with expansionist tendencies.

    One of our growth needs in Maslow’s hierarchy is the need to make sense of the world. If we can do so, then it enables us to make successful decisions when faced with a threat or opportunity. On the other hand, if we are unable to make sense of the world then this increases our vulnerability. It seems likely, therefore, that this need has an evolutionary basis. To make sense of the world we create a schema which models the world as we understand it. This is our personal worldview.

    Unsurprisingly, an inability to make sense of the world causes distress, a search for explanations and a readiness to accept those which appear to fit the facts, even incorrectly. This need can, in itself, be a motivator, therefore.

    Every organisation develops a system of beliefs which, ostensibly at least, is shared by its individual members. These beliefs cover the purpose of the organisation, how it should function, how interactions should take place internally and externally, the nature and cause of its motivators, and how it should address them.

    Belief systems can emerge through a process of negotiation between individuals, and via a process of feedback between individual worldviews and emerging shared views. Individuals contribute their worldviews to the organisations common belief system, but as the latter emerges, a process of socialisation causes them to adopt it. They may, however, only adopt it in their organisational role. In other roles, they may retain their general worldview, or hold other belief systems more appropriate to those roles. This can, of course, lead to contradictions and distress.

    Often however, a belief system is formulated by an individual, particularly one with charisma or high status, and is based on his worldview. Due to the lack of debate and consultation such belief systems tend to provide a simplistic explanation, which can neglect the true complexity of a situation.

    Belief systems can also be affected by external factors, such as prevailing culture, law, fake news, media interests, social media, and influential individuals, e.g., politicians, celebrities, scientists, or role models. In some cases, the belief system can be in the interests of the general population, i.e., pro-social. In other cases, it can be in the interests of the organisation only, i.e., selfish. In the latter case, the belief system can, for example, either correctly or incorrectly, place blame on an out-group. Also coming into play can be a “Just World Hypothesis”, in which the fortunate and unfortunate are thought to have brought their situation upon themselves by their own actions.

    Finally, if opposition to the purpose of an organisation is encountered, its belief system can harden, become more selfish, and more extreme.

    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.

    e. Individual Response to Motivators

    Individual Response to Motivators

    This is the second stage in the emergence of an organisation. Positive motivators are perceived opportunities for the satisfaction of our needs. Negative motivators are perceived threats to the satisfaction of our needs, perceived threats of contra-satisfiers or the simple presence of the latter.

    Our individual response to a motivator is governed by the following factors:

    1. Our needs/contra-needs and their relative importance at the time, together with the emotions caused by them.
    2. Knowledge and beliefs influence what we regard as a motivator.
    3. Norms, values, beliefs, etc. internalised from our social environment via social learning.
    4. Individual human psyche, e.g., our ability to reason, psychological damage, attitude towards risk, opportunity, threats, etc.

    There are two main forms of response when we encounter a negative motivator: emotion focussed coping and problem focussed coping. Emotion focussed coping involves efforts to reduce the negative emotions associated with the motivator and generally occurs when we are faced with situations that are entirely beyond our control, e.g., grief at the death of a loved one. Problem focussed coping, on the other hand, uses our problem-solving skills to respond to the motivator.

    The same is true when we encounter a positive motivator. We either feel empowered to grasp the opportunity or not.

    However, even if we adopt a problem-solving approach, we may recognise that we do not have the resources to act alone. People are attracted to organisations they feel will satisfy their needs, irrespective of whether these needs are consistent with the purpose of the organisation, and irrespective of whether the needs are normal or anti-social. One option is therefore to join an existing organisation.

