November 26, 2013 2 Comments

Ok.  That’s a bit of an over statement.  But I was truly intrigued by a German town’s experiment in abolishing traffic lights and codes.  Sounds like anarchy?  Amazingly enough accidents are almost nonexistent.

There is a metaphor here, and I’m sure you didn’t miss it.  Fine, so organizations need some basic set of rules.  But I’m sure you are familiar with the way bureaucracy creeps in as soon as you start to “establish order.”

The problem with our efforts to bring order to complexity is that bringing order too often means getting rid of the human factor.  Our rules tend to eliminate individual discretion for the sake of collective uniformity – so that everyone can be treated fairly.  Our intention is good.  But we impose too high a cost.

Emergent systems are concerned with proximity.  We take cues from those around us, and a collective intelligence begins to act in ways that no single mind could have possibly planned.

We need direction.  We need intention.  We need infrastructure.  We need a basic set of norms.  But we don’t need so many rules.

Look beneath the rules and you’ll find a whole lot of fear.  Let’s be a little less afraid.  Abolition means more freedom.


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