The Tragedy of “The Tragedy of the Commons” – Scientific American Blog Network

Also worthy of interrogation…


Source: The Tragedy of “The Tragedy of the Commons” – Scientific American Blog Network

The Tragedy of the Tragedy of the Commons

The man who wrote one of environmentalism’s most-cited essays was a racist, eugenicist, nativist and Islamaphobe—plus his argument was wrong

The Tragedy of "The Tragedy of the Commons"
Garrett Hardin in 1972. Credit: Bill Johnson Getty Images

Fifty years ago, University of California professor Garrett Hardin penned an influential essay in the journal Science. Hardin saw all humans as selfish herders: we worry that our neighbors’ cattle will graze the best grass. So, we send more of our cows out to consume that grass first. We take it first, before someone else steals our share. This creates a vicious cycle of environmental degradation that Hardin described as the “tragedy of the commons.”

continues in source: The Tragedy of “The Tragedy of the Commons” – Scientific American Blog Network

Reworlding: The Art of Living Systems – Experiental Space Research Lab – Medium

A really interesting piece, the argument of which is that by developing cybernetics and building feedback systems, we came to understand ourselves, the world, and our place in the world differently. Worthy of interrogation…


Source: Reworlding: The Art of Living Systems – Experiental Space Research Lab – Medium


Reworlding: The Art of Living Systems

Gray Area Foundation
Gray Area Foundation
Nov 30 · 11 min read
Twenty years of global biosphere data visualization by NASA.

As our ecologic crisis deepens, art can provide the unique insights necessary to light our path forward. This Fall, the artists in Gray Area’s Experiential Space Research Lab have been exploring this potential of immersive art as a tool for understanding. Our call for participation, Reworlding: The Art of Living Systemsinvited artists with diverse backgrounds to develop novel experiences for thinking like a living planet. Since the first meeting in August, the artists have been developing an immersive exhibition to reveal intimate entanglements amongst Earth’s living forms — and how to make the planetary personal.

With the support of the Knight Foundation, Gray Area has been collaborating with Gaian Systems, a collaboration between the design studio Spherical and literature and science scholar Bruce Clarke, the 2018–2019 Blumberg/NASA Chair in Astrobiology at the Library of Congress. This post introduces the broader context of these explorations in Earth Systems Science for the Research Lab.

Planetary Science & The Rise Of Cybernetic Art

The most unexpected discovery of the Space Age is that Earth is alive. Far from being a cosmic backwater or a passive vessel for random organisms, it is the matrix and dynamic extension of all life as we know it. Over several billion years, living systems have transformed and regulated Earth’s planetary environment. From oxygenating the global atmosphere to lubricating the tectonic plates to myceliating the soils, living systems have bent the planet to their own needs. Now, under the influence of human technologies, this reshaping continues at a rapidly accelerated pace.

continues in source: Reworlding: The Art of Living Systems – Experiental Space Research Lab – Medium



Hierarchy, teams, self-organisation, levels of learning, circularity, domination, and accountability – six articles from Georges Romme (and reflections on Requisite Agility)

I’m participating in a thing organised by Amit Arora called Requisite Agility – a sort of project, a sort of movement, which began with Amit producing some software for someone doing Requisite Organisation work (after Elliott Jaques). With the title Requisite Organisation, some people persuaded of the deep value of the underlying insights of management cybernetics said ‘hang on, we know about this stuff’, and therefore the movement has become about how we can bring together a meta perspective on RO, Agile, and the viable systems model etc – along with a lot of other stuff people work with. As you can imagine, this is a bit like herding cats to the power of x, and there are a few fundamental challenges here:
  • are we seeking an underlying theoretical/insight-based approach from which the most powerful organisational interventions can be derived, or an effective collation of multiple methodologies from which to select? (personally, I’d say the former, with the latter in its service)
  • are we integrating ‘Requisite’ (i.e. Requisite Organisation) with ‘Agility’ (i.e. the Agile movement), or looking for approaches that can effectively target approaches that help organisations to have a level of operational and strategy agility requisite to their context? (I’d say the latter)
  • are we dealing with two or more incommensurable paradigms here, or apparently opposite ways to achieve the same requisite organisational conditions? (I say the latter)
  • can we overcome our egos, tribalism, and attachment to our approaches – and all the other challenges of bringing together people with a tendency to critical thinking, a need to sell their approaches for their livelihoods, potentially post-conventional thinking, potential to collaborate or compete for work, pressures on our time and capacity, unclear shared goals, different orientations and different emotional biases, etc? (So far, maybe…)
The results of this are as yet not certain, but some signs are promising, and I feel a strong need to be involved because it matches my preoccupations so closely – and the development of my own somewhat-integrated, multi-methodological approach (see
I’ve just returned from a two-day ‘bootcamp’ hashing out some of this with a really great group of people (in my experience, always one of the benefits of this kind of work). In particular, we were lucky enough to have with us, on one day only, Professor Georges Romme – Looking into his work, the nuanced understanding he has of organising in complexity, the play-off of ‘hierarchy’ and ‘self-organisation’, learning, and related issues, is really exciting. Hence this selection of some of the most powerful pieces I’ve seen so far.
The Role of Hierarchy in Self-Organizing Systems (April 1995)
This paper discusses the role of hierarchy in human systems. Two kinds of self-organizing processes are distinguished: conservative and dissipative self-organization. The former leads to rather stable and specialistic systems, whereas the latter leads to continuously changing generalistic systems. When conservative and dissipative self-organization are combined, autonomous self-organization emerges. Autonomous self-organization, characterized by intertemporal stability, appears to be fundamental to human organizations. In the context of autonomous self-organization, the traditional concept of hierarchy as a chain of command is replaced by hierarchy as a vertical sequence based on different degrees of abstraction. Moreover, a simple model shows that autonomous self-organization requires large human systems to use a variety of information processing systems, including administrative hierarchy. The model suggests hierarchy is one instrument for variety reduction among several others.

