Organise like an Organism

Have you noticed that “organise” shares its root with words like organism and organic? The Greek word “organon” refers to a tool, or instrument, particularly a musical instrument. So we have the organism, the pipe organ in a cathedral, organs in the body, and organic farming all drawing meaning from this same root word.

If we think about an organism, it refers to a living being consisting of interdependent parts which work together to support the whole. The internal organs each have a distinctive function, but also rely on each other. The purpose of organising is not to promote the parts, but to create a healthy living system. In a similar way, organic farming methods make use of the natural relationships between animals and plants to produce food, rather than artificial processes. This concept of a natural harmony ties in with musical instruments such as the pipe organ where the notes blend together to create beautiful music.

In modern times efficient organisation has become associated with factories where people and equipment produce a specific product using the most effective methods possible. However these artificial methods of organising, with their emphasis on output, lack the dynamic complexity of a living organism. Mechanised processes are focussed on doing specific activities well, but lack responsiveness to changing conditions. Repetitive routine tasks that maximise output can lead to a dehumanising experience for workers who become disengaged from the creative process.

In New Self New World Philip Shepherd observes that “we have organized our awareness of the body and the world according to metaphors borrowed from machinery.” This observation can be applied to the organising process itself when we equate organising with efficiency and try to force ourselves into rigid patterns and processes. “Efficiency” and “productivity” are seen as worthy goals, but there are costs associated with retrofitting the industrial view of organising to our own lives. When we organise according to artificial concepts of how we should be, we lose touch with our own nature and our health and well being suffer as a result.

The purpose of the organism is not output, or throughput, but life itself. The elegance of the organism is found in the interrelatedness of the parts and the ability to respond and adapt to support the whole as circumstances evolve. When we think about organising ourselves lets remember that we are living organisms, and that to organise is to create balance and harmony in order to enhance our lives.





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