Elearning! Magazine

DEC 2016 - JAN 2017

Elearning! Magazine: Building Smarter Companies via Learning & Workplace Technologies.

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14 December 2016 / January 2017 Elearning! FRACTALS AND ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURES One major feature of fractals is their "self-similarity," meaning different sizes of similar attributes within the larger whole, ad infinitum. In nature, you can have individual actors (like a school of fish, or a flock of geese) all working together for the common outcome. Both fish and geese display interdepen- dency, relying on each other. Systems in nature also have scalable structures at every level, and at each level, there is a different organizational pattern. Some examples of this type of system are living organ- isms, a nervous or immune system. a corporation, and economy or even a society. So if this is true for mountains, coastlines, tree bark and even wiggles, why not organizations? What this implies in organizations is the application of complex systems theory, with tight feedback loops, autonomous cooperating actors, and a simple and limited set of rules governing the system. is is the basis for the agile movement in programming today. It also seems to be one of the best ap- proaches to how large organizations can stay creative and innovative. Fractal organizations can do so by climbing "the fractal ladder," enabling the sustainability of innovation. According to Raye, a "fractal" is a way of thinking about the collective behavior of many basic but interacting units, and in a macro sense have the ability to evolve over time. A fractal organization is the embodiment of "the whole is greater than the sum of the parts." A fractal is a pattern, a form of sustainable ordered chaos, while an organization is "an ordered arrangement of things (people)." Fractals have self-organizing principles, and fractal organizations are seen as "an emergent human operating system that mimics nature in its capacity for creativity, adaptation, vitality and innovation." Switching from a hierarchical to a fractal organization supports more cooperative work, provides better information flows, more room for advancement, lower turnover, and eliminates the view that there is a scarcity of resources. People in these organizations are seen as "complex adaptive systems" and emergent behaviors arise out of organizations like this. Self-organization is the key to self-adapting systems evolve and adapt to new challenges. In living systems, we see cooperation and symbiotic interactions (like in an ecosystem). We also see that reflect- ed in many organizations today; for example, both Salesforce and Slack have created large ecosystems of developers that add value to the original product. Some fractal companies are like Pixar — core leaders in the center — and all firms are arranged as arms around the leader. en in the arms, each team has a leader, and info is funneled to the center of the organization to the leaders, needs for resources, and then allocated flow back out. Although we are just starting to see these fractal organizations as we move from the industrial age to the information age, we are starting to see the demise of hierarchy and the flattening of organizations. One type of these flatter organizations are fractal organizations, which are inherently collaborative. is bodes well for more modern organizations that are adopting the fractal nature. —Sources: "Fractal Organization eory" by Janna Raye, e Journal of Organization Transformation and Societal Change. http://www.fractal.org/fractal-systems.htm —David Coleman is the Managing Director of Collaborative Strategies Inc. (CSI), a San Francisco-based in- dustry analyst and advisory services firm. He is the author of "the collaboration blog" and author of four books on collaboration, the latest two being: "Collaboration 2.0" and "42 Rules for Successful Collaboration." Email david@ collaborativeshi.com. Business of Learning

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