Organizational Genetics

Organizational Genetics

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The great insight of biological science in the last half of the 20th century is that life is a special kind of information. It is the information contained in the genetic program of each organism. Evolution is a continual process shaping the contents of the genetic program of countless species throughout the history of life on this planet. That process itself is now known to be essentially one of information processing. Viewing evolution as a kind of information processing opens the possibility that the laws of evolution operate to shape other kinds of information processing in systems other than those of organisms and their genetic programs. Business and industry as well as public agencies are the largest users of information processing technologies. If evolutionary processes are discoverable outside of strictly biological contexts it is reasonable to suppose that they'll be found among those systems that use information processing nearly as much, if not more, than does Nature. Indeed, the thesis of this work is that natural selection does operate over organizations that use so-called a€˜Fourth Generationa€™ computerized database technologies. There are some basic conceptual hurdles that must be cleared before the vantage point of looking at evolutionary processes as information processes will reveal anything more than tantalizing analogies. The first hurdle is that compartmentalized thinking, putting the things of this world into pigeonholes, must be set aside in favor of a systems approach. By 'systems approach' nothing more complex is meant than being self-conscious about when and why it is sometimes convenient to compartmentalize thoughts, things and perceptions. It also means looking first at systems, at the organized complexity that constitutes not only life, but virtually all of humankinda€™s activity and physical reality. Using a systems approach, both organisms and organizations can be discussed from a common ground. The justification for adopting this outlook will appear more and more obvious as it is used to develop fruitful insights. A second conceptual hurdle that needs to be cleared is the frequent habit of thinking about information as some kind of passive qstuffq that gets manipulated, massaged, stored, and retrieved by computers. In the world of computer technology and business the phrase qdata processingq is the traditional reference for all forms of information processing and technology. Note that at any given time other phrases such as a€œMISa€ (management information systems) or a€œITa€ (information technology) are more or less synonymous with a€œdata processing.a€ For our purposes the latter phrase suffices. Unfortunately this phrase tends to solidify the mental habit of regarding information as a passive substance that people and machines manipulate as they see fit (or are directed). In reality, information has both a passive and an active role in systems. It is passive when we speak of communicating some particular item to another system, be it a person, machine or organization. Information is active when it takes the form of a program, plan, or goal. This includes all the important meanings of what qinformationq means as well. Thus, the second habit of thought to be put aside here is the belief that information is only acted upon. In fact, information in the human mind and in organizations is usually present just for the active role of shaping and directing their behavior. A third conceptual hurdle is the assumption that any attempt to generalize a law of biology is simply qtransplantingq biology outside its proper domain and therefore is predestined to failure. In this work, biological laws, especially those of evolution, will be sought in the context of human organizations. However, they will not be transplanted there any more than a physical law of force, mass, and acceleration is qtransplantedq to outer space when we discover that it descWhat does vary every time the employee gets a raise is the value contained in the data item (for example, it changes from ... To complete the analogy with a manual system, when the employee gets a raise, a second payroll record is ena€” teredanbsp;...

Title:Organizational Genetics
Author:Anthony Fedanzo
Publisher:Xlibris Corporation - 2001-03-30


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