Team 1: ”Revisiting the Socio-ecological, Socio-technical and Socio-psychologi …

Proceedings of the IFSR Conversation 2012, St. Magdalena, Linz, Austria
Team 1: ”Revisiting the Socio-ecological, Socio-technical and Socio-psychological Perspectives” (TEAM REPORT)

David Ing , CND ( )
Merrelyn Emery , AUS ( )
Debora Hammond , USA ( )
Gary Metcalf , USA ( )
Minna Takala , FIN (, Reporter / primary author

Abstract: In this paper we address selected but basic concepts and models created in the Tavistock Institute that seem to offer insights into active adaptation and organizational design, especially those that have established track records for establishing open and democratic organizations. We revisit the socio-ecological perspective, including turbulent environments, as well as the socio-technical and socio-psychological perspectives. Firstly, we introduce the background and history of these concepts and give a short description of each, along with further developments in the area. We address transitions between Design Principle 1 (DP1) and Design Principle 2 (DP2) organizational structures through selected examples, and later apply these concepts in the current dynamic and fast changing organizational structures emerging in the globalized service economy.
Keywords: Tavistock Institute, socio-ecological system, social-technical system, socio-psychological system, turbulent environments, organizational design, Design Principle 1, Design Principle 2, change management, empowerment, Living Labs, innovation

“The choice is between whether a population seeks to enhance its chances of survival by strengthening and elaborating special social mechanisms of control or increasing the daptiveness of its individual members.”
(Emery and Trist 1973, p. 71)

The Conversation within Team 1 began around a general triggering question: “In which ways is the Tavistock legacy still relevant, and in which ways might these ideas be advanced and/or refreshed (for the globalized/service economy)?” The thought at the time that the team was being formed was that the legacy of Tavistock and the material that came out of it were quite well known, but that the ideas had fallen out of use and possibly even currency. Through the contributions of Merrelyn Emery to the team, it became apparent very quickly that there were many gaps in information (at least by the other four team members), and varying interpretations of both the history and the theories. That turned the focus for the first part of the week into clarifying and correcting what was known and understood.
Our aim was to revisit and discuss the background and history especially related to the three original perspectives of open systems theory (OST), the socio-ecological, socio-technical and sociopsychological. Within and across these perspectives we explored changing environments, particularly the current turbulent environment, the genotypical organizational design principles (DP1 and DP2), the methods of search conferences and participative design workshops as well as the conditions for successful implementation. The intent was to understand more about the time and the people who developed these concepts and methods, how they worked together and the original inspirations for both theoretical models and empirical applications.

Figure 1a Team 1 – working at IFRS Conversations 2012 at Linz, Austria

Figure 1a Team 1 – working at IFRS Conversations 2012 at Linz, Austria

Figure 1b Team 1 – working at IFRS Conversations 2012 at Linz, Austria

Figure 1b Team 1 – working at IFRS Conversations 2012 at Linz, Austria

In Brief
The work done at the Tavistock institute in its creative period was characterized by Eric Trist as comprising 3 perspectives:

  • The socio-ecological in which the social system transacts with an environment, external to itself but co-implicate with it such that system and environment are mutually self determining and jointly produce outcomes. At the organizational level, a structure created to explore its environment is a socio-ecological organization.
  • The socio-technical which consists of social and technical or technological systems which may or may not be jointly optimized, i.e. may or may not have been designed to ensure that the two systems jointly contribute to the best possible human and organizational outcomes.
  • The socio-psychological differs from the socio-technical only in the fact that it is people rather than technology that constitute the second system, i.e. it is a people-to-people system. As people are all purposeful systems while technology in all its forms is only goal-seeking (Ackoff & Emery, 1972), working with socio-psychological systems to jointly optimize them is more complex and demanding.

As Team 1 learnt during its conversation, the original work done at the Tavistock has evolved into a coherent and comprehensive conceptual framework known as Open Systems Theory. It has also spawned many different variations in different continents and cultures. However, it is a tribute to its pioneers and their cohort of collaborators around the world that it remains relevant and valuable to many attempting to solve today’s systemic problems.
1. Background and history
Much of the history of Tavistock, and many articles by its members, can be found in the online version of the Tavistock Anthology: Seeing articles written to capture ideas formally, in retrospect, though, gives little indication about how the ideas came to be, or of the relationships between the people involved.
The Tavistock Clinic had been founded in 1920 by Dr. Hugh Crichton-Miller in London. (The name was apparently associated with the original location, close to the Tavistock Square in London.) It had been established to treat “shell-shocked” soldiers during and after World War I (along with other child and adult maladies). The group was taken more formally into the British military in World War II, where it continued its work with trauma and also expanded into other areas, including officer selection. Tavistock had been funded by the British military during the World War II, and after the war new funding sources were needed. Tavistock operated mainly in two areas. On one side the focus was on organizational development and the other side operated with mental health and psychology. Following WWII, the clinical portion of Tavistock became a part of Britain’s newly formed National Health Service, with John Bowlby as its head. In 1946, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations was founded as a separate organization, funded initially by the Rockefeller Foundation, and headed by Eric Trist. The Tavistock Institute focused on organizational development, and turned towards governmental and business organizations.
Lewin, Lippitt and White’s (1939) research on group climates, as well as the initial concepts about action research developed by Kurt Lewin (1938), contributed to the early work at Tavistock Institute. Kurt Lewin had immigrated to the US in 1933 (the same year that he met Eric Trist, briefly, in Cambridge). Working at the time in Iowa, he conducted a series of studies on group climates, using groups of school children. That classic work of Lewin et al (1939) was widely known to social scientists around the world, and was foundational in the development of group and organizational work, particularly socio-technical systems and later the design principles underlying autocracy, participative democracy and laissez-faire. As stated by Merrelyn Emery,

These laboratory experiments established that there were only three group climates, now known to be structural genotypes; autocracy (now technically termed bureaucracy) democracy, and laissez-faire (essentially a non-structure). In addition, they established that these structures have profound and predictable effects on the people who live and work within them, regardless of the personalities involved (personal communication.)

