Nature Depends on Self-Organization

If Nature Can Self-Organize, Can Organizations Do This, Too?

What Would Leadership Look Like if it Depended on Self-Organization?

What if We Depended on Self-Organization in Our Organizations?

  1. They would use fewer resources for management and oversight. When we have staff members who can initiate and organize their own work, do it in cooperation with others, and align their work with the higher purpose of the organization, we wouldn’t need to spend time, money, or attention on supervision. Supervision and management would shift to coaching and development and help people see the meaning of their work and how it contributes to the larger success of the organization. This shift builds capacity for self-organization.
  2. It would be more satisfying for the employees to have input in decisions that affected them and allow them to help create solutions to problems they experience in the workplace.
  3. There would be less time wasted on drama and pointing fingers. The focus is on achieving the organization’s purpose — not on blaming others to avoid individual accountability.
  4. Processes and structures would be more efficient and less cumbersome because we wouldn’t need them for control or accountability purposes. Processes and structures would be designed for effectiveness and efficiency, not as a vehicle to have control over others in the organization.

What Would We Need to Let Go to Have Workplaces Based on Self-Organization?

  • Our need to control others — because it hinders the development of self-organization
  • Rewarding blind obedience and “yes people” because they depend on direction from others — they can’t self-organize
  • Loyalty to an individual leader instead of the larger mission or the business; Self-organization requires alignment with higher purpose, not individual loyalty
  • Our assumption that higher levels of compensation flow to the people who are directing and controlling others instead of assuming that many people contribute to the success of the company



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Dr. Kathleen Allen

Dr. Kathleen Allen


Dr. Allen has written and presented widely on topics related to leadership, human development, and organizational development.