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Transcending Duality through Tensional Integrity: A lesson in organisation from


Transcending Duality through Tensional Integrity
Lesson from Building Design
Systems and Polyhedra
Symmetry and Sphericity
Significance of Tension and Compression
Preliminary conclusion
References and notes

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Working paper prepared for the sub-project on networks of the Goals. Processes and Indicators of Development Project of the Human and Social Development Programme of the United Nations University (Tokyo), coordinated from the Institut universitaire d'etudes du developpement (Geneva). Originally published in Transnational Associations, 1978, 5, pp. 248-257 [PDF version]. See also Part 2 and subsequent papers.

Subsequent developments: In 1994, cybernetician Stafford Beer developed some specific aspects of this approach in Beyond Dispute:  the invention of team syntegrity. (Wiley).  The term "syntegrity" has been  trademarked by Team Syntegrity Inc as a basis for "syntegration". This has been developed as a proprietary "collaborative group technology designed to help people come together to explore issues of importance to them". One such application is the World Syntegrity Project, sponsored as a world-wide process since 1993 by the World Citizen Foundation who initially commissioned Stafford Beer. The process is also used by the World Game Institute (see  Syntegration as a tool for World Gamers). It has been proposed to apply these techniques to facilitate electronic conferences. Further development, however, as envisaged in the following paper, is significantly inhibited by the proprietary approach that has been taken. A festschrift-process for Stafford Beer, initiated in 1994 (for distribution on CD-ROM in 1997) was prepared using syntegrity principles, via electronic communication, and is described by Markus Schwaninger in The Team Syntegrity Model: An Architecture for Organizations of the Future at


It is characteristic of society today that any area of thought, belief or action is viewed in a dualistic manner, either positively or negatively. Much of the dynamic of society is determined by interaction, competition or conflict between those holding such polarised perspectives on any issue. The structures currently available reflect this situation by either:

  1. focusing attention on one pole of the duality, ignoring the other, or treating it with varying degrees of hostility, or
  2. integrating the duality into the structure and permitting a change over time in response to a majority (such as at elections) between acting in terms of one pole or of the other, or
  3. integrating the duality into the structure such that one division favours the approach indicated by one pole of the duality and another favours that of the second pole. Since the dualistic approach is extremely divisive, the question is whether more adequate approaches are not available as a basis for new kinds of structures that could by-pass the conflict situation built into the dualistic approach without denying its reality.
The purpose of Part 1 of this article is to draw attention to the manner in which this problem has been examined in architecture and how dualities are balanced and transcended within what are known as "tensegrity" structures (1). Such an approach suggests a number of interesting possibilities by which to handle:
  1. sets of dualities, such as opposing values or viewpoints,
  2. groups pursuing opposing objectives,
  3. relationships between structures based on the "organic, wholistic" view that "all men are brothers" and the "bureaucratic" view which emphasizes the importance of "rational, effective" structures, and
  4. relationships between an organizational system and any corresponding (or complementary) network.
The question is whether this approach offers us clues to a new kind of "psycho-social architecture". This is explored in Part 2 of the article.

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