Lewin founded the National Training Labs (NTL) in Bethel, Maine, in 1947, just a year after the Tavistock Institute was formed. Despite the timing and collaboration, there was no formal connection between Tavistock and NTL.
Apart from Lewin and his group, there was also a great deal of international exchange and collaboration which helped to develop the concepts associated with socio-technical systems and open systems more generally, which happened in and around professional meetings and conferences. This included people such as Russ Ackoff, Ross Ashby, West Churchman, Lou Davis and Einar Thorsrud, in addition to Eric Trist, Fred Emery, and others who are typically associated with the work. This collaboration continued well into the 1980s until serious divergences between the continents were confirmed (Emery, 2000).
Another foundational figure in this history was Andras Angyal (see: While Ludwig von Bertalanffy is the name associated with open systems for most people today, as Merrelyn explained, “everyone had read Andras Angyal, and almost no one [in those groups] spoke of Bertalanffy.”
As Merrelyn explained in her keynote talk to the 2012 European Meeting on Cybernetics and Systems Research ( ,

There is one other property of human beings and that property creates the need for a genuinely open systems social science: it is the demonstrable fact of consciousness defined as “awareness of awareness” (Chein, 1972, p95; Emery M, 1999, pp70-80). von Bertalanffy’s (1950) formulation of an open system was a brilliant step forward and probably still covers the great mass of animate creatures on Earth. He is rightly called the Father of Open Systems but his conceptualization deals only with people as bodies. There can be little doubt that we are physically adapted to our planet but when we contemplate consciousness, it becomes obvious that we must go beyond von Bertalanffy. ( pdf, p. 6.)

It was primarily the theories of Angyal, then, rather than Bertalanffy, on which Open Systems Theory, with its three perspectives, was founded. Angyal acknowledged systems in an environment where an organism is always subject to the forces of autonomy, acting on the environment, and heteronomy, the environment acting on the organism. These relations are dynamic and ever-changing so “life is an autonomous dynamic event which takes place between the organism and the environment” (Angyal, 1941, p. 48, added emphasis). A system is defined by its system principle, unitas multiplex or construction principle (Anygal 1941, p. 259). This principle expresses the unique relation between the entity and the environment, governs the behaviour of the system and the arrangement of its parts. For human beings, there are two major tendencies, autonomy which asserts the individuality of the person and homonomy which expresses the need to participate in or belong to a unit larger than the self, such as a group or community. Mentally healthy people have a relative balance between the two tendencies.
Emery & Trist (1965) took Angyal’s exposition one stage further as follows (Fig. 2): The open system shows that system and environment and their interrelations are mutually determining and governed by laws (L) which are able to be known. When the system (designated ‘1’) acts upon the environment (designated ‘2’) we say the system is planning (L12). Environment acts upon the system and is known to us through ecological learning (L21). L11 and L22, express the intrinsic natures of the system and environment respectively. The laws that govern them are implicitly learnt about in the Search Conference. The environment, the L22, is defined as the extended social field of directive correlations with a causal texture (Emery & Trist 1965; Emery F, 1977) where the nature of the extended social field affects the behavior of all systems within it. This conceptualization provides both a conceptual, historical and practical framework for cultural change and its fluctuating adaptivity.
The social field is a directly observable, objective entity in its own right. As a field, not a system, its laws are very different from the laws governing systems. The inclusion of a discrete social environment is the major defining difference between an open and closed systems social science. What Emery & Trist achieved in 1965 was the completion of the conceptualization of the open system that von Bertalanffy so admirably started (Emery, 2012, p. 6)

Figure 2. The Open System and Directive Correlation (From Emery (2012). IFSR Conversations 2012

Figure 2. The Open System and Directive Correlation (From Emery (2012). IFSR Conversations 2012

The two parts of Figure 2 illustrate the only differences between the open system and directive correlation which are that the open system is a picture of a point in time with change expressed through learning and planning while the directive correlation is a picture over time. The open system includes adaptive and maladaptive relations while the directive correlation expresses precisely when adaptation is or is not occurring.
According to Merrelyn, the strict reliance on Angyal’s, Sommerhoff’s and Emery & Trist’s formulations distinguished the work that she did with Fred Emery and others in Australia from later work by Trist or Ackoff.

We stuck with the time-based Search Conference where probabilities of various scenarios change over time while Ackoff went with time-free ‘idealized design’ (Ackoff, 1974, p30). Neither Ackoff nor Trist ever used the design principles which underpinned all our work (Trist, 1986). The Australian group stayed with Angyal’s system principle, the unique relation between L22 and L11, and the organizational design principles that determine the shape of the L11…while Trist worked on referent organizations and domain theory (Trist, 1983) (pp. 3-4).

