Self-regulation in organizations – An organic theory?

Lord Of The Flies

by William Golding

One of my favorite books is Lord of the Flies. I’ve picked it from the shelves of the Lisbon’s British Institute where I studied English when I was 18, mostly because the name was intriguing, and not so much because it was written by a Literature Prize. Later on, I saw the movie (the second version) and got again strongly impressed with this violent story of how a group of boys left alone in an island did organize and collapse as human system.

There are many interpretations made about it, many comparisons, such as with the functioning of some countries and systems in particular periods of (’s Germany), etc. For me, mostly interested in non governmental organizations as systems, it became inspiring of what not to do and the absolute need of either self-regulation from inside the organizations as outside regulatory mechanisms.

Also, the problems with the Portuguese system of justice, some sad case-studies of high level corruption and the world financial crisis led me to think about the of self-regulation of human systems and the “how to” create and implement real effective self-regulation mechanisms of power in these systems, in order to make them as resilient as possible from the effects caused by individual deviation of moral, ignorance or bad will of certain elements inside these systems.

In this totally unorganized intellectual quest of mine, I remembered my Biochemistry classes in University. All living organisms have in their bodies self-regulation mechanisms. In fact, its even normal that some individual organs, cells, hormones or have a natural tendency to . Yes, “abuse”, “pass the limits”, “exagerate”, whatever. If we check many processes occurring inside our own human body, we notice that if a certain hormone provokes a certain result, there is normally an effect of another hormone to counteract for the first one. The same happens with certain enzymes, etc. Otherwise, each one would go on as far and as much as possible into a certain direction, which would make the cell/organs/body enter into a state of disease and ultimately collapse. So, counteracting processes seem to be responsible for keeping the balance, or in other words, for keeping the system in a healthy state. Inside our bodies there might be battles or even wars every day, but we might not even feel it or see it from outside.

Therefore the hypothesis:

Could the ultimate perfection in models for organizations be based in organic living things?

I’m sure someone has made this approach before, either in some doctoral thesis somewhere in the world, or at least in some lazy article as this one. I’ll search for that later on…! Meanwhile, comments are welcome.

About the author

Paula Lopes da Silva Graduated in Biology, with training in Quality and Management. Project coordinator at Quercus ANCN. Civil servant at Moita Municipality. Environment activist, ex-board member in national and european NGOs. Also interested in good governance, transparency and accountability of NPOs. Likes history and historical recreation, drawing, cartooning and performing. Roman Catholic.

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Note: this article was last updated in January 11th, 2010

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