The Will and Purpose of an Organisation LO28159

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 04/05/02

Dear Organlearners,

Greetings to all of you.

Perhaps I should not have mailed this contribution to the LO-dialogue, but
merely to those fellow learners mentioned in it. It has some wild
thoughts, even more wild guesses and desperate attempts to remember my
past experiences. But hopefully some of these thoughts will help you
fellow learners to contemplate your own thoughts. It does not matter
whether they are the same so long as you become aware of your own thoughts
on this topic.

Furthermore, I am extremely aware of my inability to write English
correctly. For example, in my mother tongue Afrikaans we will say that an
acid "sal"=shall react with a base rather than saying it "wil"=will react
with a base. As another example, in Afrikaans we will use the word
"doel"=goal for mission, intent, design, will or purpose. The context
determine which case applies.

Most of all, I want to admit that by letting my thoughts roam over
"purpose" in my recent contributions, whether that of a LO or its universe
UN, I had been like a bull in a novelty shop. I made a mistake by thinking
of purpose merely as something determining an outcome. I will try to set
it right by pointing out my own specific experiences with regard to the
word purpose.

First I have looked up the meanings of purpose as well as many synonyms of
it. Here are some of them. A purpose is a determinated act which will lead
to assured success. Intention, unlike purpose, contemplates also possible
failure. Design involves as much organisation as purpose, but unlike
purpose it may not lead to completion. A goal like a vision is an end
striven for whereas an aim like a mission is a direction towards that end.
The scope of vision and mission is more encompassing than that of goal and

The fact that Benjamin Compton connected "purpose" to choice made me think
of something else which through the centuries was also connected to
choice. It is the "will" of a person. How much is "will" related to
"purpose"? The following is how I understand it.

A person may have a "will" as well as a "purpose". But what about a book?
Its author wrote it with a purpose so that it acquires that purpose. I
usually read the preface of a book before even browsing through it. I have
seen hundreds of times the expression "the purpose of this book" rather
than "my purpose with this book". Perhaps in some cases the authors
avoided on purpose the personal touch of the latter. But can a book also
have a will? I think no. A book does not have such intelligence that it
can have a will.

Think about a tree. Can a tree have a will? I think no. A tree can have
many propensities, some on the chemical level, others on the biochemical
level and some even on the organ level. That is why a tree will grow given
a suitable environment. (By the way, the influence of the Bantu languages
on Afrikaans is such that it is also acceptable to say "the tree go
grow".) But again I think a tree lacks the requisite complexity in
intelligence for us to speak of its will.

But what about the tree and purpose. I may have as purpose in mind a tree
to give shade rather than a verandah. Hence, when I plant a tree for
shade, it gets the purpose of giving shade. I have heard hundreds of
people saying that the purpose of some tree is to give shade. But what
about a tree growing in the wild? Does it also have the purpose of giving
shade? Perhaps not, but when I seek up that shade in a hot day, have I not
given a purpose to it?

I am reminded of a viewpoint which most philosophers had on aesthetics
(study of the beautiful). When an artist creates something, the beautiful
transfers from artist to the work of art. Thus the art can have beauty or
be ugly. The past two centuries this viewpoint gave way to a seemingly
more sober viewpoint. No transfer of the beautiful is possible so that it
is not innate to any work of art. Beauty lies rather in the eyes of the
beholder. When I now think of it, I can kick myself for not having read
these treatises on aesthetics more carefully.

An artist has a purpose for creating a work of art. For many artists this
purpose is for that work to tell the beautiful. Thus the work of art
itself gets the purpose to tell the beautiful. When I cannot find the
beauty in it like the shade under a tree, the problem is with me, unless
the artist had another purpose in mind. Artists as explorers at the
frontiers of mind often have the purpose to shock their audience so as
draw them into a mental bifurcation. Is it needless to say that some
experience an emergence while others experience an immergence?

It seems to me that "will" always involves the mind and thus the
personality of a person whereas "purpose" involves the becoming of
anything related to the creativity of the person. Sometimes we might say
that this or that animal has a will of its own, but I think it is merely a
case of metaphoric speaking. However, should I extend the concept of
"will" to "deep will" as I did for "creativity" into "deep creativity",
animals do have their own kind of wills just as even plants do have.

I am reminded of the hot debate which flared up occasionally in history --
a person can/cannot have a free will. The same for choice -- a person
can/cannot have a free choice. Those for free will or free choice usually
argued that the person self has the capacity and responsibility for such a
free will or free choice. They argued for autopoiesis (self-making). Those
against free will or free choice usually argued that another superior
party (sometimes even invoking God) has the capacity or the responsibility
to determine what the person must will or must choose. They argued for
"exopoiesis" (external-making).

