Purpose & Universe (Godel) LO28652

From: Benjamin Compton (benjamin_compton@yahoo.com)
Date: 05/29/02

This is the resurrection of a dead thread.

The thread was started by At, and I contributed. One of the points I made
was the connection I saw between mathematical axioms and purpose -- namely
that the purpose of an axiom was to define what type of relationships
could exist, and what type couldn't.

It was pointed out to me by one of the participants that Godel had shown
that any axiomatic system beyond first order arithmetic is either
incomplete or inconsistent.

I had never read Godel's theorem, so I bought Godel's proof, called "On
Formally Undecidable Propositions of Principia Mathematica and Related
Systems" from Amazon.com.


I want to limit my comments to the point I was trying to make. Namely that
axioms give mathematics an order necessary to think through complex and
novel problems, and this is similar to the way organizations use policies
and procedures.

After having read the book, and assuming I understood at least a little of
what I read, my opinion still stands. However, I think Godel made some
interesting discoveries that are loosely applicable to organizations.

I think that any organizational design is incomplete, but not exactly in
the same sense that Godel would have used the word. (Incompleteness to
Godel described the condition where a well-formed sentence in formal
number theory could not be proven, nor could its negation be proven.) The
reason I use the word "loosely" is because I don't believe that most
organizational designs, policies, and procedures are "provable" because
they are not axiomatic. The rules governing how organizations evolve are
not nearly as strict and tidy as number theory.

So by incompleteness in OD or policies/procedures I mean that inevitably
an organization will run into a scenario where the policies/procedures or
OD do not provide guidance. It is at such moments, when organizational
learning is a necessity. At the same time, because the rules governing the
evolution of an organization are not as strict as number theory, chances
are there will be some inconsistencies in policies/procedures or OD that

It is this incompleteness and inconsistency that those of us who hang out
in the lower branches of the organizational hierarchy like to mock.

With this new perspective, I'll be a little more patient as those at the
top of the hierarchy try to work through these issues. . .but I'm sure, in
the back of my mind, I'll allow myself a laugh or two only because I'm so
far away from the problem that I can afford to not take as seriously as
those who are in the middle of it.

I wanted to respond before the LO list goes off-line, because I took the
comment about Godel seriously. And I appreciated the comment, because it
gave me an opportunity to deepen my thinking, not only about mathematics
(a subject I've never been particularly fond of) and about the crazy stuff
that goes on in organizations.

Benjamin Compton 
Frisbeetarianism, n.:
    The belief that when you die, your soul goes up
    on the roof and gets stuck.

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