forty years observing systems

click thumbnails to enlarge ..

Forty years ago, the trees in the above pictures were about 2 metres high. And I must have been about ‘a head’ shorter than today.
When I rediscovered these trees, I had to go far back in time, to identify the place. In those days, on the left, there were thousands of Xmas trees, and on the right side of the path, tiny poplars. Mind tries to fill in the gaps, but the place is on the brink of becoming unidentifiable.

Mind doesn’t like this unidentifiability.
It wants a steady state. All the time!
This is the drama of permanizing.

Mental mind wants to hold on to power at any position, trying to create a steady identity, a controllable world.
Stifling its own innovation, stifling creativity, stifling any dynamism, only in order to control impermanence …

A system, an organisation, a business, a club, is a set of many identities — many minds wanting to control their own little worlds.
And when the majority of identities hold on to their power, (and they usually do)
the system turns into a monster:

Inside the system: dictators at all levels, hitlers and executioners.
At the smallest scales: a reception desk; people behind a counter …
At the largest scales: superpower states and multinational enterprises.

Those minds who want to hold on to their control of permanence and power,
all become dictators, in so many ways and colours as the mind can invent.

All these systems, once started from a creative idea, an internal drive, an individual, a group of friends …

But as time evolves all the individuals in the system will resist change!

[… time is change —Β  it is measured as a change: “The second is the duration of 9 192 631 770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium 133 atom. ]

Now there is a problem: a strange rule concerning time dictates that there is a ‘need for growth’ which implies change.

But this growth needs to be controlled by all means, thus rules an regulations are invented to control this so called ‘growth’. We get a cocktail of subsystems and people. And all these people and levels of organisation will resist change. While proclaiming growth, they hold on to all their regulations in such a way that growth becomes a struggle against itself.

… growth needs HR …

[what a demeaning name: human resources — humans as a resource, like a fertilizer or an energy source]

People get hired. They are left unaware of the spirit of the founding friends, and will follow the rules that give them power and control like soldiers, later sergeants and majors, resisting any change … creating a kind of “Stanford Prison Experiment” (or why not, the NSA)

Somewhere in that process, most often, the original founders get pushed aside, or they leave themselves.

And so seemingly all by itself, the system, office, organisation, school, state, business …Β  has become a monster.
A system where following rules and regulations has completely replaced creativity and where the sentence:

“it’s not my duty to replace a light bulb”

will reverberate against the marble walls of the newly inaugurated headquarters …


Pictures by bvdb (whoisbert) march 2014 – @waterforest – Canon Ixus HS230 – IMG_6766-6767-6815-6817

15 thoughts on “forty years observing systems

  1. Bert I so enjoy your poetic style of writing… thank you for this courageous piece. Reminds me of what Scott Peck wrote of, the ‘shadow side’ of community. And as always thank you for sharing your outstanding photographic talent!

  2. I fully agree with your pessimistic analysis of most ‘systems’. But sometimes I wonder if they really were more flexible and meaningful and less bureaucratic back then? I also do remember my first jobs as less determined by “compliance”, “HR” etc. my and studying for my first degrees closer to the idea of an university as seems the modularized system today.

    But I wonder if I just glorify the past and if I simply didn’t see those things as I didn’t know yet how corporations and governmental agencies work in detail?

    • As long as you work with friends, everything is ok. This friends thing goes till about 25 people, and can be stretched even further. On the other hand, I saw the friends thing also go away as soon as there were more than 5. It depends on the individual characters, and the way people are hired, either by a founder, or by somebody else. It depends on the way authority is (ab)used or is not necessary to get things done. But once the system itself becomes the identity, there is no way back.

      • Yes – that’s true! I have also seen some small, flexible and unbureaucratic companies grow beyond some magic limit. Then they hired new managers, wanted to implement “processes” and “behave like a grown-up corporation”. Or the company was sold and became just a small department within a large corporation.

        • Yep! Too many different mindsets, and you get a society πŸ™‚ So the people who founded should never give their power to hire away to shareholders with a money agenda, or in order to save time for themselves to an HR who will only hire on the criterium of qualification(s) and certificates.
          … and it gets even much worse when external recruiters are used to do the hiring.

  3. Really interesting post, Bert. I have worked in the same company for close to fifteen years, and seen it grow from a few to nearly fifty, and oh my the challenges… A lot of good people, trying to do good things, but it can be so challenging to realize life is not interested in any sort of stagnation or status quo. Likewise, we are all equals in the eyes of impermanence, eh!? It veritably demands continued growth and reconciliation of the heart, or obstacles magnify…


  4. Interesting post and serendipitous and you will know why at the end of my comment.
    Every second or micro second or whatever the smallest unit of time is (I think you defined it in your post but not sure what it meant 😊), is different from the last and the next. We are in constant flux and change, the constant present. Just watched Eckhart Tolle on the present… well worth listening to if you can spare the time. He is also very funny– a sign of enlightenment. Here he is:

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