    Another is to participate in the creation of a new one. If so, then individuals will proceed to the next stage, and contact others in a similar situation or with similar ambitions. However, the more people there are in that situation or with that ambition, the more likely they are to make contact. Also, the more people who do make contact, and the more motivated they are, the more likely it is that an organisation will emerge. Thus, as the impact or the recognition of a motivator increases, there may be a threshold at which an organisation forms. Unfortunately, however, charismatic individuals, news fakers, and established interests can exaggerate, or even manufacture, a potential motivator, to that end.

    d. Motivators


    Motivators are the raison d’etre for all organisations, from the smallest club or society to the largest nation. They are what causes an organisation to come into existence and carry out its function. Motivators come in many forms, personal, inter-personal, organisational, social/economic, and environmental. Examples are given at the end of this article.

    The type of motivator determines the type of organisation that emerges. For example, if there is a perceived opportunity to provide a satisfier for a national population, then a commercial organisation or government taskforce may emerge. If there is a perceived opportunity to remove a contra-satisfier from other organisations, a commercial organisation may result. If there is a perceived opportunity to remove a contra-satisfier from a group of individuals, then a charity or activist organisation may form. For example, a group of individuals who have suffered a personal contra-need, such as the loss of a loved one, discrimination, etc., may form a charity supporting those in a similar situation.

    If more people are becoming aware of a motivator and giving it a higher priority, then it is likely that positive feedback exists in some form. If awareness is declining and individuals are giving it a lower priority, then it is likely that negative feedback exists. Finally, if it is stable, then either there are no feedback loops influencing it, or a combination of positive and negative feedback exists.

    Some examples of motivators now follow.

    Personal and Inter-personal Motivators arise from our relationships with other individuals and comprise anything that impacts, either positively or negatively, on our needs for:

    1. Survival and procreation, e.g., attracting a partner.
    2. Kin-relatedness, e.g., loss of a loved one.
    3. Non-kin relatedness, e.g., bullying.
    4. Growth, e.g., finding or failing to find a purpose.

    Organisational Motivators arise from an organisation’s relationships with other organisations and individuals. They are anything that aids or impedes its:

    1. Inputs, i.e., the resources, goods, and services it needs to carry out its function. Typically, this may be shortages, rising costs, etc.
    2. Processes, i.e., the way in which the organisation is structured and operates. For example, staff shortages, poor structuring, etc.
    3. Outputs, i.e., the resources, products, and services that it delivers to others.

    Social & Economic Motivators arise from general social trends and include:

    1. Population density, especially in the vicinity of urban centres, including crowding and noise.
    2. Decline of the emotional support provided by religion.
    3. Growth in the social pressures caused by advertising and the consumer economy.
    4. Decreasing leisure time.
    5. Automation, technological and scientific developments.
    6. Coping with the pace of change.
    7. Unemployment and job insecurity.
    8. Heavy workload.
    9. Lack of control over one’s job.
    10. Unsafe working conditions.
    11. Inflation.
    12. Pay/reward differentials.
    13. Insecure or unaffordable housing.
    14. Debt.
    15. Recession and depression.
    16. Labour unrest, protest, and strikes.
    17. Crime.
    18. Corruption.
    19. Population demographics.
    20. Immigration and refugees.
    21. Prejudice and discrimination.
    22. Political unrest and protest.
    23. Access to and standards of education.
    24. Access to and standards of healthcare.
    25. Availability and security of food and other essentials.
    26. Risks and disruptions due to aging infrastructure.
    27. International competition for resources.
    28. Economic sanctions.
    29. War, civil war, and revolution.

    Environmental Motivators arise from the natural environment but may ultimately have a social cause. They include:

    1. Population Growth.
    2. Climate change.
    3. Temperature.
    4. Pollution.
    5. Ecosystem decline.
    6. Depletion of earth’s non-renewable resources.
    7. Sea level rise.
    8. Pandemics.
    9. Floods.
    10. Storms.
    11. Droughts.
    12. Earthquakes and volcanic action.
    13. Famine.
    c. How Organisations and Hierarchies Emerge

    How Organisations and Hierarchies Emerge

    “…the world doesn’t change one person at a time. It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.”

    Margaret Wheatley & Deborah Frieze, “Using Emergence to Take Social
    Innovation to Scale”, The Berkana Institute.

    The Nature of Organisations

    In this discussion, “organisation” is a generic term. It means any formal or informal group of individuals who interact, co-operate, have a common culture, a common purpose, and carry out communal activities at any scale.

    This common purpose may be:

    1. To yield benefits for the organisation itself.
    2. To yield benefits for other external individuals or organisations.
    3. A combination of the two. Because an organisation must maintain itself, it is never entirely altruistic. However, because it requires inputs to function, it is normally co-operative. This involves a process of negotiation and agreement.
    4. To yield disbenefits for other individuals or organisations. If this is the purpose of an organisation, then it is normally part of a larger one which benefits from this behaviour.

    Because an organisation must maintain itself and its function, its purpose cannot be disbenefits for itself. However, this does not prevent an organisation from harming itself in error. Nor does it prevent a sub-organisation from harming it.

    Benefits are, of course, the satisfaction of needs and the avoidance of contra-needs. In the case of individuals, these needs are for existence and procreation, kin relatedness, non-kin relatedness and growth. Their contra-needs are any failures of these. In the case of organisations, their needs are to maintain and operate their processes, and to produce the outputs, for which they were established. Their contra-needs are any failures of these processes and outputs.

    Organisations fulfil their purpose by satisfying their own needs, avoiding their own contra-needs, and as outputs, providing satisfiers and contra-satisfiers for others. Resources may also be necessary to fulfil an organisation’s purpose. If so, a process is needed to turn the necessary resources into sufficient satisfiers, or ways of avoiding contra-satisfiers. This process can be carried out either by the organisation itself, or by another individual or organisation. Thus, an organisation will either:

    1. acquire, from another individual or other organisation, ready-made satisfiers, or ways of avoiding contra-satisfiers, or
    2. acquire the necessary resources from another individual, organisation, or elsewhere in its environment, and process them.

    How Organisations Emerge

    There are several steps in the emergence of an organisation. These are described in the diagram and text below.

    Motivator. Motivators are defined as perceived opportunities to benefit oneself and/or others, and perceived risks of dis-benefits to oneself and/or others. Organisations arise from the decision-making processes of one or more individuals. Each will have recognised the same motivator, prioritised it, and concluded that action is required. Each will also have assessed the options for action, and will have concluded that they lack the resources to carry it out alone.

    Individual Response. Each individual may then decide that the motivator is something beyond their control. Alternatively, they may decide to adopt a problem-solving approach, and either join an existing organisation, or form a new one to deal with it collectively.

    Communication and Assembly. If the affected individuals adopt a problem-solving approach, they will contact and communicate with one another. If they assemble, either formally or informally, then this creates an organisation.

    There are interactions between the following stages, and they normally progress in parallel.

    Belief System. The members of the organisation debate the motivator, either formally or informally. Ultimately, they either create or adopt a belief system which, correctly or incorrectly, explains the motivator and how they hope to address it.

    Hierarchy. Owing to the principal of requisite hierarchy, a social hierarchy emerges within the organisation. Each level in the hierarchy is known as a stratum. Those in a higher stratum have greater social status and control over the activities of the organisation than those in lower strata.

    Organisation. The organisation structures itself and the processes necessary for it to carry out its intended function. This structure comprises sub-organisations with specific delegated responsibilities, a command sub-organisation, and a system of communication between them.

    Function. At some stage, the states of organisation, hierarchy and belief are sufficient for an organisation to begin carrying out its intended function.

    Any of the final four stages, i.e., belief system, hierarchy, and organisation formation, as well as actual function, can result in motivators for others. For example, individuals and organisations will generally attempt to obtain a satisfier with the least expenditure of their own resources. This may pose a threat to others. Thus, other organisations which pre-exist or become established, may act in competition or opposition.

    I will discuss the various steps in this process in more detail, one by one in the articles which follow. I will then move on to discuss how organisations sustain themselves and how, ultimately, they collapse.