The study most often associated with the Tavistock Institute and socio-technical systems was done by Trist and Bamforth (1951). It began at the Midlands coal field in the UK, in the Haigmoor seam, in 1949. Essentially, it was the time in which mechanized equipment was being introduced into the coal mines in Britain. The changes in technology cut across the traditional social structures of the miners which consisted of self-managing groups without supervision. And while there was some division of labor within groups, there was also a fully shared responsibility for the processes and outcomes. This shared sense of responsibility extended beyond the mine itself into the families and communities. Imposing a factory-like structure on the mining operations created three shifts and seven separate roles. The new technology created high expectations of increased productivity but productivity declined. Rather than the dramatic economic benefits expected, there was an increase in mental illness, absenteeism and accidents amongst other phenomena (Trist and Bamforth, 1951).
“The social scientists discovered a pattern of four interrelated `defence mechanisms’ against the new work patterns. Named Informal Organization (forming cliques), Individualism (competition, playing politics), Scapegoating (passing the buck) and Withdrawal (absenteeism, `psychosomatic’ illness), they corresponded exactly to the effects of bureaucratic structure found in 1939, thereby demonstrating that the relation of structure and effect held regardless of artificial or real setting. Needless to say, the only cure was to design and implement a variation of the old team structure geared to the new technologies. Socio-technical analysis was born” (Emery M, 1993, p12).

Figure 3 Merrelyn Emery sharing her experiences and views on the socio-ecological, sociotechnical and socio-psychological perspectives, IFSR Conversations 2012

Figure 3 Merrelyn Emery sharing her experiences and views on the socio-ecological, sociotechnical
and socio-psychological perspectives, IFSR Conversations 2012

Because of this development, Tavistock Institute was invited to work together with government, labor organizations and companies to revitalize industry and enhance productivity in Norway through the Norwegian Industrial Democracy program (1962 – 67, Emery & Thorsrud, 1969, 1976). They were continuing the work to develop socio-technical approach in a real context and it was during this program that Fred Emery discovered the genotypical design principles (Emery, 1967). Thesedemocratic structures were gradually picked up by other Scandinavian companies and spread around the world. In the late 1960’s Russel Ackoff invited Fred Emery to his program Social System Science, Wharton Business School, University of Philadelphia. And in 1969 Fred Emery returned to Australia. There the ideas were developed further and elaborated in several areas such as the ideals, towards a fully consolidated theory and practice of active adaptation (Emery F, 1977; Emery M, 1999).

Table 2 Chronology of Tavistock Institute, Eric Trist and Fred Emery and the Socio-ecological, Social-technical and Socio-psychological Perspectives
1920: Tavistock Clinic Founded in the UK
• Initial Focus on Shell-shocked Soldiers
• Developed Expertise in Group Relations, Social Psychiatry and Action Research Military Funding through WWII
1939: Lewin, Lippitt & White, Group Climate Experiments
• Establishment of Autocracy, Democracy and Laissez-Faire
• Action Research
1946: Split after War
• Tavistock Clinic (National Health System) – John Bowlby
Tavistock Institute for Human Relations – Eric Trist
1947: Lewin Founded NTL (National Training Labs)
• Applied Social Psychology
• Interpersonal Dynamics
• T-Groups
1954: Center for Advanced Study of the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) Founded Bertalanffy, Boulding, Gerard, Rapoport Found SGSR/ISSS 1951: Trist and Bamforth, Coal Mining Experiment Owners brought in new technology that destroyed older more collaborative working arrangements – birth of sociotechnical systems
1951: Fred Emery – One year fellowship at Tavistock
1957: Emery comes to UK, joins Tavistock
1959: First Search Conference
1965 – Trist and Emery paper on “Causal texture of Organizational Environment” 1962 – 1967: Norwegian Industrial Democracy Program
• Joint Project of Government, Labor & Employers
• Reports published in English, 1969 and 1976
Eric Trist
1966: Trist to UCLA
1967: Trist to Penn w/ Russ Ackoff Social System Science (S3) – Tavistock West at Wharton Business School
Fred Emery:
1968: Emery to CASBS
1969: Emery returns to Australia
1971: Development of First Participative Design Workshop (PDW)
• DP1 -> DP2
1972: First Search Conference (SC) in Australia
1972: Ackoff & Emery, On Purposeful Systems

