Nasty case of pathological autopoiesis?

Have you got one?!

It’s a posh term but it describes something we see in organisations from businesses to the Church – and it can be fatal! Autopoiesis refers to the ability that organisms have to reproduce themselves. This is a good thing (without it we wouldn’t be here!) – but if it gets out of control (becomes pathological) it can have the paradoxical effect of destroying life. E.g. cancer.

The term has a special meaning in the world of organisations and, posh as it may be, it refers to a phenomenon we see a lot. Organisations start with a clear sense of having a purpose in the world, whether it is to make widgets or end poverty. Over time, however, the organisation takes on a life of its own to the point where it becomes mostly interested in itself. If you’ve ever spent hours on the phone trying to get some sense out of customer service you will have experienced this. The organisation tells us and tells itself it is there to serve the customer but actually it is interested in itself, its systems, its convenience. Its computer says no.  Continue reading