Organizations are dynamic systems comprising many interacting part-most important of which are its people-interacting over time. Could it be possible that, though there are thousands if not millions of human organizations with people relating to one another in an almost infinite number of ways, they might also eventually be reducible to similar basic "attractor" states? In other words, could we identify basic organizational attractors? Further, wouldn't it be the dominant practice, either rank or peer based, that would create the specific type of organization?
It is not difficult to imagine that, in the course of their interaction, relationships between humans will acquire a recurrent pattern, which might evolve into predictable structures that grow more complex over time. Hierarchy certainly is an attractor in human relationships, found wherever people interact over long periods of time. This helps explain the prominence and durability of hierarchical organizations. Hierarchy is merely an organizational attractor.
I wondered what would be the other attractors in human organizational relationships and how could understanding these shapes be of use in the management of companies, especially since the conditions today seem ripe for a decisive transition. Altogether, I found four attractors in human organizational relationships based on inspiration from chaos theory.
The "Big Chief" organization
The hierarchical organization
The open organization
The leaderless organization
How these four types of organizations factor in the evolution of an organization from rank based to peer based is described in ensuing chapters.