The strange thing is that I cannot recall any hot debates on whether a
person can/cannot have a purpose. Why not? Humankind is known for its
fertility of ideas as well as for its black-or-white (dialectical)
thinking. Why has nobody defended the claim that ordinary humans cannot
have a purpose, but only humans of high office like a priest or a manager?
What curious tacit knowledge do we articulate with the word purpose?

Perhaps it is because we sometimes meet a person without any purpose. I
mean a lack of purpose and not merely a lack of ambition. That person just
drifts along as a piece of wood on water. For me it is invariably related
to a lack of creativity. On the other hand, the more creative a person is,
the more that person is like someone steering a boat over water, making
frequent adjustments in its course.

Let us think about an organisation of persons. It has been formed on
purpose so that it acquires that purpose. Through the course of time its
purpose may change. But does it have a will? I personally think that one
of the crucial differences between an OO (Ordinary Organisation) and a LO
(Learning Organisation) is that a OO has only a purpose whereas a LO has a
purpose and a will. (The manager of the OO may have a will for the OO, but
I am thinking of the entire OO.) This will of the LO can be found in its
metanoia. I have searched through our university library and on Internet
for such a distinction, but could not find anything. It seems to me that
we are travelling through unchartered waters.

(I found an interesting paper giving a balanced viewpoint:
"Complexity Theory and Management Practice"
by Jonathan Rosenhead
< >
You fellow learners might take a look at it.)

Daan, even though you are far better versed in English than me, you are
still a person who thinks fundamentally in Afrikaans. Why did you use the
word "purpose" rather than synonyms like mission or goal? What do you know
tacitly by which you tried to articulate specifically with the word
purpose and nothing else? This question is now beginning to intrigue me.

It might seem as if we are contemplating something esoteric here, but I
think it is not. A few weeks ago I attended a large meeting in an
organisation. During it a member of the executive team said specifically
"It is the will of the organisation that you must do xyz. Whoever does not
want to accept this must resign." I thought wryly by myself that it must
have been the will of merely the executive team. Once again this team has
alienated itself further from the rest of the organisation. Most members,
if not all, whose will is different, will fool along as members rather
than changing their will to become willing members.

History shows that the intimidation can become much worse by replacing the
"resign" in "Whoever does not want to accept this will must resign" with
"die". Whereas most will fool along when it is the "resign", some, if not
many, will revolt when it is the "die". The stronger the intimidation, the
stronger the reaction. It happened long ago in church, state and even
commerce (like slavery).

We may think it is something of the past. But it is still happening today
in religions, politics and economics. Just look all over the globe where
people get killed violently to see in how many of these cases they were
fighting for their own will and choice. It is something very real to the
present, no matter how much we try to close our eyes to it. People may
have purposes and nobody quarrels about it, but as soon as will comes into
the picture, we get love or war.

I think that in OOs (Ordinary Organisations) the will and choice of the EP
(Executive Party such as the CEO or the executive team, if it has one) are
not merely different to most of the wills and choices of its members, but
actually overrides them. But how will it be in a LO. Should all the
members have the same will and make the same choice? I think no because
this will deny otherness ("quality-diversity"), one of the 7Es (seven
essentialities of creativity). As soon as one or more of the 7Es are
denied, creativity and learning will become impossible. This we do not
want in a LO. Does this mean that one collective will and one collective
choice become impossible? Take a deep breath and think carefully ;-)

Take another deep breath and think carefully because there is one
possibility which I want to describe. The more you are aware of your tacit
knowledge of it, the easier you would recognise it in my articulation.

Out of the many different individual wills and choices a collective will
and choice ought to EMERGE. Let us call them the LO-will and the
LO-choices. In other words, in the emerging metanoia of the LO the LO-will
and the LO-choices will be clearly discernable. Will this LO-will and
LO-choices override the wills and choices of the individuals like in a OO?
No, because that which emerged does not undo that from which it has
emerged. A seedling does not override the seed, soil, water and light from
which it emerged, but depends on them to incorporate them..

In my personal experiences of three "tacit LOs" I have found (by
contemplating my faulty memory ;-) a deep respect for the will and choice
of each other member. (I have also found an indifference to, or perhaps I
should say a complete acceptance of, the purposes of other members.)
Nobody tries to force by whatever means his/her will and choice upon even
one other member. So how does this LO-will and LO-choice emerge? I think
by working together in phenomena (situations) which sustain the creativity
of every member.

One such a phenomenon is the dialogue. It is the exchanging of thoughts in
which not even one thought is considered to be superior or inferior to
others. The thoughts of every other member are not to be judged or valued,
but to be contemplated carefully by every member. Since creativity is
involved, purpose enter the back door and becomes a member of the
household without we even noticing it. People begin to share their
purposes with each other. Gradually they become aware of a collective will
to be made.

What happens during such a contemplation in the dialogue reminds me very
much of chemistry. I will now avoid the dedicated terminology of
chemistry. I will also make use of the simplest acid-base model of
chemistry. Lastly, I want to warn that chemistry is an over simplification
of how a collective will emerges. Furthermore, the model which I am going
to use is a "two-part" model which may give the idea that dialectics (two
opposing entities) is operating here. I can use much complexer chemical
reactions to avoid this idea, but the complexity will then obscure what I
want to illustrate.

Two acids will never react to form a common compound. Likewise two bases
will never react to form a common compound. In other words, two things of
the same disposition will never react to form some other common thing
since they are already of the same disposition. But any acid will (is
going to ;-) react with any base, sometimes vigorously and sometimes
slowly, sometimes to completion and sometimes only sparingly.

In WATERY solutions different acids are often symbolised by
the common expression H-A (A for acid) while different bases
are symbolised by B-OH (B for base). By writing the acid as
H-A we mean that it can liberate a protonic ion H+ according
to the equation
H-A = (H+) + (A-) ___(1)
By writing the base as B-OH we mean that it can liberate a
hydroxyl ion OH- according to the equation
B-OH = (B+) + (OH-) ___(2)
The suffix "+" in H+ or B+ means a positive charge whereas the
suffix "-" in A- or OH- means a negative charge. Consequently,
what happens actually during the acid-base reaction is a
eorganisation of parts. It can be symbolised as
H-A + B-OH = H-OH + (A-) + (B+) ___(3)
or sometimes even as
H-A + B-OH = H-OH + A-B ___(4)

In both (3) and (4) the common emerging product H-OH is water, usually
written as H2O. This H-OH is equal to the very environment carrying the
acid H-A or the base B-OH. According to (1) the acid H-A has the H+ part
of its environment and according to (2) the base B-OH has the remainder
part OH- of its environment. According to (3) and (4) both the acid H-A
and the base B-OH give up different parts (H+ or OH-) so that when these
parts combine, they form a product (H-OH) which is indistinguishable from
the environment.

The difference between (3) and (4) is that in (4) there is much greater
affinity between the remaining parts A- and B+ so that they actually
combine to form the compound A-B. The "collective will" between H-A and
B-OH is not in forming A-B such as in only (4), but to form H-OH such as
in both (3) and (4). The "collective will" is to produce together
something (the H-OH) indistinguishable from the environment (the H2O).

As a bonus something acceptable to the environment is also produced. In
(3) it is the ions A- and B+, but each on its own. In (4) it is the
compound A-B. This A-B forms when a strong affinity exists between A- and
B+. But sometimes this A-B will precipitate as a solid from the liquid
environment or escape as a gas out of it into the universe beyond. In
these cases A-B is not acceptable to the environment. Only when A-B is a
liquid with properties similar to water H-OH, all of it will be acceptable
to the environment (stay in solution).

I think that fellow learners like Daan Joubert will become very excited by
this chemical example because he has already indicated how important it is
for him that the value of an organisation lies in how much the environment
accepts its normative behaviour freely. Think of a nation. What Daan's
viewpoint entails for me, is that the value of a nation lies in how much
other nations in the world will accept its normative behaviour freely.
Does your nation enforce its will or does its will get freely accepted?
Does it demand coalitions or does it seeks free collaboration?

I also think that fellow learners like Andrew Campbell will become very
excited by this chemical example because he has already indicated how
important the creative collapse is to him. The acid H-A has to give up
something and likewise the base B-OH something else such that these two
given up things have an affinity to combine and produce something friendly
to the environment H2O, namely H+ and OH- which form H-OH. Hence a
knowledge of what the environment wants is crucial to design the eventual
creative collapse.

I even think that fellow learners like Chris Klopper will become very
excited by this chemical example because he is working on the strategic
advantage of organisations. How do organisations position themselves with
respect to the environment in which their competitors also are? Chris,
here is a tantalising question to contemplate. Consider a mixture of acids
which I will symbolise as H-Aa, H-Ab, A-Ac, H-Ad, ... Since they are all
acids (same disposition), they do not react with each other. Also consider
a mixture of bases which I will symbolise as Ba-OH, Bb-OH, Bc-OH, Bd-OH,
... Since they are all bases (same disposition), they do not react with
each other. Let us now mix the mixture of acids with the mixtures of
bases. How will they react?

