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Transnational Network of Research and Service Communities

Proposal for an organizational hybrid (Part #1)

Paper presented to the Rome Special Futures Conference, September 1973. Also in: Proceedings Rome, Irades, 1974. Also reprinted in: Facilitative Environments for Personal Development. Originally published in: Facilitative Environments for Personal Development (Papers arising out of a postal symposium). Brussels, Mankind 2000, 1975, pp. 111-138. Partially reprinted as: Organizational hybrid: transnational network of research and service communities. Transnational Associations, 29, 1977, 7-8, pp 306-311. (see also Table Part 1 and Part 2)
Approaches to change
Survey of some existing organization forms
Proposed hybrid organizatîon
Characteristics of the organization network
Rise of the Network Role
Some network roles
Economic viability
Organizational questions
Relations with external authority
Style, image and survival
Annex: The Network Dream

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Approaches to change

People tend to move or drift through the social system into those groups and organizations which are engaged in the change processes most congenial to them. As individuals develop they may reach stages when a given change process and its organizational support seems unfruitful or unsuited to their desire for self-expression. The individual needs fresh fields to conquer, a new life-style or a new mode of work. The development of the individual implies life-style mobility and organizational and social change. Social change and development requires development of the individual to adapt to new challenges.

The difficulty is that society currently sanctions movement within organizational and career systems but not between them. The individual is therefore forced into one particular mode of self-expression for his whole working life unless he wishes to run the risk of being labelled a grass-hopper or dilettante, or of being viewed as an ignorant outsider (a 'foreigner') in the systems into which he attempts to move.

Within one system an individual can of course develop other modes of self-expression, but only as secondary modes within the constant and overriding primary mode. For example, as an executive in the business system, an individual can move from a high technology corporation to a commercial art corporation; the switch from science to art is contained within the unchanging management framework).

The problem is therefore whether it is possible to provide an organizational setting in which an individual can develop secondary modes of expression and allow any of them to become primary for any desired length of time.

The problem is complicated by the very radical nature of the differences between approaches to change as well as between the corresponding modes of expression of the indiviclual engaged in them. There does not appear to be any systematic listing of change strategies, but the following list is an indication of the variety.

  • political action
  • scientific and technological development - economic and financial development
  • education, training
  • art, music
  • architectural and machine design, urban planning religious faith, prayer
  • social engineering, social development philosophical or esoteric understanding behavioural and perceptual modifications by drugs public information, media, propaganda
  • community development
  • drama, theatre
  • organizational development legislative action
  • military or police action direct action, violent civilian protest persona[ encounter, dialogue, sex
  • self-exploration, meditation
  • mediation, negotiation - manual labour

Ironically, the proponents of a particular form of change tend to perceive it as the only viable or significant form (e.g. to a political activist everything of any significance is political). They are unable to detect the manner in which their action is reinforced, counter-balanced, checked, contained or even undermined by the other forms of change.

The solution to the problem noted above is the generation of some new style of organization which provides continuity to the individual in switching from one mode to another. Clearly such an organization cannot be based on the perceptions of a particular discipline or a particular mode of thought - for these are the expression of only one aspect of man's personality. The organization needs to be more 'primitive' than the many specialized bodies which are characteristic of the fragmented nature of developed societies. It must pre-date the division of labour which sanctions and gives rise to such bodies. Only 'organic' organizations, namely communities, in effect contain within themselves the seeds of the many specialized bodies and thus provide a bridge for movement between specialized modes of action. Thus an organizational form is required which can re-absorb many specialized functions. It is not a question of organizational regression but of recovering the necessary generality which can permit new advances to be made.

Before looking at the suggested characteristics of such an organizational form, it is useful to note the wide variety of existing forms. In proposing that the new form be based on a more primitive one, there is no suggestion that some of the more advanced features of existing forms should not be incorporated. Some of these features are in fact a formalization of features and processes present in communities.

f these features are in fact a formalization of features and processes present in communities.

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