Fractal Organization Theory
Keywords:fractal organizations, hierarchy theory, social systems design, living systems, natural hierarchy, information dynamics
Paper number: 001 (Assigned by Journal editor)
Fractal Organization Theory
8 Halsey Ave., Petaluma, CA 94952, JRaye@StrateGems.com
Fractal Organization Theory proposes that human institutions with natural hierarchy systems focus upon shared purpose and values for accomplishing their endeavors, allow universal participation in ideas and solutions, and devote leadership to inspiring, guiding, and mentoring members. In fractal organizations, relationship development is key to utilizing information effectively and competing externally as a group for resources in the marketplace.
For centuries humans have used top-down hierarchy systems in social institutions. These hierarchies are shaped like triangles or pyramids, which are non-scalable limiting shapes according to Benoit Mandlebrot, the father of fractal geometry. The mathematics of fractal geometry illustrates repeating patterns in flora, fauna, geography, and galaxies. The constants in the equations of Nature's living systems are both scalable and self-similar, which ensures pattern integrity during adaptations to changing conditions.
Top-down hierarchies are typically characterized by command-and-control systems of authority that create harmful stress and internal competition for advancement within the organization. The pervading perception is of limited room at the top, where positions of authority become scarce resources for which members compete. When competition energy is focused internally rather than externally, members withhold or hoard information and limit an organization's ability to be creative, adaptive, healthy, and evolutionary. In Nature, species cooperate internally in order to compete externally for resources, ensuring the survival of the group.
Fractal patterns illustrate the expansion and flow of information within hierarchies of matter/energy, including human bodies. Social institutions are also living systems; in order to be healthy and regenerative, they require a constant to maintain their integrity. Alignment with shared purpose and core values is the constant in a fractal organization: as members align with this constant while expressing their individuality, their creativity curves toward best outcomes for the collective purpose.
Start-up organizations and established institutions with collaborative intentions, such as the ISSS, often operate as fractal organizations. Members willingly share information in an open atmosphere with values such as honesty and respect for individual perspectives. Some members are more inclined to be leaders of people, while others prefer to manage things and processes (including customer and vendor relationships). An expansive attitude prevails and each member is encouraged to grow to his or her potential. Leadership is focused upon developing this potential by inspiring shared purpose and values, guiding members toward the collective goals, and mentoring members for advancement.
In fractal organizations information flows from the edges, where front-line and functional members interact with the environment of customers, partners, vendors, and competitors, to the center of the organization where core leaders focus upon strategy and resource allocation. In a continuous feedback loop, information flows toward the center of the organization where core leaders formulate and refine perspectives about their organization's interaction with the environment and align constrained resources with the organization's shared purpose and values.
Leaders throughout are intermediaries for information exchanges between the edges and the center and are enabled by technology systems. Leaders at all levels are focused upon relationships-on the teams they lead, with fellow leaders, and between functional teams and the external environment. The importance of unrestricted information flows requires devoting time and mental resources to enabling these flows between the edges and the center.
The quality of communication is essential; negative harmonics and noise such as fear, misalignment of intentions, and diction errors can lead to speed loss and entropy, resulting in poor decision making and uncalculated risk taking. Every situation has all the information necessary for making good decisions and taking measured risks; members of fractal organizations spend more time in conversations so that all the information available in their varied perspectives is collectively shared and considered.