An interesting paper

Dr I Price (
Mon, 23 Jun 1997 06:34:11 -0400

Date: Mon, 23 Jun 1997 06:34:11 -0400
From: Dr I Price <>
Subject: An interesting paper
To: "" <>

With apologies for cross-posting.

This paper does not mention memes per se but is a good expression of the =
way they IMO work.

If Price

-------------Forwarded Message-----------------

From: INTERNET:ComplexityandManagementMailingList, INTERNET:Complexityand=

Date: 23-06-97 2:56 AM

RE: An interesting paper

Sender: owner-complex@LISSACK.SPACELAB.NET
Received: from ( []) by arl-img-10.c= (8.6.10/5.950515)
id VAA11685; Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:56:39 -0400
Received: from ([]) by
( MTA v2.0 0813 ID# 0-11397) with ESMTP id AAD402;
Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:55:57 -0400
release 1.8c) with spool id 0603 for COMPLEX@LISSACK.SPACELAB.N=
Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:55:41 -0400
Received: from ([]) by (post.offi=
ce MTA
v2.0 0813 ID# 0-11397) with ESMTP id AAB402 for
<COMPLEX@LISSACK.SPACELAB.NET>; Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:55:38 -0400=

Approved-By: lissack@LISSACK.COM
Received: by (8.8.5/8.8.5) id VAA04540 for; Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:53:45 -0400 (=
Received: from by (8.8.5/8.8.5) with ESMT=
P id
VAA12734 for <>; Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:53:40 -=
Received: from ([]) by (post.offi=
ce MTA
v2.0 0813 ID# 0-11397) with ESMTP id AAA376 for
<>; Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:53:36 -0400
X-Mailer: Mozilla 4.01 [en] (Win95; I)
MIME-Version: 1.0
X-Priority: 3 (Normal)
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=3Dus-ascii
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit
Message-ID: <>
Date: Sun, 22 Jun 1997 21:53:31 -0400
Reply-To: Complexity and Management Mailing List
Sender: Complexity and Management Mailing List
From: Michael Lissack <lissack@LISSACK.COM>
Subject: An interesting paper
Comments: To:

Found this at:

Beneath the Empty Space: Symbols connect to the dynamic attractors from
which the meaning and vision come

Thomas C. Dandridge, Ph.D.

Seidman School of Business
Grand Valley State University
Grand Rapids, MI

Proposal for presentation at
The SCOS 15th International Conference
Warsaw, July 9 - 12, 1997

This paper will examine linkage among the three terms of the title. It
intends to provide a basic description of some topics of chaos,
dynamical systems theory and attractors. It will describe stories,
ritual, and artifacts of organizations as the symbols by which we are
drawn to these attractors, and through which we deeply comprehend. It
will propose that the concept of "vision" also represents our efforts to
identify the attractors or desired attractor.

Dynamical Systems Theory

Waldrop (1992) has described the study of complexity as the science of
emergence. New properties appear at each new level of development and
interrelation, requiring new concepts and generalizations.

James Gleick, the author of the popular book Chaos has described chaos
is a science of process rather than state; of becoming rather than

The simplest systems are now seen to create extraordinarily difficult
problems of predictability. Yet order arises spontaneously out of those
systems -- chaos and order together. Only a new kind of science
could begin to bridge the great gulf between what one thing does -- one
water molecule, one cell of heart tissue, one neuron -- and what
millions of them do. (Gleick, 1987, p. 6-8)

We should, however, differentiate between complex and complicated. If we
compare a rocket to a family, the rocket is complicated. It has many
totally independent parts with little or no redundancy, and little
variation in the roles each part plays. The family is complex as parts
(members) are redundant, adaptable, and include higher order structure
with evolving rules as a social order. The more complex a system is
the farther from equilibrium, and hence the greater requirement for
adaptability and change. In a social system this can be accomplished
through differentiated members who are empowered to act locally,
catching perturbations and coping appropriately, (Morgan, l993). In a
changing environment loose coupling is important, (Weick, l976). This
refers to semi-autonomous units, which shape a common
understanding of the larger organization's intent, or vision. These
units are not so tightly coupled to the system that they have no
discretion, and hence no adaptability for the larger system's benefit.

The more complex this system is, the farther it is likely to be from a
static equilibrium; more in a dynamic equilibrium, and vulnerable to
change. Therefore, such systems must catch and be ready to respond to
any perturbation. They use whatever members or codifying systems are
available (Wheatley, 1993).

Complex adaptive systems are ones, which take in information about
themselves and their surroundings and process that information by
perceiving regularities in the world. These regularities are condensed
into briefer message-structures.

Examples include a genetic code, concepts of psychology, a legal system,
and symbols in organizational life.

For most sciences the systems studied are deterministic, that is they
can be described in a limited number of equations that have no chance
elements. In social sciences, such as the study of business, it is very
difficult to obtain long time series of data from which equations can be
accurately predicted. For the social sciences the added problem is that
the system learns on individual as well as collective system levels,
and hence basic equations evolve over time. We can still use the theory
of chaos, but at present are limited to using it on qualitative,
analogic, or philosophical levels. Briggs and Peat (1989) state "The
evolution of complex systems can't be followed in causal detail because
such systems are holistic: Everything affects everything else." (p.

