What is the overall idea?
When people gather together, a group naturally forms. In many
cases, it is desirable to have these natural groups persist in
time and have their existence be sustainable over the long term.
However, given the highly dynamic nature of interpersonal
communications and the variety of life events, developing the
right infrastructure for long term group success is far from easy.
This essay presents a model and pattern for one such infrastructure.
In any grouping of people, there needs to be some sort of
organizational principle, even if it is very informal or
implicit, that allows each person, each member, to more
effectively coordinate their own individual actions with
respect to the intents of the group as a whole. As groups
get larger, the need for an explicit internal structure
increases. For very large groups this need for formal
complexity becomes significant.
Yet, despite the many examples of large governments,
institutions, industries, etc, that currently exist,
the organizational principles necessary for them to be
sustainable are far from obvious. In may cases, it is
not even obvious that they are sustainable at all —
sometimes even large bodies fail without a single
identifiable cause. Attempting to found a new group
or institution on the basis of an existing one can
often result in transparently, unconsciously, and implicitly
inheriting the weaknesses of the existing system. Without
an awareness of the principles of group formation, there can
be little hope of real group longevity in the face of
significant enviromental or situational changes.
However, rather than attempting to deal with the complexity
of large scale groups directly, it is considered that
sustainable group systems can be identified by 1)
resolving a minimal abstract set of organizational concepts
(one which would span the total space of all organizational
systems) and 2) using those concepts to define the minimum
possible structure necessary to create a sustainable group.
Once the basic principles of long term group stability
have been identified in their simplest ‘ideal’ form, the
way is opened for the practical application of these ideals
to real groups.
In effect, it is considered that if any group can be made
sustainable, that the dynamics of that group can be treated
as a ‘cell’ and composed into larger groups which will also
be sustainable (using the same techniques as that internal
to the prototypical cell group itself). Therefore, the
issues associated with group scale can be factored out.
This allows the consideration of sustainability to be applied
to small groups (with minimum complexity) as if they are
representative of all groups. Of primary interest then is
what sort of minimal organizational dynamics would enable
any small group to be sustainable.
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