Agile Zone is brought to you in partnership with:

Jurgen Appelo calls himself a creative networker. But sometimes he's a writer, speaker, trainer, entrepreneur, illustrator, manager, blogger, reader, dreamer, leader, freethinker, or… Dutch guy. Since 2008 Jurgen writes a popular blog at, covering the creative economy, agile management, and personal development. He is the author of the book Management 3.0, which describes the role of the manager in agile organizations. And he wrote the little book How to Change the World, which describes a supermodel for change management. Jurgen is CEO of the business network Happy Melly, and co-founder of the Agile Lean Europe network and the Stoos Network. He is also a speaker who is regularly invited to talk at business seminars and conferences around the world. After studying Software Engineering at the Delft University of Technology, and earning his Master’s degree in 1994, Jurgen Appelo has busied himself starting up and leading a variety of Dutch businesses, always in the position of team leader, manager, or executive. Jurgen has experience in leading a horde of 100 software developers, development managers, project managers, business consultants, service managers, and kangaroos, some of which he hired accidentally. Nowadays he works full-time managing the Happy Melly ecosystem, developing innovative courseware, books, and other types of original content. But sometimes Jurgen puts it all aside to spend time on his ever-growing collection of science fiction and fantasy literature, which he stacks in a self-designed book case. It is 4 meters high. Jurgen lives in Rotterdam (The Netherlands) -- and in Brussels (Belgium) -- with his partner Raoul. He has two kids, and an imaginary hamster called George. Jurgen has posted 145 posts at DZone. You can read more from them at their website. View Full User Profile

Self-Organization (Part 1)

  • submit to reddit

Self-Organization = Anarchy (Part 1)

Bacteria-adroitv82-3257765842 In the beginning there was nothing. And then something formed quarks. And the quarks organized themselves into composite particles, like protons and neutrons. And these guys, with the help of some friends called electrons, subsequently organized themselves into atoms. And these atoms got together one day and decided to take self-organization to yet another level, and they formed molecules. Millions of different molecules were created that way, and they happily crawled all over each other for a while, forming planets and other crazy objects.

And then some of the molecules, swimming around in a warm and cozy pool, thought they were the trendiest of the lot, and they decided to replicate themselves. They adopted the trendy name RNA. The copying frenzy quickly went in many directions, and soon there were prokaryotes and eukaryotes (and viruses too). And boy, it didn't stop there either. These biological cells self-organized into millions of different species, and it didn't take long for the brain of one of those species (humans) to form consciousness. And this new aggregate system decided to take self-organization to even higher levels. It formed tribes, cultures, cities, businesses, and (as one of its least successful ideas) governments.

From the very beginning of the universe, everything in it was shaped by self-organization...

Self-organization is a process of attraction and repulsion in which the internal organization of a system, normally an open system, increases in complexity without being guided or managed by an outside source. [Wikipedia]

So you see... self-organization is the norm. Self-organization is the default behavior of systems, whether they are atoms, molecules, viruses, species, or businesses.

Or software development teams...

It is a bit silly that self-organization of software development teams is often hailed as a "best practice" in agile software development. Self-organization is not a "best practice". It is the "default practice" of any system, including teams. Never did anyone direct me in my communication with my peers. Nobody told me how to enter the office, how to hold my mouse, how to write lines of code, or how to write Wiki-pages. Management was never concerned about those things. They always just happened, without direction, even long before agile was a buzzword.

But is what happens also happening in the right direction?

Though every self-organizing system chooses its own direction, the possible directions are limited by its environment. The latest theories of the universe suggest that our universe is just one out of many, and that our specific universe is "special" (for us), in that it has some very specific cosmological constants. It is these cosmological constants that have constrained and given direction to the self-organization of quarks, protons, atoms, molecules, and the whole shebang. (We can only guess what kind of particles could have formed in other universes.)

Likewise, the earth's environment has constrained and given direction to the formation of biological cells. And biological cells in their turn have constrained and given direction to the formation of viruses. And so on, and so on... No self-organizing system exists without context. And the context constrains the self-direction of the system.

And then humans acquired consciousness, and they invented the concept of value.

And humans turned the world upside down. (to be continued...)

Read more: "NOOP.NL: Self-Organization = Anarchy (Part 1)" -
Published at DZone with permission of its author, Jurgen Appelo. (source)

(Note: Opinions expressed in this article and its replies are the opinions of their respective authors and not those of DZone, Inc.)