The term "attractor" refers to the behavior a system settles down to
over time, or is attracted to. Transient forces, which are time
dependent, have been dissipated, or have lost influence. A fixed point
characterize a system that comes to rest in time. There is no change
over time, as the system stays the same. A system that establishes a
cycle of repeating values has a periodic attractor. A system may have
more than one attractor, and differing initial conditions or changes in
input may lead to a different attractor. The points that evolve to an
attractor are in its "basin of attraction", that is they are in a region
possible activity which will ultimately be drawn to outcomes that are on
that attractor. They will never move to another attractor without change
of parameters defining it.

Future points in fixed point and periodic attractors are predictable, as
are combinations of periodic attractors. Systems with such closed form
solutions have a formula that expresses any future state in terms of
the initial conditions. Given the initial conditions and the time period
we can predict the future state. Nearby points in a non-chaotic system
stay close as they evolve in time. However at the next level of
complexity are complex attractors, also called "strange" attractors,
which occupy space in a different way and correspond to unpredictable
motions with a more complicated geometrical form. "When the
dynamics of a system goes chaotic, there's a trade-off between the
precision to which we know its current state, and the period of time
over which we can say what -- in detail -- it will do...we can still
very accurate predictions -- not of the exact long-term behavior, but of
its general qualitative nature." (Stewart, 1990 p. 286)

There are three levels at which this concept can be applied to social

The broadest is as a metaphor, a way of imaging more abstract than a
model. The second is as a model, specific enough to facilitate more
detailed generalization or concepts. The most specific, and closest to
the original dynamical systems theory, is as an empirically testable
hypothesis or concept.


The term "symbol" can be used to refer to anything, which stands in
place of a more complex expression, concept or event. Any language is a
composition of symbols. The term also can be used on a more
restricted basis to consider those artifacts, rituals, or story-like
expressions, which we use to connect to a deeper, complex, value-laden
level of reality. In prior work I described symbols as:
a structure composed of words, acts or material used to convey an
internal state including feelings or values through direct experiencing.
Symbols provide a structure through which inner experience can be
transmitted as units rather than attempting linear rational description.
(Dandridge, 1975, p.3)

This is closer to the symbols described by Carl Jung (1964), who viewed
certain symbols as archetypal urges from the depths of the human psyche.
Campbell sees our culture as an enduring form which
transient individuals contribute to and are shaped by (Campbell, 1949).
He claimed "Mythology is so deeply imbedded that we dance to it even
though we can't name the tune."

If we take the perspective provided by these definitions we can consider
the functions such symbols serve. Three are proposed:

To describe. The symbol is a rich meta-language, a "shorthand"
alternative to a less vibrant, analytic description.
To transmit a culture, influencing beliefs and values, to socialize
through real or secondary participation.
To inspire. The symbol can arouse, energize, enthuse, or unify those
it touches.

The first two of these functions serve the passive participant. He or
she is merely a receptor. The third function elicits action consistent
with the organization or culture's interest. We are attracted to the
organization. We are inspired, or enthused by it or resonate with it as
we perceive its image as being in harmony with ours. Bettinger (1989)
maintains that the culture of an organization is derived from symbols
functioning in these ways, and that in a strong culture people are
energized, enjoy what they are doing, even work with a spirit of

We try to capture the complexity of symbols by using rational
description of them, using our more limited rational language to
describe their appearance in profile, so to speak, -- a projection in
dimensions. Similarly, symbols are a multidimensional medium to capture
or model the underlying attractor to which they relate. Many-dimensional
attractors can be described in symbols, just as symbols can
be described rationally.


In the past 150 years we have "created" a new entity, a "corporation"
Even in its name there is symbolism, as the name is derived from the
Latin, corpus, for body. A corporation has many of the legal rights of
human individuals, and more. Its life span is unlimited. Drawing from
the human imagery, it is currently popular to discuss the "vision" of
the organization.

The concept of "organizational vision" has been the subject of much
academic research in recent years, with over a thousand articles and
books appearing in the academic press (Larwood et al, 1995). Yet, as
these authors note it remains a concept "...that is not directly
observable and that seemingly carries meaning beyond any single or
simple description." (Larwood et al, 1995 p740, Kriger, 1990) One
definition, which they cite, is that vision represents a pattern of
organizational values that underlie a unique pattern for an
organization's future. The organization's leaders define a "mission",
but the concept of
vision is more encompassing as it implies not just an objective but the
future state of this system. As individuals accept and support this
vision, they are shaped by it, and reinforce its accomplishment. Perhaps
metaphorically all stakeholders or participants are weaving the fabric
of the organization, to which they then respond. A founder in particular
tries to transmit her or his vision to stakeholders (Wilkins and
Dyer, 1988). If the founder "embodies" this vision, then it leaves with
her or him. If a separate attractor has been created, it thrives and
evolves in the space the founder leaves.