2. Introduction of concepts
How people organize themselves to work collaboratively and towards shared or common purposes, continues to interest social scientists, management scholars and leaders. Cooperative work continues to be essential in micro businesses, the start-up phases of many organizations, large corporations, and in governmental as well as non-governmental organizations. When the world continuously changes around us, people and organizations look for new ways of working together, in order to change and adapt. This is increasingly important in the globalized service economy.
Currently we are facing global challenges that affect all our lives. These challenges include the 2009 financial crisis and a faltering global economy, climate change with the related deterioration of the biosphere, and at the local level unemployment, poverty and institutionalized disadvantage. At the same time there is an increased focus on innovation as people try to solve these problems. New organizational structures emerge to support entrepreneurship and new ways of working. The concepts originally developed in the Tavistock Institute seem to be very relevant and offer possible solutions for current challenges.
2.1. Socio–ecological, socio-technical and socio-psychological perspectives
As the Team 1 conversation developed we went further into the socio-ecological, socio-technical and socio-psychological perspectives and how they could be used, advanced and refreshed for the future. More of the week was spent digging into the basic constructs, understanding, for instance, exactly what was meant by Design Principle 1 (DP1) and Design Principle 2 (DP2), and their differences. There were also questions about how the Design Principles related to the different causal texture of environments which had been described (Types I to V, see the next page).
OST as a conceptual framework encompasses different levels of system and environment which are used in various combinations depending on purposes and the nature of the systems concerned, from the family to organizations and communities to the larger society. The immediate environment of an organization may be the global industry in which it operates and this is called the “task environment.” It is documented and analyzed in the Search Conference in same way as the global L22, with the emphasis on the most relevant trends, those elements which affect the relationships and functioning of the system in question, not “everything out there.”
The full conceptualization of active adaptation in practice involves both the socio-ecological perspective and one or more socio-technical or –psychological systems.
2.1.1. Socio-ecological perspective – Causal texture of environment

The basis of the socio-ecological perspective was first published by Fred Emery and Eric Trist in Human Relations (1965a/Vol.III), “The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments.” In their paper they argued the need for a thorough conceptualization of the open system and documented the changing “causal texture of the environment” over historical time as these contexts have been impacted by technological and other change – at an ever-increasing rate, and toward increasing complexity. As causal textures change so organizations must change to remain adaptive.
As seen in Figure 2, L11 refers to processes within the organization – the area of internal interdependencies and connections. L12 and L21 refer to transactions between the organization and its environment – the area of transactional interdependencies, from either direction from inside out and from outside in; planning and learning. L22 refers to processes through which parts of the environment become related to each other – i.e. producing its causal texture.
Emery & Trist documented four types of environment and discussed the effect of these four environments upon an organization existing in each type of environment. Subsequently, much work has been done on these environments and Baburoglu (1988) explored the fifth type. The first four environments from the simplest through to most complex are explained next.
Environment Typologies
Emery and Trist, (1965) classified environments by the nature of their internal interlocking relations. They defined four environmental fields or external social environments (L22) by their causal textures:

  • Type I – Placid, randomized environments
  • Type II – Until 1793. Placid, clustered environments, clustered as in nature.
  • Type III – 1793-1953. Disturbed, reactive environments, still with stable value systems although competition replaced cooperation
  • Type IV – 1953 to the present. Turbulent or dynamic environments
  • Type V – vortex environments, where focus is in mere survival (Emery and Trist 1972)

Type I – a placid, random environment is one in which value systems are stable with advantageous and negative resources occurring at random. In placid random environments there is no distinction between strategy and tactics (Emery and Trist 1965). Examples of Type 1 environment are e.g. flea markets and concentration camps where the best tactic is ‘grab it while you can’. Type I doesn’t exist in nature but humans can approximate it.
Type II lasted from the dawn of human history to roughly 1793, the birth of the industrial revolution. It is by far the most adaptive environment people have as yet created. It was characterized by cooperation because people commonly employed the form of organization based on DP2 (see below). The ancient cultures, remnants of which still exist on most continents as our Aboriginal and First Nation peoples, have been extensively studied by archaeologists and anthropologists. Their work leaves little doubt that these cultures were socially sophisticated, peaceful, intimately tied to the land and highly knowledgeable about how the biosphere works (Emery M, 1982). These were social fields isomorphic with the physical world as the organizations and associated cultures mimicked processes seen in nature and were cooperative with laws of nature. Meaningful learning is all that is required for adaptation.
Type III came into being at the beginning of the industrial revolution because as the factory system was built, labour was recruited from the nearby towns and farms. These people worked in groups (DP2 structures) and lived in rhythms dominated by the sun and the seasons, whether in the fields or in cottage industries. They proved unreliable when required to abide by mechanistic factory time and rules. To ensure reliable behaviour, the owners introduced supervisors and when the supervisors proved unreliable, supervisors of the supervisors. For the first time in the West, we had the widespread application of DP1 with its inherent competition. As these DP1 organizations grew so we had large bureaucratic organizations competing for the world’s finite resources. Strategy involves a win/lose game with the competition.
Type III came to a slow demise at the end of World War I with the breakdown of the assumptions that had governed the subjection of the people to the state. Since 1945-53 we have been living in a new environment, the Type IV, an unintended consequence of adopting the world hypothesis of mechanism (Pepper, 1942; Emery M, 1999). People finally reacted to the Type III environment, rejecting its assumptions and structures and increasingly taking things into their own hands (Emery F, 1978). As the rug was pulled out from the basis of the stable value system, people were left to derive their new value system and they are still in the process of sorting out what they really value. The Type IV environment is known as ‘turbulent’ because it is characterized by rapid value shifts and discontinuities.
Type IV, therefore is a dynamic rather than a stable environment. Emery and Trist (1965) argue that the dynamic characteristics arise not only from transactions between the systems within the environment but from the field itself – ‘the ground moves’. It is characterized by relevant uncertainty on top of high complexity. Emery and Trist (1965) suggest that for organizations involved with a turbulent environment, the appropriate response is to establish a relationship that transforms the environment into one of the other kinds of environment where less uncertainty exists. These relationships could form organizational matrices or “relationships between dissimilar organizations whose fates are, basically, positively correlated” (p.29), e.g. suppliers or alliance partners. They further hypothesized that certain social values would emerge as coping mechanisms.
Type V, environment Vortex is a consequence of the dynamic processes set in motion by the unplanned consequences of actions taken by one or more stakeholders may develop into what Emery and Trist call “autochthonous processes” (Emery and Trist 1972)
Subsequently, a great deal of empirical and theoretical work has shown that it is the set of human ideals (Emery F, 1977) which only emerge in DP2 structures, that has the power to bring this field under control (Emery M, 1999). Adaptive strategy involves knowing and monitoring the L22 and becomes active adaptive when the strategy influences change in that L22.
Merrelyn presented examples of addressing the environment of the system as the first phase of the Search Conference – see Figure 5. . In the design of the event, it is essential that any system must examine changes in the world around us (the L22) and analyze these by projecting the most desirable and probable worlds. Without this work, a system has no chance of establishing an active adaptive relationship with the L22. Once this formative work has been done, the system can concern itself with its history, its current situation, its most desirable and sustainable future (the L11), the possible constraints and how to deal with them and finally integrate all its learning into action plans that will achieve that most desirable future.

Figure 5 - Examples of addressing the environment of the system as the first phase of the Search Conference, IFSR Conversations 2012

Figure 5 – Examples of addressing the environment of the system as the first phase of the Search
Conference, IFSR Conversations 2012

A community emerging through the Search Conference is a socio-ecological system.
2.1.2. Socio-technical perspective
The socio-technical concept arose in conjunction with the first of several field projects undertaken by the Tavistock Institute in the coal-mining industry in Britain. The time (1949) was that of the postwar reconstruction of industry in relation to which the Institute had two action research projects. One project was concerned with group relations in depth at all levels (including the management/labor interface) in a single organization – an engineering company in the private sector. The other project focused on the diffusion of innovative work practices and organizational arrangements that did not require major capital expenditure but which gave promise of raising productivity. The former project represented the first comprehensive application in an industrial setting of the socio-clinical ideas concerning groups being developed at the Tavistock. For this purpose a novel action research methodology inspired by the work of Kurt Lewin was introduced. Nevertheless, the organization was approached exclusively as a social system. The second project considered the technical as well as the social system and postulated that the relations between them should constitute a new field of inquiry (Trist & Murray, Vol 2).
Socio-technical systems used to involve intensive work by teams of expert social scientists analyzing the social and technical systems with the outcome of jointly optimizing those systems to the benefit of both the workers and organizational performance, i.e. maximizing the best of both systems for those benefits. Since the discovery of the genotypical design principles and the development of the Participative Design Workshop, the design work is done by those who work in the organization while the social scientists work only to transfer their social science knowledge through briefings to these organizational members in the process of managing the workshops (Emery & Emery, 1974).
2.1.3. Socio-psychological perspective
Socio-psychological organizations are those where people replace the technical system. Examples are schools, hospitals and prisons. Historically, the source concepts which gave rise to the sociopsychological perspective are psychoanalytic object relations theory, Lewinian field theory, the personality-culture approach and the theory of open systems. An ideal was to keep alive in one’s experience the reality of the person, the group, the organization and the wider society, so that one could sense their interconnections. It was also thought desirable at the Tavistock to maintain contact with projects in more than one social sector – not, for example, to spend all one’s time in industrial projects. The experience of these projects has led to further conceptual developments. Usually more than one of the source concepts had been drawn on in order to obtain a better understanding of what was taking place or what had to be designed (Trist & Murray, 1993, Vol I).
The original Tavistock Clinic members came from a wide variety of backgrounds, and as noted earlier, worked on projects ranging from “shell shock” (now known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) to candidate selection of military officers, to organizational functioning. During the early years, though, all recognized the value of psychological understanding and self-awareness. Even after the split between the Tavistock Clinic and the Tavistock Institute, following World War II, the practitioners in the Institute continued to undergo psychoanalytic training as part of their self-development. Only later was that practice abandoned.
Today, socio-psychological organizations are turned into active adaptive, jointly optimized systems in exactly the same way as are socio-technical organizations but are more complex with more steps involved.
2.2. Design Principles DP1 and DP2
In the IFSR Conversation we discussed the organizational design principles DP1 and DP2 with Merrelyn in detail in order to understand how they affect the ways in which people work together. Since the 1970s, these principles have been one the key concepts of active adaptation as expressed in planning and design. It is, therefore, critical that they are clearly understood.
The first design principle (DP1) is called ‘redundancy of parts’ because there are more people than are required to do whatever, the activity is. Its other critical feature is that responsibility for coordination and control is located one level above where a particular activity is being performed. People are treated as replaceable parts, cogs in the machine. DP1 produces the organizational structures called ‘bureaucratic’ or ‘hierarchical’ where the hierarchy is one of dominance. A DP1 structure is one in which everyone, except the person at the top, is licensed to be irresponsible (Emery, M, 2000).
Figure 6 - Design Principle 1 – DP 1, IFSR Conversations 2012

Figure 6 – Design Principle 1 – DP 1, IFSR Conversations 2012

The second design principle (DP2) is called ‘redundancy of functions’ because more skills and knowledge are built into each person than they can use at any one given time. Responsibility for coordination and control is located where activities are being performed. It produces organizational structures called ‘democratic’, participative not representative. Participative democratic organizations, particularly large ones, may still contain a flat hierarchy but this is a hierarchy of functions, not dominance, where different levels negotiate as peers in order to accomplish the goals of the whole. Contrary to DP1 structures, DP2 structures motivate.
Figure 7 - Design Principle 2 – DP 2, IFSR Conversations 2012

