Professor Raul Espejo – ‘Enabling local people and groups to support global organisational development’
Wednesday 2nd October 2020, 2pm – 3pm
Richmond Lecture Theatre 2, University of Portsmouth, PO1 3HE
(organised by the Systems and Information Systems Research Group, School of Computing)
Our organisations emerge from networks of autonomous people engaged in interaction processes (Espejo & Foss, 2018). People, in collectives, use their skills, resources and capabilities to create and produce whatever outcomes they may wish to achieve. Collaboration in these interactions, to a significant degree, depend on processes of self-organization. In general there is no one with authority to tell people what to do and how to interact; they just interact. Often these interactions are inadequate and it is only through learning processes, which depend on cues and signals, that they proceed towards desirable outcomes. To a degree this is the dynamics of organisational development to respond to environmental, social, and economic pressures. Self-organising processes are at the core of their interactions. In today’s world technologies, digital and others, are transforming these interaction processes. New forms of communication and relationships are emerging between people and their environments; these are processes towards the constitution of effective organisational systems (Beer, 1979, 1985), (Espejo & Reyes, 2011). However, these systems are more than the outcome of bottom-up self-organisation; they are also, the outcome of guided self-organisation, which, through policies clarify purposes and help to speed up learning processes by enabling relating fragmented resources. Organisational development and problem solving require of both; bottom-up and top-down interactions. The challenge is working out which interaction strategies are necessary to increase response capacity to make sense of an often overwhelmingly complex surrounding. These are aspects related to Ross Ashby´s law of requisite variety (Ashby, 1964). We learn to manage these interactions often at a high cost to people and organisation; hierarchical structures tend to concentrate responses to environmental challenges at the top of the organisation. On the other hand heterarchical organisations try to distribute response capacity and self-organisation throughout the collective, but often their local response capacity is limited by resources. However, current information and communications technologies are increasing the chances of making this distribution effective.
Professor Espejo is one of, if not the, most knowledgeable academic/practitioner of the Viable Systems Model [VSM] and its subsequent developments. He played a prominent role in project Cybersyn at the behest of Allende, then President of Chile, who invited Professor Stafford Beer to reconfigure the Chilean economy using VSM. Beer was the Scientific Director and Raul Espejo was the operational Director of the project. This is probably the most important example of VSM in action.
The UKSS Management Team