The Role of Hierarchy in Self-Organizing Systems

A Note on the Hierarchy-Team Debate (May 1996)
This note explores the debate between proponents of organizational learning who have criticized hierarchy as an obstacle to learning and those who have defended hierarchy as indispensable for large organizations. By considering hierarchy and team as ideal-typical information systems, it is argued that both teams and hierarchies are essential for organizational learning in large organizations. Teams appear to be the key learning units which are indispensable for producing and understanding novel information, and hierarchies are indispensable for processing and storing important learning results. The trade-off between teams and hierarchy can be solved by emphasizing the idea of circularity, involving the ability to switch between teams and hierarchies as complementary information systems in the context of organizational learning.

A Note on the Hierarchy-Team Debate

Organizational Learning, Circularity and Double-Linking (June 1997) 
In recent writings on organizational learning an interesting debate between proponents of team learning and those defending hierarchy as an essential condition for learning has developed. Here it is argued that teams appear to be the key learning units in organizations, but hierarchies are necessary to store and accumulate important learning results. Thus, in larger organizations teams must be integrated into some kind of hierarchy. Several authors have dealt with the problem of combining the benefits of both hierarchical and team-like structures. Attempts by Likert and Ackoff to combine the benefits of both hierarchical and team structures are based on the ideas of circularity and the (single) linking pin. A further elaboration of these solutions involves the idea of double-linking, as it is used in several Dutch organizations. Double-linking between teams provides the kind of vertical linkages which support and safeguard upward as well as downward information processing. As such, through the principle of double-linking organizations may become reflexive learning organizations.

Organizational Learning, Circularity and Double-Linking

Circular organizing and triple loop learning (June 1999)
The organizational learning literature distinguishes different levels of learning (zero learning and single, double and triple loop learning) in order to understand the complexity and dynamics of changes in policies, objectives, mental maps, and structures and strategies for learning. This article explores the case of an emerging new organizational design, the circular organization, in order to understand the role of triple loop learning. The circular model was developed on the basis of ideas about the relationship between organizational structure and behavior taken from theories of dynamic systems. Circular design precepts appear to provide a structural facilitation of single and double loop learning. In this respect, the circular design tends to act as a facilitating infrastructure for triple loop learning, that is, exploring the structural opportunities and key competences people need to participate in making well-informed choices about policies, objectives and other issues.

Circular organizing and triple loop learning

Domination, Self-Determination and Circular Organizing (September 1999)
The emergence of self-organizing forms of control, based on the idea of self-determination, have challenged traditional forms of control based on the concept of domination. As such, self-determination has been put forward as an alternative rather than as a complement to domination. This paper describes and explores the circular forms of organizing that have been emerging in several parts of the world, viewing them as a possible synthesis of two existing archetypical concepts of power-self-determination and domination. In particular, the emergence of circular organizing in the Dutch company Endenburg Elektrotechniek is documented and interpreted. This case illustrates how a circular structure can be superimposed on the administrative hierarchy, with the latter continuing to play a substantial role in controlling and managing work processes. In the absence of a single ultimate authority, organizational control is exercised through feedback rather than power. As a result of this study, circularity of power is shown to be an interesting theoretical and instrumental concept.

Domination, Self-Determination and Circular Organizing

Climbing up and down the hierarchy of accountability: Implications for organization design (November 2019)
The notion of organizational hierarchy is disputed, also in view of the rise of new organizational forms claimed to have ‘hierarchies without bosses’. To better understand the contested nature of hierarchy, this essay provides a systemic perspective on organizational hierarchy defined as a sequence, or ladder, of accountability levels. I then argue this ladder can be used in a top-down manner (e.g., as a chain of command), but also in bottom-up ways (e.g., by employees taking charge of higher-level responsibilities). Subsequently, several propositions that may guide future work in this area are formulated and the implications for organization design are fleshed out. Overall, the notion of hierarchy may become less contested by defining it as an accountability ladder which can be instantiated and used in highly different ways.