Figure 7 – Design Principle 2 – DP 2, IFSR Conversations 2012

The design principles are very powerful and affect many human behaviours, competition versus cooperation, the quantity and quality of communication, group dynamics and the human affect or emotional system which contributes in turn to the quality of mental health.
These design principles operate at all levels and sectors of society. They underlie the nature of political or governance systems in the same way as the structure of single organizations. Representative political systems derive from DP1. Alternatives flowing from DP2 have existed and currently exist (Emery F 1976a & b, 1989). A participative democracy, therefore, is a system structured entirely on DP2. That is, all subsystems (organizations and communities) and their interrelationships are democratic as well as its overall system of governance. A participative democracy is an open responsible system. (Emery, M. 2000)
2.3. Participative Design Workshop
The Participative Design Workshop (PDW) – was developed in 1971 to replace the old method of STS that had been developed from 1949-1967. It was tested in many organizations and continuously modified until it became fully reliable and fully flexible to change the design principle throughout any organization. There are two versions of the PDW, one for the redesign of existing structures and one for design from scratch. The PDW produces an active adaptive (DP2) system, one in which all people are responsible and motivated to achieve shared goals, and who know how and why to maintain it. Different phases- analysis, change and practicalities, required briefings and the main tasks in each phase are introduced in the Table 3. The version of the PDW for redesign is given in Table 3.

Table 3 Phases of Participative Design Workshop – PDW
Phase 1. Analysis Phase 2. Change Phase 3. Practicalities
Briefing 1 – Design Principle 1 and its effects Briefing 2 – Design Principle 2 and its effects Briefing 3 – What Is Required to Make the Redesign Work
  • Groups complete matrix for 6 psychological requirements of productive activity.
  • Groups complete matrix of skills available.
  • Reports and diagnostics
  • Groups draw up work flow for information and learning.
  • Groups draw up organizational structure and redesign it.
  • Reports.
Groups spell out:

  • a comprehensive set of measurable goals
  • essential training requirements for start-up (from skills matrix)
  • other requirements, e.g. mechanisms for coordination, changes in layout or technology, etc.
  • first draft of career paths based on pay for skills and knowledge.
  • how the redesign improves scores on the 6 criteria.

For designing from scratch (greenfields) a modified PDW is hung onto the Search Conference. Unless the system affords the learning and support for learning that is required for implementation of the new system principle that welds the previous community or the new organization into an active adaptive system, the work of the Search Conference will ultimately be wasted. The PDW following a search Conference, therefore, answers the question ‘how do we organize ourselves to ensure that we reach our Most Desirable Future?’
2.4. Search Conference method
Since the first Search Conference in 1959 (Trist & Emery 1960) theory and practice have undergone intensive integrated development. The first version of Search Conference was conducted in the UK and it was developed further over many years. The first Search Conference in Australia was held in 1972 and again tested and modified to meet the full range of communities, organizations, industries and issues that could benefit from its application.
The Search Conference is an intensive event in the middle of an extended period of preparation and planning and an infinite implementation. Its success depends upon the quality of the preparation and the structures consciously understood and built into the implementation phase as well as design and management of the event itself.
The external structure (design) of the SC is a translation of the open system into practice. The content consists of learning about (and also learning how to use) the environment (L22) and system (L11), and integrating them for active adaptation between changing system and the changing environment. The process consists of integrated learning (L21) and planning (L12).
The Search Conference (SC) establishes an active adaptive relationship between the system and the environment through the creation of a new system principle. The system principle is contained within the new set of strategic goals, the Most Desirable Future of the system. The Search uses our inbuilt capacity to directly extract meaning from the environment and creatively combine that meaning with our ideals. It answers the question ‘where and what do we want to be in year X?’
3. Application into current organizations
As the week progressed the team moved from a focus on history and theory (though those continued to be revisited) to questions about where and how the concepts and principles showed up today, in different kinds of organizations and circumstances. Indeed, many of the examples where self-managing work groups had been instituted no longer existed because they came into being before it was learnt how to secure them. This led to questions about transitions of structures within and between organizations. It was apparent that some groups (e.g. some kinds of start-ups) began as self-managing organizations and became more hierarchical as they grew and evolved. Sometimes large corporations or projects experimented with such structures in their efforts towards innovation. One specific example discussed was the building of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport, which seemed to function as a DP2 structure throughout the construction phase, but then dissolved entirely when it was handed over to operations. (This was explained in more depth by Hillary Sillitto, visiting from another Conversation team.) This example created an opportunity to discuss a number of aspects about design principles and organizational structures: ways in which the principles may be present in organizations with no connection to Tavistock or socio-ecogical work; transitions between structural forms in organizations, etc.
3.1. Transition between DP1 and DP2 structures
During the IFSR conversations we were discussing the organizational design principles in different contexts, different variations and different transitions between organizational structures. We were sharing examples of organizations and their development from the past as well as current transitions which are on-going. Possible transitions include transition from DP1 to DP2 structure as well as transitions from DP2 to DP1 structure. There are also mixed DP1 and DP2 structures as well as alternating DP1 and DP2 structures. We also discussed growth in DP2 structures. Some of these examples are described in the Table 4 below.