Complexity And Symbols

Goerner (1994) discusses at length an important feature of life as
having an essential symbol-matter system that preserves and transmits
forward functional information. The successful establishment of one
level of language facilitates the emergence of the next higher level of
complexity or organization. As levels of life become more complex, the
symbol systems do also. As Goerner notes, "We find ourselves to
be an interwoven part of an unfolding order-building process." (p.112)
The language that facilitates the emergence or maintenance of culture is
composed of the symbols described above, i.e., the myths,
rituals, and artifacts.

This language leads us to experience an organization and elicits our
energy in supporting or further refining the complex, indefinable vision
or underlying pattern.


People respond to multiple attractors at the same time. There are
attractors we identify with organizations, with work groups or
professions, community, and family. Each of these evolves, and the
portraying them do also.

The basic attractor underlying our culture is evolving. The many stories
written by a New England minister in the late 19th century are examples
of symbolic stories with high impact on organizations and their
members. Sets of books of these stories were frequently awarded as
school prizes to top students and recommended in sermons. Horatio
Alger's stories epitomized the Protestant Ethic, emphasizing
discipline, reward for individual effort, and equality of opportunity.

In the 1930's the basic set of beliefs about work began to change, and
this is likely to have a great effect on organizational myths, hence on
the pattern of the resulting organizational attractor. In the 1930's
more emphasis was given to the belief in helping one another and in the
importance of the group in addition to, or in place of the individual.
Care of all, and equality of benefits were emphasized and the
Protestant Ethic began to be replaced by the Social Ethic. Efforts to
perfect the individual were replaced by efforts at perfecting his
institutions. Lodge (1974) refers to the old myth with its amoral view
of all
growth as progress, and no limit to man's control of the environment. He
sees this as being replaced with the emergence of a new belief of
individual fulfillment through participation in an organic social
"If the community, the factory, or the neighborhood is well designed,
its members will have a sense of identity with it. They will be able to
make maximum use of their capabilities." (p.64)

A person, who was formerly guilty for not working hard, was now guilty
for not working well through or with others. Bennis (1966) saw this as
bringing the end of the "hero" in organizations as s/he is replaced
by the "professional" on a management team. The ideal of work democracy
became equality and smooth absorption into a group, not self-realization
(Schlesinger 1960).

Now another new ethic may be emerging. Major organizations now
anticipate cost savings by downsizing or smaller organizational size. A
human resource executive at AT&T, discussing the 40,000 person
"downsizing" said that people must come to recognize there are now jobs,
but not permanent employment. People must think of themselves as self
employed in managing their own careers in multiple jobs.
Responsibility for employees is diminished, with the expectation that
government programs provide the safety net once offered by permanent
employment. At the same time, governments see welfare programs
as less and less affordable, and reduce these, calling for more
individual initiative. Entrepreneurship is applauded more than ever
before. These changes represent a new cultural-level work attractor.


Bennis, W., 1966, Changing Organizations, New York: McGraw Hill.

Bettinger, C., 1989 "Use Corporate Culture to Trigger High Performance"
The Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 10, no. 2, pp. 38-42

Briggs, J., & Peat, F.D. 1989 The Turbulent Mirror. New York: Harper &

Campbell, J. 1949, The Hero With a Thousand Faces, Princeton: Princeton
University Press.

Dandridge, T., 1975, Symbols at Work: The types and functions of symbols
in selected organizations unpublished doctoral dissertation, UCLA.

Gleick, J., 1987 Chaos: Making a New Science, New York: Viking.

Goerner, S., 1994 Chaos and the Evolving Ecological Universe, Langhorne,
PA: Gordon and Breach

Jung, C.G., 1964 Man and His Symbols, London: Aldus Books

Kriger, M.P., 1990 Towards a Theory of Organizational Vision: The
Shaping of Organizational Futures. Paper presented at the annual meeting
of the Academy of Management, San Francisco

Larwood, L, Falbe, C.M, Kriger, M.P., and Miesing, P., 1995 "Structure
and Meaning of Organizational Vision" Academy of Management Journal,
Vol.38, No.3

Lodge, G.C., 1974, "Business and the Changing Society" Harvard Business
Review, Vol. 52, pp. 59-74.

Schlesinger, A.M. Jr., 1960 "The Decline of Heroes", in R. Thruelsen and
J. Kobler (eds.), Adventures of the Mind, New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Stewart, I. 1990 Does God Play Dice? The New Mathematics of Chaos,
London: Penguin.

Waldrop, M. M. 1992 Complexity: The Emerging Science at the Edge of
Chaos, New York: Simon & Schuster.

Weick, K. E. l976 "Educational Organizations as Loosely Coupled
Systems." Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 21 (March), pp. 1-19.

Wheatley, M. 1993, Leadership and the New Science, San Francisco:

Wilkins, A.L. and Dyer, W.G., 1988 "Toward Culturally Sensitive Theories
of Cultural Change" The Academy of Management Review Vol. 13 n. 4 pp.

Michael Lissack <>
150 West 56th St, #4904, NY, NY 10019
phone 212-245-7055 fax 212-956-3464

=============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see: