The bottom-up hive mind will always take us much further that seems possible. It keeps surprising us. In this regard, the Wikipedia truly is exhibit A, impure as it is, because it is something that is impossible in theory, and only possible in practice. It proves the dumb thing is smarter than we think. At that same time, the bottom-up hive mind will never take us to our end goal. We are too impatient. So we add design and top down control to get where we want to go.
That is such a lovely and concise description of the benefits of bottom up organization combined with the benefits of top down. In some ways you could see this polarity as inside versus outside as well. For example, in chaordic organizational design, you see this manifest with the principles that are developed for action which are the collective expression that comes “top down” in a sense to guide the bottom up action of the individuals. There may be a group of people that cares for these principles and, by agreement of the rest of the group, maintains them in order to creatively constrain action. In that sense the organization is top down that allows for and opens space for bottom up agency.
To see this as inner and outer, it seems clear that from the outside, the rules for action come, but they exist to support and encourage the expression of individual volition, so that individuals, acting on their own drives and passions can connect with others to take responsibility for bringing things to life.
We have a real life example of this in the community that has collected around our learning centre here on Bowen Island. Just finishing its third year, the learning centre is a place for homeschooling families to connect with others, use the expertise of hired teachers and for the kids to supplement their homelearning with up to 2.5 days a week of work with others in a class room and resource rich setting. Each family is responsible for the learning of their own children and so we have a number of approaches being used in the community. Our family unschools, and other families use curriculum to various degrees. We are involved in a variety of activities outside of the learning centre but we also come together to work with and support each other.
The learning centre program is supported by a group of parents called the planning council who make top-down decisions about how things run at the centre. They hire the teachers, and look after the finances and also set and maintain the principles of the program. One of the principles is family participation, and so the organization runs as a bit of an Open Space. If you want something to happen, make it happen. If you need help, ask for help. Connect passion and responsibility within the principled parameters of the program and we can do stuff. If what you want doesn’t fit the program, find some other parents and offer it on your own. In this way we support 20 homelearning families, all with different styles, in a common set of activities. It works really well, and is actually surprisingly little work for the planning council. I think their biggest stress is not time per se but wrestling with the edges of the principles to maintain the integrity of the intention of the program. And that, it seems to me, is what top-down should do, while bottom up is taking care of the quality of the offerings and the details. It is, in the words of our Open Space practices, holding and supporting connection, to keep the space open for creative learning and offerings to occur.
[tags]Kevin Kelly, chaordic[/tags]