The first part of this page is meant to give a new perspective to organizations. A perspective where they become, or are already, a part of nature. Through multiple steps, I take you through different ways of viewing organizations. I believe the ultimate step of viewing organization as superorganisms with a larger ecosystem is more beneficial for humans, and nature. This way of viewing also gives inspiration to understand and improve their role within society.

In the second part, I have created two types of organization models that I hope to see in the near future. They are created by seeing organizations as organismic open ecosystems, that function on multiple scales. Systems thinking is also used to create these models that are build upon being beneficial for the humans who work in them, and to the environment they are having an effect on through their work.

I hope you like reading this page!

Organizations as purposeful tool

Organizations start with people, they are a collective of people that are trying to reach something for the collective of them all. Organizations should therefore be functioning as a purposeful tool for each employee. By contributing their individual skill, each person contributes to this collective. In turn, each person gets a reward. This could be money, recognition, or a sense of contribution to this higher goal. Between people, there is a difference in the rewards they receive. Some people are dissociated with the organizational purpose and just want to receive money for their effort, I think that is something we should prevent. First because this isn’t a good motivation for the individual, nor does it seem that the organizational purpose is beneficial for the collective if this is the case.

Organizations are trying to achieve their purpose by making a product or service. This implies that they try to solve an imbalance, they have a solution, they act as a tool to achieve something. I want to stress the fact that sustaining the organization should not be the goal by itself, organizations should have a function that supports reaching their purpose. Otherwise the organization should cease to exist. This also implies that organizations can and should change based on the context (changing conditions). Strategy should adapt in order to serve the purpose of the organization. Nevertheless, having a purpose does not mean you’re contributing to the world and to yourself. This will be further discussed in the next paragraphs.

Organizations as ecosystems

In the most broadest definition, I view organizations as structures that are a collective of individual parts that create something bigger than the individual parts can do. The individual parts, such as humans and machines create a product or service together. When these parts are well attuned to each other, we have a productive organization that has smooth work process. Organizations should thus be able to sustain themselves in order to achieve the collective goal. Strategic workers, manual workers, support workers, facilities, and everything/one else involves are all fundamental for realizing the high-scale purpose of the organization. Therefore, on a smaller scale, the individual parts also need to serve their individual purpose in the whole of the organization. The way to achieve this is embedded in the strategy of the organization. This strategy results in a product of service, that in the eyes of the organization, serves their collective purpose most effectively.

Together, we create a network of actors that influence each other and support each other, creating a relative stable flow of energy, and monetary flow, creating a seemingly sustainable ecosystem. However, it is really sustainable if the flow of supplies is also regrown, and if it doesn’t deplete the energy of the employees. If the organizations just consumes supplies and employees, it could not be considered an ecosystem.

Moreover, most organizations, if not all, are also fundamentally connected to their environment. They have customers, a market, a natural climate and a government through which they need to navigate. These are often considered as being external to the organization. If this is the case, the organization is not a closed ecosystem, but could be regarded as an open system.

Organizations in their environment

Organizations often make a product or a service for their client base. If organizations (implicitly) regard themselves as an open system, they exchange something with the environment through their product or service. In the most minimally contribute way, organization regard their clients as externalities, separate from the organization. In this view, clients (and sometimes employees too) just pass through the system and have a transactional relationship. Furthermore, other externalities (such as by-products or unintended consequences) might be disregarded from this perspective and labeled as waste, or outside their responsibility. This way of doing business can be hurtful because it is self-centered while (ab)using the environment for their own benefit, selectively giving attention to certain parts in their relationship with their clients and earth, while ignoring the rest (across time and space). In the next paragraph, we’ll discuss how these externalities become more internalities, if the aim is to create an organizational ecosystem.

Symbiotic organizations

The next step in ecosystem organizations are symbiotic organizations. In this way of doing business, the organization intrinsically supports the clients objectives, while the client supports the organizational objective. Here, the organization and the client adapt to each other and exchange energy and create value from both perspectives. Services and product can be changed and adapted if they do not meet each others’ purpose. Now, the organization is valuable for the customer, as is the customer for the organization. In a sense, this fuses customer (groups) and business together, creating a small ecosystem of attuned individual parts on a higher level.

Nevertheless, on this higher level, this can still cause waste, but since organizations are now more fused, the organizations might start to feel responsible for each others externalities/waste. Now they realize that other organizations do also belong and contribute to the relation. Together, this creates a whole network of organizations, contributing to each other in a symbiotic way that benefits both.

Organizations as metabolic systems

This realization of looking at the bigger picture results in the next phase for organizations. This happens when organizations zoom out and look at their relationships at the whole. Instead of just creating a symbiotic relationship with one party (such as the customer), they see the larger chain, or rather a network, of organizations and customers connected together, all working on their own purposes. They are more than just “within” systems (as a gathering of employees creating a system), they are also “between” systems (as a gathering of organizations creating a meta-system).

In this view, customers, suppliers, partners, and providers are all part of a network of organizations that create some sort of metabolic system. Where each organization is an organ that has a function on working with the energy that is matched with their personal context. It now also makes sense to attune more links in the network to each other, and look at the system as a whole.

Organizations as super organisms

If we take a step back and look at an individual organization, we see it’s not really an ecosystem, but rather an organism that is part of an ecosystem. Each organism is depended on the market and other organizations around them, and are frequently interacting we each other.

Moreover, natural ecosystems are a collection of animals, soil and earth that are in relative balance with each other, but they don’t work together to reach a higher purpose. Organizations on the other hand, do work on a higher purpose. Similar like an organism, such as a humans, they both have a higher purpose. Both humans and organizations have an identity, mission, vision, and strategy. Most capitalistic organizations also consume energy, and drop their waste. The name of the organization truly personifies the organizational system, and we can argue that the super organism is born.

Organisation as super organism

Organizations as generative organisms

Super organisms can contribute to destructive behaviour, consuming much energy while leaving much waste, but super organisms can also generate and work on efficient energy use and recycling it back into the environment. At this stage, we are kind of looping again in the process of going to a higher level, and seemingly get back to the first one.

At this level of superorganisms with a larger ecosystem, the generative organism realizes it is connected to a larger ecosystem, and plays an active part in sustaining the ecosystem. It consumes energy consciously as it knows the cost of production, while it takes care of its own waste stream. It is now also aware of the other superorganisms (organisations) in the ecosystem and will try to attune its function towards it, while changing the other organisms, with a goal to create symbiotic relationships, mutual support, and efficient energy use and re-use. 

Self-designed closed ecosystem organization

Using these perspectives, I have created to types of organizational models that can be found below.

The meaningful work organization

Organizations could also be rather closed ecosystems. In a closed system organization, the organization only contributes to the involved parts (humans/employees) of the organizations. If successful, this creates a self-sustaining economy.

I created a organizational model that works through these principles that is meant to be beneficial for all its employees and works through effective democratic and life improving principles. The principles used are created to make a meaningful collective which causes sustainable outcomes by itself. If productive, this organization also creates net-positive effects on the environment.

Watch the video on the right to learn more

The open system organization

I created another type of organization that has rather an open way of organizing. I created it to function as an organism that loops upon itself.

Furthermore, it also has the mission to improve the world inherently. So will therefore contribute to the local and global ecosystems.

In the poster on the right you can read the outline of this idea of the fluid organization.

The fluid organization, a future business model to sustain the self, the organization and the environment

Send me a message if you’re interested in working on realizing these organizations! You’re free to do so, but I might like to be involved 🙂