Table 4: Transitions between DP1 and DP2 structures
  DP1 → DP2 DP2 → DP1 Mixed DP1& DP2 Alternating DP1↔DP2 Growth DP2
Examples J. Robins – footwear
Heathrow Terminal 5 (build stage)
Harley Davidson
Mining company in UK
IBM consulting 1993-1996
Google, on-going
Nokia 2007 → exit from start-up phase
R&D departments
military organizations
emergency organizations
Gore Tex
Conditions for starting / for sustainability → Self initiated
* intense competition (L22)
* desire and intent to get better (L11)
* 3-5- yrs (no turning back) agreement between management and union (employees) in Australia EBA) Enterprise Bargaining Agreement → reward system is payment for skills and knowledge held; comprehensive set of goals for each group → min 4 people, usually 10 – 15, max 26 self managing group
→ search for efficiency
→ global scale
→ competition
→ accounting systems ? belief system
management paradigm
– must be conscious, conceptual knowledge of design principles
* ambidextrous forms
* different situations and environmental fluctuations
* cellular organization, new units when more than 150 people

3.2. Modern and temporary DP2 Structures
Organizational design principles DP1 and DP2 also apply to modern and temporary organizations. We were discussing examples when organizations are created and planned to operate according to DP2 structures and the conditions for starting and required for working well and sustainably. The organizational forms discussed were organizations in the start-up phase, when they are created to operate as DP2 structures, networked DP2 structures, temporary DP2 structures and unofficial DP2 structures. Some of examples are described in the Table 5.

Table 5: Modern and temporary DP2 Structures
  0 → DP2 Networked DP2 Temporary DP2 Unofficial DP2
Examples Start –up companies
Aurora mine at Syncrude
Aalto Venture Garage
Open source communities
Iron Sky movie & audience participation
Living Labs
Entrepreneurial Hubs
Hack camps / hack athlons
Skunk works
Search conferences
Communities of practice
Voluntary projects
Shadow organizations behind official DP1 structures
Conditions starting / for working well → green field for the site, replicated from other unit
→ new ”garage shops” (with no MBAs)
→ small entrepreneurial team
→ network of equals
→ new form of legal agreements e.g. CC – creative commons and
open source licensing
→ agreement working WITH each other
→ enough trust to get started
→ common shared goal / intent
→ common interest
→ redundancy
→ motivation
→ encouragement
→ recognition of deficiency in organization
→ enabling communication platform, social IT

4. Conditions for Success
During the sessions we also discussed the conditions for success and Merrelyn introduced us to the 4 conditions for influential communication and the 6 Psychological Requirements for productive work (known as the 6 Criteria, for short). The following four conditions have been identified as important for organizations and their operations, for starting, for sustaining and for working well. The four conditions are openness, basic psychological similarity, shared field and trust.
4.1. Four conditions for influential communication (from Asch, 1952)
4.1.1. Openness
Openness is critical for honest discussion and trust and it should be addressed on two levels. Good designs and methods have features to maximize openness. Wherever possible, the planning for an event must be itself participative. The roles, values, and expectations of designers and managers, and the underlying strategy and long term goals, must be also open to inspection and clarified before work proper begins (Emery 2000). Secondly, all notes of joint discussion and plans are made clearly visible to all participants during the sessions. Such openness encourages trust and hence participation as all participants grow in confidence and become more open themselves.
4.1.2. Basic Psychological Similarity: We Are All Human with the Same Human Concerns
When working together towards their most desirable future, people realize they all share basic humanness and concerns. This session elicits the set of ideals and by allowing people an opportunity to share their ideals it not only makes them visible and real but it also almost inevitably confirms that there is an underlying level of concern with humanity and the state of the world. The usually unspoken presence of human ideals is no respecter of gender, race, status or age. By discussing and deciding upon a desirable future in either global or nearer terms, a modus vivendi for working together has been established; a benchmark for the possibility of more creative cooperative work towards common purposes. (Emery 2000)
4.1.3. Emergence of a Mutually Shared Field: we all live in the same world
Shared understanding of the L22 as a context for planning and action helps participants to create common ground. As everybody contributes to the emerging picture of the L22 with the items of data going up on flip charts, people recognize the reality that everybody perceives the same changes in the world around them, and that indeed, they do share a world. These notes then become the fundamental data available for analysis and then synthesis into most desirable or probable futures. Here they further realize that they all make the same meaning out of the data reinforcing the commonality. The data and scenarios remain in full view to function as check point and reality test for any subsequent proposals or plans. Accessible to all, this “big picture” of the environment (L22) serves amongst other purposes that of establishing the validity of the notion that we all live in the same world. Making shared notes can also help participants to question their own hidden assumptions and get on with the task of planning and redesigning their future along more desirable and adaptive lines. (Emery 2000)
4.1.4. Trust: The Development of Individuals as ‘Open Systems’
When the above 3 conditions are in place, trust accumulates over time as an individual comes to experience the openness of the world s/he shares with others and the mutual respect and consideration which is accruing from initiating greater depth in communication with the other. As such trust accumulates so do interpersonal relations strengthen and deepen, increasing the probability of mutual learning. For the management of any learning environment the emergence of this trust is an overarching responsibility, involving as it does the individual’s trust in his or her own perceptions and learning and the confidence of the group as a whole in its ability to assume responsibility for their futures (Emery 2000).
Trust accumulates to the extent that people find an opportunity to exercise care about their own and shared concerns and can put away gradually, without risk, the masks of passivity and dissociation. The resultant release of energy enhances challenge and consciousness and intensifies interpersonal engagement towards association with the task at hand. Therefore, it leads to more mutually supportive action. Without this spiral of trust, learning, energy and commitment, the process of implementation would be impossible. The three conditions – openness, our shared ideals with no division into us and them, and the acknowledgement of a shared objective field, are the essential preconditions for the development of trust. (Emery 2000)
4.2. Psychological Requirements for the 6 Criteria for DP 2 organizations
We also discussed the 6 Criteria for productive and creative activity which have been identified as important criteria for the successful implementation of DP2 organizational structures. They are invariably correlated with DP2 and inversely correlated with DP1 regardless of how much effort has been poured into ensuring employees have excellent pay and working conditions. The first three pertain to the individual who can have too little or too much and are measured from -5 to +5 where 0 is optimal. The second three pertain to the climate of the organization and of these you can never have too much. They are measured from 1-10. They have been routinely measured in countless surveys and Participative Design Workshops (PDWs) since 1971 (Emery, M., 1993). They provide a highly reliable measure of intrinsic motivation and quality of work regardless of the purpose or nature of the organization, including universities (Emery, M., 2000b). The criteria are presented in the Table 6.