I will describe to you the two principal possibilities by which they can
react. The one possibility is that some way through the reaction equal
amounts of H-Aa, H-Ab, A-Ac and H-Ad will have reacted with equal amounts
of Ba-OH, Bb-OH, Bc-OH and Bd-OH. After another lapse of time some more
equal amounts of all will have reacted. The other possibility is that only
the strongest among all the acids, say H-Ax, will react with a
corresponding amount of only the strongest among all the bases, say Bx-OH.
After another lapse of time, especially when the strongest of the acid
H-Ax (or the base Bx-OH) has been depleted, the second strongest acid H-Ay
(or base By-OH) begins to react, etc. Which of these two possibilities
actually happens?

The clue to which possibility actually happens lies in entropy producing
force flux pairs. When the strongest acid reacts with the strongest base,
the greatest amount of entropy is produced fastest. This pair reach the
ridge of chaos first where the bifurcation happens. Only when one of them
(acid or base) has been consumed enough, the next one (respectively acid
or base) will step in. The strongest of its kind is followed in order by
the less stronger of its kind.

How will we determine the strengths of these acids and the
bases? The study of chemical systems gives a most revealing
answer. Observe which of the acids H-A (and likewise the
bases B-OH) has the strongest influence on its environment. For
example, consider a mixture of acids dissolved in water
H-OH=H2O as their environment. They each will react as follows:-
H-Aa + H2O = Aa- + (H2O-H+)
H-Ab + H2O = Ab- + (H2O-H+)
H-Ac + H2O = Ac- + (H2O-H+)
H-Ad + H2O = Ad- + (H2O-H+)

The acid which produces the greatest concentration of H2O-H+ in its
environment is the strongest. This concept "concentration of H2O-H+ ions"
is known (together with some mathematical manipulation) as the pH. This
means that the acid which changes the pH of the environment most, is the
strongest acid. The same applies for the bases, but in an opposite

The crucial point to see is that after the strongest acid (influencing the
environment MOST in one direction) and the strongest base (influencing the
environment MOST in the opposite direction) have reacted, their collective
action is to influence the environment the LEAST! In other words, after
the STRONGEST acid reacted first with the STRONGEST base (until one of
them becomes depleted) so that the changes afterwards in the environment
is the WEAKEST. This behaviour is an interaction between the
essentialities fruitfulness ("connect-beget") and spareness
("quantity-limit") with the essentiality liveness ("becoming-being")
connecting them. Does this makes any sense, even the slightest to you?

Let us leave chemistry and return to the will and choice of each
individual in any OO (Ordinary Organisation) in comparison to the will and
choices of the LO (Learning Organisation). Consider the LO as the system
SY with all its surrounding systems taken together as the complex system
SU. I think that to find the will of the LO its members ought to know that
whatever comes from it will have to be acceptable at least to and
definitely be indistinguishable from the environment. This cannot be the
goods or services delivered by the LO because this is the purpose of the
LO as for any OO too. So it must be something else, but what? In other
words, the LO has to produce something else than its goods and services.
What will it be?

Should we think of acids and bases and assume an analogy, it will be those
parts of our thoughts which together reflect the thoughts which the
environment wants. Thus the LO ought to learn what the environment SU
wants freely and not what the environment SU must accept by force. The LO
ought to combine those environment friendly parts of the thoughts together
into one whole as the LO-will rather than leaving them disconnected. The
LO ought to let the environment experience freely this combined thought
rather than telling them what the LO-will amounts to. The LO will become
one with its environment, although it decidedly act different to the
environment as is depicted by its purpose.

It is in this sense that I wrote yesterday "The mission in another way.
LO28148." while working on this contribution. I think that the site
mentioned in it is a nicely example of what I am trying to say above.

I myself think that most people in environment of the LO wants peace
rather than war, reconciliation rather than vengeance, example rather than
prescription, creativity rather than conformity and love rather than hate.
In other words, most of the surroundings SU wants constructive creativity
rather than destructive creativity in the system SY. But I have to admit
that I may think wishfully here because daily I am subjected to
information that the environment SU thinks conflict (war, judgement,
recipes and experts) are crucial to the future. My growing awareness to
all the 7Es may be the only reason why I think differently.

What do you fellow learners think? Are the will and the purpose of a LO
one and the same thing? If they are different, in what respects would it
be? How much are the purpose and will related to the mission and vision?
Finally, is a Shared Vision possible without a "shared will"?

With care and best wishes,


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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