Saturday, May 18, 2013

Emergence: Two Loops

How do organizations grow, expand, mature, decline and re-emerge? There are probably as many ways of unfolding of this pattern as there are organizations in which it unfolds. However, there are some interesting theories advanced by organizational studies and business writers, as well as by those reflecting on emerging consciousness.
One such theory really speaks to me as I continue to explore the emerging reality in religious life today. It starts with a simple life-cycle curve based on the biological life cycle. Individuals are born, grow, mature and decline. This cycle is repeated in every species and it is the basis of evolution as organisms pass on their genetic code to succeeding generations and those organisms adapt to changes in their environment and habitat. Izaac Adizes writes extensively on the application of the biological life-cycle to organizations and the characteristics of organizations at the various stages. Lawrence Cada applies the notion to religious life.
Deborah Frieze takes the concept one step further, asking how it is that organizations can be re-born, re-founded or transformed. She calls it the two-loop model. The origin, growth, maturity, decline life-cycle remains in place. If the organization is to be transformed, some of its members - usually just a few pioneers have an insight into the essential nature of the organization and into why it is declining and how it might better adapt to the evolving reality. They take the kernel of the organization's life and step apart to incarnate this in a new way. Gradually, they are able to articulate the emerging reality and gain a few collaborators. Slowly they grow and begin to emerge as a distinct expression. At this point, members of the original organization may bridge over and join the emerging reality. The diagram below is based on Deborah's work and helpful to me in visualizing this movement.
Where to you see this dynamic played out? Where are we in giving birth to an emerging reality in our various organizations, movements, configurations? What do we need to support and sustain this emerging and transformational energy? Where is the Spirit moving among us this Pentecost?

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