Symbiosis as a Metaphor for Sustainability Practice in Human Affairs


  • Allenna Leonard Complementary Set


This concept paper is an exploration of various symbiotic relationships and their potential relevance for the organization and conduct of human affairs. Many types of symbiosis exist: between plants, between plant and animal life and between different animals. They contribute to protection and defense, cleaning, reproduction, nutrition, transportation and illumination. Some symbiots are so tightly coupled that they are not able to exist, or exist in the same form, separately. Others can exist separately but they are less viable alone than together. Still others benefit from but do not depend upon the relationship. All seem to provide complementary features and strengths that either enhance the success and well being of both or impose a bearable burden on the non-advantaged partner. We are seeking, and none too soon, new ways to make a difference in the achievement of sustainable relationships in human society and organizations and between human activity and the natural environment. A broader and deeper appreciation of symbiosis in the general public and among researchers in different disciplines may make a contribution to both innovation and a more effective application of existing knowledge and tools.

Author Biography

Allenna Leonard, Complementary Set

Allenna Leonard consults and facilitates internationally, in organizational cybernetics, primarily but not exclusively the models and processes developed by Stafford Beer. She is past-president of the American Society for Cybernetics



How to Cite

Leonard, A. (2008). Symbiosis as a Metaphor for Sustainability Practice in Human Affairs. Proceedings of the 52nd Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2008, Madison, Wisconsin, 3(1). Retrieved from



Systems Applications in Business and Industry