Work and Free Energy -- The Dance of LEP on LEC: LO25638

From: Leo Minnigh (
Date: 11/14/00

Replying to LO25593 --

Dear LO'ers, dear Gavin,

You asked:

> Could you please share with me specific extensive and intensive factors in
> an organisational (business organisation) setting and give me examples of
> these factors. Something that is measurable in both the extensive and
> intensive factors.

A very good question, Gavin. It forces me to make my thoughts concrete and
possibly less abstract/theoretical.

Due to other work and circumstances, I was not able to answer you earlier.
And I have seen how and what At and you have already said on this topic.
That's why I had to skip a large part of the beginning of my own

What I first had in mind was to refer you to the archives of this list. In
january 1999 there was some discussion on - what was then called - the
TOOLO number. TOOLO was the abriviation of Transformation of Ordinary
Organisation into a Learning Organisation. I have looked what I have said
in that thread in LO20388. Maybe you could follow that thread back- and
forward. However our discussion and common insights have progressed

[Host's Note: that thread is at

We had in the past another interesting discussion on 'A flock of birds'.
Although this dialogue stopped, my thinking on that subject continued.
And maybe in the light of your questions on intensive and extensive
factors in business organisations, this flock gives us some interesting

At and you gave attention to *commitment* and *target*. We could easily
recognise these two factors in a flock of birds (or a school of fish,
cloud of moscitoes, herd of buffaloes, crowd of people). The commitment is
possibly best described as *the will to be part of the group*, the target
could be the final destination of the group. (But this is possibly
questionable, I will return later to this point).

For our discussion it is possibly good to discern two types of flocks.

A. a group where the internal structure has a high level of order and with
a well defined target. We may think of the V-shaped formations of geese
that fly straight forward during the change of seasons towards their
winter/summer places.

B. a group with a rather chaotic internal structure, playfully meandering
through space and time, seamingly without a special goal/target.

I hope it will be clear that while talking about these flocks, I have
various sorts of business organisations in mind.

Group A-organisations could be compared with army-like organisations: all
individual group members work in line and the target is clear for all.
Every movement is integral to the target to reach.

But let us look to the intensive and extensive factors of A-organisations.
The obvious extensive one seems to be the number of individuals. The
intensive factor - the force - is the attractivity to be part of the
group. With the geese, it is *to be in the slip stream of the one before
These A-organisations have a clear leader who goes for the goal and who
defines the speed to reach that goal. In reality with the geese (or for
instance in a peloton of cyclists) the leader is regularly replaced
resulting in a much higher speed of the group than an individual on his
own could reach. It deserves a great deal of coordinated group work. It is
a nice example of *the whole is more than the some of its parts*.

There is however, some place for *individualism*. The will to be part of
the group is not that great that all members will stick so closely
together that the group becomes immobile. If I use your terminology,
Gavin, it means that there is some amount of fear between the members:
keeping a critical distance to each other, and some amount of attraction
to keep in line with the others, keeping the structure of the group in
order. Both balance in a dynamic rheostasis.

Group B-organisations are somewhat different. Here, the lack of a clear
leader is obvious. The group acts highly flexible, but without a clear
goal. The group seems to play and fiddle around.Here too, the number of
individuals is extensive, the intensive factors are also 'fear' to become
too close to each other (keeping the flexibility high), and 'attraction'
to join the group.The internal structure of the whole group seems less
ordered, in my mind due to the lack of a clear destination (or should I
use target, or goal??).
My personal view of this 'fiddling around' which happens in nature quite
often, is possibly ment to behave as an attractive and joyful group. It
is like such group says: "Look, how much fun we have, join us". So it
seems that the target of such group is to enlarge itself - increasing the
number of individuals. As soon as such group is large enough, they start
moving with a more clear goal (since these flocks of birds too, migrate to
other destinations).

And here we come to another aspect of intensive factors. Commitment has
two facets. One is internal focussed, the other external. The internal
side of commitment is *the will to be part of the group*; the exterally
oriented commitment is *the will to reach the destination*. In group
A-organisations this latter - external oriented - is very strong: the
whole group moves towards the destination, with much discipline and with
high speed. Every part of the free energy of the group seems to be
focussed to that destination. The good side is that the group (as a group)
will reach that destination in short time. The bad side is that
flexibility of the group is low and individual flexibility is even
'forbidden'. As I said, it is like an army, where the individual mind is
reduced to zero, one has to follow the leader blindly. Even with regularly
replaced leaders. As soon as there is no leader, the group will be nowhere
(because of body and mental inflexibility).

With the group B-organisations, the external target seems less clear. The
intensive factor is mostly internal oriented - join the group. There is no
clear leader and despite or due to the great flexibility, most of the free
energy of the group is spend to *playing* - no clear external goal. The
vulnerability of such organisation lies in the fact that the future of the
group depends completely on the *will to be part of the group*. Lack of
internal structure leads often to split-ups.

Gavin, I really don't know how much this contribution adds some useful
insights to business organisations and how these factors could be
measured. It is much more a qualitative observation. However, the two
sides of commitment - internally or externally oriented - has given me
some idea how to look at some types of organisations and their behaviour
and future becomings. What I have seen is that completely money-driven
companies have a rather militaristic structure and way of acting. On the
other hand, the playful organisations - how nice they seem to be - are on
the long run doomed to die in the world we live.

Possibly, we should discuss a bit more on the forces within an
organisation, and the forces that act from outside on that organisation.
If we do, I hesitate to use *commitment* and *target*, because both could
be used as forces (intensive factors) and both could be internally or
externally oriented.

This was the final sentence. I have just one thing I should like to
mention. It is a statement I heard a couple of years ago while talking on
'knowledge management': whereas the intelligence and knowledge of the
individual employee is high, the whole company behaves like an imbecile.
Something to think about in relation with the above mentioned types of

All the best,

dr. Leo D. Minnigh
Library Technical University Delft
PO BOX 98, 2600 MG Delft, The Netherlands
Tel.: 31 15 2782226
        Let your thoughts meander towards a sea of ideas.


Leo Minnigh <>

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