The Science Bit
Organic Development has grown rapidly over the past few years. We’ve hired new people, gained new clients and moved to new offices. That’s a lot of changes in a relatively short amount of time. One of the things that has contributed to this continuing success is our philosophy. And that hasn’t changed a bit. We want to explain in more detail to give you a better idea of how Organic Development works. So, are you ready to get philosophical?
We believe in 2 simple, powerful ideas:
- Any interconnected group of people can be described as a Complex Adaptive Network.
- Digital tools can help Complex Adaptive Networks function more efficiently and effectively.
These ideas define why we work and how we work.
What is a Network?
Simply put, a network is a group of interconnected nodes. Depending on the type of network, these nodes can be anything from
people to computers to financial institutions:
Node: An Employee
Node: A Computer
Node: A Financial Institution
What is a Complex Adaptive Network?
At Organic Development, we’re most interested in a specific type of network. Complex Adaptive Networks (CANs). The name’s impressive, but the definition is dead simple: CANs are non-hierarchical networks developed and inhabited by people. Because people are organic and adaptable, CANs are organic and adaptable too. You can spot a CAN a mile off if you know what you’re looking for. Here’s a handy feature list so you can identify them easily:
You can spot a CAN a mile off if you know what you’re looking for. Here’s a handy feature list so you can identify them easily:
CANs come about spontaneously. You can design a space for the network to develop in, but you cannot design
the network itself.
A CAN develops in dialogue with its nodes. The network adapts according to the people within it, whilst at the same time, the people adapt their behaviour to fit into the network.
Nodes do not occupy prescribed positions within CANs. They can shift between the different roles as the network changes and evolves.
The most important feature of Complex Adaptive Networks is the fact that their survival depends entirely on connections between nodes. If there were no connections, the CAN would not be a system, but a collection of disparate elements (think of a tree without branches). CANs vary hugely in terms of size, complexity, and function, but one thing is true in every single instance:
Connections between nodes rely on COMMUNICATION
We can’t stress this enough.
OK, now that you have an idea of what a Complex Adaptive Network is - but how YOU fit in?
We’ve talked a lot about CANs, but where do organisations like your business fit in? As we said before, CANs are networks developed and inhabited by people. Consequently, at Organic Development, we see every organisation that we work for (as well as our own agency) as a Complex Adaptive Network. It’s our way of organising the world. As we discussed in the first post, communication is critical to all CANs, which means:
Every problem in an organisation can be reduced to a communication issue
The more you think about this idea, the more it makes sense: if you receive poor instructions at the beginning of a task, or if you can’t ask questions and receive feedback during it, you are unlikely to be able to complete the task successfully.
So how do we improve the quality of communication in CANs?At Organic Development, we use a combination of strategy, planning and digital tools to improve communication in CANs and make them more efficient and effective. A tool, quite simply, is a device that makes a task easier. Luckily for us, we have a vast and exciting toolkit at our disposal: the Internet.
E-mail, e-commerce sites and social networking sites are all examples of digital tools that most of us use every day. They make tasks like sharing information, buying things and keeping in touch quick and easy. At Organic Development we use these tools, and many others, in a considered and thoughtful way to help CANs thrive.
There are 3 stages to this process:
|1. Create spaces for CANs to grow in
Build or adopt appropriate communication platforms where people can collaborate, communicate, start discussions and share ideas. These can be offline as well as online.
|2. Measure, monitor and maintain
Use monitoring tools to identify strategies that work well and highlight those that need improvement.
3. Enable exchanges
Provide people with suitable support, training and strategies so they can make the most of the digital tools at their disposal.
It’s important to remember a point from the first post: Complex Adaptive Networks constantly evolve because they are adaptable and non-hierarchical. Improving and maintaining communication in CANs must also be a cyclical, adaptable process. That’s why our work isn’t about providing quick, one-off fixes. It’s about providing a positive method for success. We call it our CAN-do method.
In the short term, using digital tools to enable CANs to flourish means that organisations generate new business, a higher level of brand engagement and larger profit margins. In the long term, the process makes the world a better place by making the spreading of information easier than ever.
That’s it folks, the Organic Development philosophy in a nutshell. We hope this has helped you get a better understanding of how and why we work the way we do.