Stephen Billing’s Blog

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Self-Organising – It’s not a “Bottom Up” Phenomenon

Stephen Billing, August 23, 2009

Self-organisation is in no way a bottom up process. All humans are involved in interaction, and the results that emerge are the results of self-organising processes, whether you are a top manager or lower in the hierarchical ranks.

It is not very accurate to call self-organising a "bottom up" approach or process. To me, a bottom up process is where there is activity amongst those lower in the hierarchy or closer to the front line who feed ideas or a new process up through the hierarchy. A bottom up process can happen because it’s been designed by the top managers e.g. a series of facilitated focus groups, or it can happen more informally e.g. where a problem is solved or a new process is established at one site and then the results are seen by those higher in the hierarchy and the new process is implemented at other sites. (more…)


What Does it Mean to be Self Organising?

Stephen Billing, August 21, 2009

The concept of self-organisation is a very misunderstood topic when it comes to applying it to organisations.

Bas Reus is exploring what it means to say that humans are self-organising, over at His post outlines the development of his thinking in attempting to define self-orgnisation.

Arising from the study of complexity, the important thing about self-organisation is that the ordering of society (or people in organisations) occurs through local interaction in the absence of an overall blueprint or plan. As any top manager will tell you, you can’t just make a plan, tell others and then confidently expect that the plan will be followed. Instead, all sorts of unexpected things happen – people interpret things differently, they react to things in surprising ways and there are unintended consequences. This is what is meant by saying there is no overall blueprint or plan. (more…)