[FoRK] Coordination is hard

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Tue Feb 2 12:28:21 PST 2010

Bill Stoddard wrote:
> On 2/2/10 10:53 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
>> On the democracy / government / scalability front...  Hanson, today:
>>   http://www.overcomingbias.com/2010/02/coordination-is-hard.html
>> Nb., these comments are true of any "organization" --- i.e., group of 
>> individuals ostensibly attempting to accomplish an overall goal or 
>> variety of goals cooperatively / by working together, leveraging each 
>> others' work, yet with potentially dissimilar or even competing 
>> interests and priorities and subgoals.  Several things make this 
>> acutely difficult in government, which are nonetheless fundamental to 
>> the very ideas and nature of "government."
>> But it's no less a problem in e.g. companies.  The interesting bit, 
>> from my perspective, is that there are increasingly compelling 
>> existence proofs (Google, Netflix, etc.)  that effectiveness at real 
>> corporate scale requires a high level of "stigmergy" --- i.e., 
>> disorganization and decentralized, ad hoc coordination.  But there 
>> are also very good proofs that this *fails* to work in many cases.  
>> Understanding what allows it to work in some but not in others would, 
>> I think, be useful.  (I have my own conjectures about that, but will 
>> keep them to myself for now.)
> Perhaps a goal that lends itself to being understand by 
> 'organizational instinct'?    Every member of the organization can 
> relate, almost instinctively, to the business goal.  In those cases, 
> stigmergy 'works'.

Core principles, BHAG (g==goal), etc.  "Built to Last." et al.

You can have all of that and still fail if you undermine the autonomy 
and power of individuals in various ways, which most organizations do.  
However those aspects are fundamentally needed.

You could argue effectively that any group within an organization that 
is not actively working towards these goals can sabotage the whole 
effort.  Working directly against the core principles and goals is even 

>> jb

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