Storytelling in systemicity and emergence

A third-order cybernetic

Authored by: David M. Boje , Tonya Wakefield

The Routledge Companion to Organizational Change

Print publication date:  October  2011
Online publication date:  October  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415556453
eBook ISBN: 9780203810279
Adobe ISBN: 9781136680908


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Emergence is to complexity as Mona Lisa’s smile is to mystery; it is the visible product of an underlying process at work. Emergent phenomena occur unpredictably but consistently exhibit familiar patterns that strike a chord in all of us, though we seldom understand why. For example, fractal patterns, the repeated artifacts of emergence, are self-similar across various scales and can be mathematically described using a power law (Johnson, 2007; Leibovitch, 1998; Ward, 2002). Mathematical symbology offers only one language for description of this polypi that science claims as its own, but which belongs to all of us and, above all to the storytelling organization. Just as linear equations cannot begin to express fractal dimensions, necessitating more exacting mathematics, systems thinking, including open systems thinking, cannot envelop the complexity and nuance of storytelling in its truest, unpoliticized sense. It is inadequate to address the multifaceted, holographic nature of complexity in human systems. To that end, Boje (2008) introduces the concept of systemicity, the “dynamic, unfinished, unfinalized, and unmerged, and the interactivity of complexity properties with storytelling and narrative properties” (p. 2).

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