Diversity LO20179

Bruce Jones (brucej@nwths.com)
Mon, 14 Dec 1998 10:10:41 -0600

Replying to LO20173 --

> From: d.l.dwiggins@computer.org
> Another example is the ecology of fire in a forest not disturbed by man,
> with the fire as an agent that "simplifies" the biome, both causing
> immediate immergences and laying the way for the slower emergences, as
> you
> pointed out. Is it possible that, as a system diversifies, _some_ agent,
> internal or external, will always arise to "prune" the system's
> diversity?
> Could this be looked at as a kind of "annealing" that keeps a system from
> getting stuck at a "local maximum" of diversity or complexity?

The use of a forest fire is an excellent analogy for change. In most
ecosystems a natural fire is required for growth and renewal. Certain
animals and some trees and other local flora require the fire to propagate
the species and to provide homes for other rejuvenating species. The same
may be said for corporations and larger forms of human endeavor
(governments). Without the fire of revolution, social action, collapse
and rebirth, there would be no growth and improvement of such marvelous
systems. A prime example is the end of Apartheid in South Africa.
Without the fires of civil and world indignation there would have been no
change. This is not to say that all fires of this nature produce short
term positive results. The Russian Revolution that led to the rise to
power of the Communist Party and all that went with it was not totally
positive. Then along comes another "fire" and the Communist Party falls
and a new regime of Capitalism begins. Even after a natural forest fire a
few weeds must grow. These have their place in the ecology of the forest

> To return to learning organizations: if this is the case, we should be
> able to observe the phenomenon in organizations that have been around for
> some time. If we look, for example, at the "visionary companies" of
> Collins and Porras' "Built to Last", they've certainly had their ups and
> downs. Could these be understood as inherent "long wave" cycles in
> successful systems?

In the US the collapse of Bell Telephone led to a greater diversity and
growth of technology related companies.

If you have ever been to sea you will notice that the sea is never calm.
The motion is made up of a series of waves , one after the other, in a
cyclic and rhythmic pattern. Some waves with more energy pass by or
absorb shorter waves. Some waves break on distant shores gently, some with
great release of energy and some never reach the shore at all. I think
this is the way companies, both successful and unsuccessful, function.

Bruce Jones


"Bruce Jones" <brucej@nwths.com>

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