Table 6: The 6 Psychological Requirements ( 6 Criteria)
1. Elbow Room, optimal autonomy in decision making -5 ….. 0 ….. +5
2. Continual Learning for which there must be a) some room to set goals b) receipt of accurate and timely feedback -5 ….. 0 ….. +5
3. Variety -5 ….. 0 ….. +5
4. Mutual Support and Respect, helping out and being helped out by others without request, respect for contribution rather than IQ for example 0 ……… 10
5. Meaningfulness which consists of a) doing something with social value b) seeing the whole product or service to which the individual contributes 0 ……… 10
6. A desirable Future, not having a dead end job. 0 ……… 10

4.3. Complementary approaches
During the IFSR conversations we also addressed various ways in which the socio-ecological, social-technical and socio-psychological perspectives might be advanced. The original concepts seem to be still very powerful for addressing the social challenges in global and in local contexts. However, a lot has happened since the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when these concepts were originally created. Information and communication technology and software development has provided new possibilities for communication, working and learning together. The recent development related to social computing and social media can offer new possibilities for implementing Participative Design Workshops and Search Conferences. During the session we addressed the concepts of “hacker ethic” by Steven Levy 1984 and Pekka Himanen. The idea of a
“hacker ethic” is perhaps best formulated in Steven Levy’s 1984 book, Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution. Both Levy (1984) and Himanen (2000) stated values by hackers related to work itself and about working together with others. Levy’s list consisted of sharing, openness, decentralization, free access to computers and world improvement. Himanen (2000) brought up passion, hard work, creativity and joy.

Figure 8 - The Principles of Management 2.0 – hackathon m2 principles, IFSR Conversations 2012

Figure 8 – The Principles of Management 2.0 – hackathon m2 principles, IFSR Conversations 2012

These principles of management are divided into elements – openness, community, meritocracy, activism, collaboration, meaning, autonomy, serendipity, decentralization, experimentations, speed and trust – are currently used in hackerfests, hackathons and hacklab events, where programmers come together to work, collaborate and compete. These new temporary and emergent organizational structures are clearly based on DP2 structures and they are applying similar principles as recommended in the original concepts of Tavistock Institute.
During the week several other possible views to complement the original socio-ecological sociotechnical and socio-psychological perspectives were brought up by the participants. We discussed commitment and language action by Fernando Flores. Alexander Lazlo visited the team and introduced us to Flores’ views of assertions, assessments, requests, promises, offers and declarations, narratives, vocabularies, conversations and speech acts. We discussed Tim Allen’s work on ‘complex’ and ‘complicated’ as well as life cycles of organization, different stages, sabotage and unintended consequences. Themes related to resources: matter and energy in natural systems and power in social systems were addressed. We also briefly addresses Kenneth Boulding’s 10 Images of change, which could provide an interesting framework, for looking into what has changed over the past 50 decades since the socio-ecological, socio-technical and socio-psychological perspectives were delineated. We considered operating with excess of resources and scarcity. We briefly visited human perceptions as well as beliefs, understanding, credibility, responsibility, ignorance and the limits of perception, knowing and understanding. The ‘communities of practice’ approach by Etienne Wenger was also brought up to address modern knowledge work in contemporary organizations.
5. Conclusions and the next steps
By the end of the week there were, as always, more new questions and possibilities than final conclusions and answers. It provided, however, a strong foundation for more research into active adaptive and self-managing systems.
After the IFSR meeting team members have been developing materials further. Materials have been used in several educational sessions and research projects. We are looking forward to investigating the area further both with complementary theories as well as empirical examples.
We would like to thank all the participants for their active discussion and valuable comments at the IFSR 2012 meeting at Linz. Participants provided information about other organizations that have applied DP2 practices in their structures – including Handelsbanken in Sweden, SEMCO in Austria and SOL in Finland.
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