Publication 6422

Smith P. A. C. & Sharicz C. A. (2013) The bi‐modal organization: Balancing autopoiesis and fluid social networks for sustainability. The Learning Organization 20(2): 134–152.
Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to assist an organization to restructure as a bi‐modal organization in order to achieve sustainability in today’s highly complex business world. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is conceptual and is based on relevant literature and the authors’ research and practice. Findings: Although fluid self‐organizing networks are the natural state for humankind, in most organizations “organizing” entails the process of autopoiesis. This process does not produce the open fluid organization that is required for success in today’s business world. While autopoiesis is taking place, informal socialization is taking place across the organization’s interpersonal networks. Under supportive conditions, this leads to the development of a bi‐modal organization where one or more open systems may emerge and co‐exist concurrently with the autopoietic system; these open systems include fluid networks and complex adaptive system. The bi‐modal organization achieves sustainability by balancing a certain amount of organization versus a certain amount of instability, leading to predictability with disorder, and planned long‐term strategy achieved through many concurrent short‐term actions. Research limitations/implications – Future research will involve an empirical study that will further examine the bi‐modal organization, its development, and its properties. Practical implications: The systems that surround a business organization now and for the foreseeable future are highly dynamic, competitive, and socially individualized, and demand a new organizational form and competencies that may only be exhibited by a bi‐modal organization based on an open system. The paper describes how an organization can restructure to become a bi‐modal organization. Social implications – The paper should help improve quality of work‐life and organizational structure. Originality/value – The paper describes a new organizational form designed to flourish in today’s complex business contexts.
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