Self-organising complex marketing systems LO26614

From: Gavin Ritz (
Date: 05/02/01

Replying to LO26608 --

Hi Bob

Welcome to the chat

Robert McDonald wrote:

> I like Gavin's metaphor of tubes and pumps. Although I may be mistaken, I
> suspect that he understands marketing as many people do: advertising and
> sales.

I fully understand the concepts of marketing, I did a post grad degree
with marketing as a major. If you look at my next post which I have just
sent today I try explain why marketing can't be a complex system. (Hence
it is not viable, cannot be a whole, has no recursivity, self-reflexivity
and hence no categorical identity)

Mainly because of the concept of wholes. I define a whole as something
which has an input (structure and process), a pump (pulls) which may or
may not digest, transforms, then pushes into other tubes (process and
structure). The entire whole has viability. The tubes and pumps can be
visible or invisible.

> It is far more involved than advertising the latest flavor of
> breakfast food or laundry detergent additive. In a typical introductory
> college marketing course, advertising and sales represent less than ten
> percent of the syllabus.

Yes, I know I used to lecture in marketing at a few business schools.

> The principles of marketing are continuously applied in many areas of
> society including government, politics, and not-for-profit organizations.
> While marketing might not represent a full social system, it is essentially
> the mechanism by which society (governments) decides whether to build roads,
> airports, schools, or hospitals, where and when to build them, how many to
> build, and how large to make them. So it does have a role in creating the
> infrastructure to support the other societal systems.

The principles of marketing are fine, I would not agree that marketing is
the mechanism whereby society decides. I believe there are much more
fundamental forces at work. The psychological (in aggregation, motives,
fears, losses, cognition etc) processes and structures which act like a
tube-pump-tube (are invisible) are a more fundamental mechanism but still
not the most fundamental.

What creates mind and its drive for adaptability, creativity, motives?
What are the recursions here?

You should test my assumption by looking at the human body, lungs, liver,
heart, brain and associated systems. Then go a recursion down to cellular
level (does the cell whole exhibit the same properties? ). Then go a level
up does the entire human body exhibit the same properties of viability and

Test the assumptions in business. Inputs-transformation-outputs
(tube-pump-tube) go recursions up and down and see how wholes look here.

> From an organizational perspective, marketing plays a key role in learning
> and responding to changes in the environment. Boundary spanners in areas
> like sales, customer service, and market research bring information to the
> organization. This information is interpreted and disseminated throughout
> the organization, often resulting in new outputs (new products, modified
> offers, new markets, etc.). The only question is what form the organization
> takes.

This is the main problem with marketers they think that they are a viable
discipline (only the people are viable). You have hit on one of the key
reasons for many conflicts between marketing and other parts of the
organization. I quote from Stafford Beer's Diagnosing the System. A
seminal book on managerial cybernetics to help you gently into this point
of view.

" But in terms of management, the way in which a life is conducted,
dimensionality becomes important: many psychiatric problems are rooted in
inter-dimensional conflict that is not understood because boundaries
[wholes, categorical identity and process-structures ] have not been
recognized. The same goes for your firm". My words in parenthesis.

Now that is one hellva statement but this very thing has come home to
haunt me on almost every consulting job I have ever done. It mucks up the
issues of accountability, authority and responsibility.

If we continue to remain fixed in our outlook on how businesses are
structured we will be looking at some spectacular destructive emergences.

> I recommend readings on the subject of market orientation, particularly two
> seminal articles that appeared in the Journal of Marketing in 1990. One, by
> Ajay Kholi and Bernard Jaworski describes market orientation as knowledge
> acquisition, dissemination and reaction. The other, by Stan SLater and John
> Narver, more clearly links market orientation with a culture of
> organizational learning.

Of course they would and they are correct to a greater or lesser degree,
they also have a vested interest in marketing (the instinct has survival
value). They are viable wholes themselves protecting and growing their
patch which is not. Most marketers are notoriously un-systems thinkers. If
my memory fails Drucker is not one of those.

Bob, I hope I have not just thrown you in at the deep end without giving
you a tiny (very tiny) flotation device.

Welcome to the rough world of learning org'ies.



Gavin Ritz <>

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