Climbing up and down the hierarchy of accountability: Implications for organization design

Next Gen Corp from Stern Stewart research

try to look beyond the eye-bleedingly annoying website design and the apparently-obligatory ‘everything is changing, digitalization and VUCA’ ‘imperative’ – in fact, I recommend you download the pdf and skip straight to chapter 2 – this ‘platform, project swam, and plexus’ model looks like a really interesting instantiation of the Viable Systems Model

Download PDF

Source: studie_68_nextgencorp_en / Sternstewart




Stern Stewart Research // Volume 68

We do not just want to keep up, we want to win. Win against the established competition and against start-ups and the Valley. We want to increase decision speed. Silo thinking and traditional hierarchies drive us crazy. Cost-efficiency remains on the agenda and we consistently apply new, digital technologies. We have to get employees convinced and offer them new development paths. The megatrend digitalization and our VUCA world demand a fundamental rethinking of the organization of a company.

But how to do it? We should begin to transform our entire company into a Next Generation Corporation (NextGenCorp). This is an organization consisting of a platform, project swarm and a radically new plexus. We believe both together are possible: flexibility and entrepreneurial freedom while at the same time realizing best practices and scaling economies.

We first separate the platform and the project swarm and then align both towards a common goal in the entrepreneurial plexus. We organize the platform by processes and digitalize it proactively. We eliminate bureaucracy and hierarchies through a swarm of projects. We give the entrepreneurs in the company the freedom to use the platform and mandate the swarm. We believe in a revolutionary and holistic target picture and a flexible roadmap for implementation.



Stern Stewart & Co. is the independent strategy boutique. With a truly entrepreneurial team of independent thinking personalities.
The center of gravity of an open universe of cutting edge know-how. Advising clients in strategy, transaction, performance and


Konstantin integrates a genuine interest in enhancing businesses with a goal-oriented and focused character. He plays these strengths not just when advising on group center structures, complexity reduction, process design or functional optimization. But also when driving the social business ACES in Ghana or competing in tennis and golf on an advanced level. Typically he is the one ensuring the proper methodology and bringing up the innovative ideas, which corresponds to his recent focus on improving digitalization and agility in organizations.

More about minds


Stefan is an independent thinker and senior advisor mostly in transformation/ turnaround situations. Combining deep financial know-how as a CFA charterholder with two decades of consulting experience he often has the one inspirational idea. Discussing key themes of the executive agenda, he shows his entrepreneurial mindset with great personal involvement. Stefan is a true entrepreneur outside the office as well, managing his own agricultural venture in France and supporting Wend Puiré, an apiculture non-profit organization in Burkina Faso.

More about minds


Gerhard focuses on strategy development, typically followed by organizational transformation. His creative and rigorously independent thinking has impacted strategic decisions in growing as well as contracting businesses. Often going against the grain, Gerhard has devised ambitious growth strategies outside of the client’s initial comfort zone. Conversely, he has helped prevent multi-billion investments which in hind-sight would have been crippling. In his capacity as the Executive Director of the Stern Stewart Institute, Gerhard shapes the Institute’s agenda of dialogue with leaders in business, politics, and science.

More about minds


Markus is friend and trusted advisor to leaders of blue chip companies and large family-owned businesses. He has established Stern Stewart & Co in its current form and still leads its daily operations. With a desire to connect people and argue about controversial ideas he has founded the Stern Stewart Institute. To create impact beyond the business world, Markus is personally engaged in several philanthropic initiatives in Africa, such as the Lycee Schorge in Burkina Faso.

More about minds


Cybernetic Creature Timeline from

A timeline showing significant Cybernetic animals and events, the dates being the creation or announcement of the cybernetic models.

[There’s significant confusion between ‘cybernetics’ the set of thinking and theories and insights, all around purposeful or goal-seeking activity in complexity, and robotics – and that is because they came from the same roots. This collection of robots or ‘cybernetic creatures’ covers the range from slightly gimmicky to deeply fascinating (and demonstrates swarming and ‘collective sensemaking’ behaviour long before swarms and boids), but they all use feedback loops to make sense of an unknown, unknowable, and irreducibly complex world in pursuit of a goal – and of course, in so doing, demonstrate the cybernetic roots of agent-based modelling. Of course, everything is so deeply intertwingled that this ought no longer to be surprising to me. I just bought and read RM Currie’s classic ‘work study’ from 1960, the historical section of which draws links (and divergences) between Robert Owen, Perronet, Babbage, FW Taylor, Adam Smith, , the Gilbreths, Bedaux, Cripps, TWI, and thereby between work study, the invention of computing, the human potential movement, capitalism, lean, and this stuff…]

Source: Cybernetic Creature Timeline –

Boyd’s OODA Loop (It’s Not What You Think) Chet Richards, 2012

Boyd’s OODA Loop (It’s Not What You Think)
Chet Richards

J. Addams & Partners, Inc.
March 21, 2012

Although the strategic ideas of John Boyd encompass much more than the well known OODA loop, the loop does provide a concise framework for improving competitive power throughout an organization. Much of this power will be lost, however, if people use the most common version. Fortunately, Boyd only drew one sketch of the OODA loop, which bears little resemblance to the popular misconception, and that one is
the key to his entire body of work.


[An earlier version of this paper was published in the Proceedings of the Lean Software & Systems Conference 2011, E. Willeke, ed., Sequim, WA: Blue Hole Press,
pp. 127-136.]



What is Cybernetics? 2 part Interview with Paul Pangaro – YouTube


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