Maybe it’s time for emergence on purpose

For ten years I owned the domain “” It seemed obvious to me when I bought it that the world had become post-modern and networked but that companies were still behaving like Napoleonic government bureaus. Their industrial age information designs out of synch with our complex and emergent era.

I was doing some work for the U.S. Army at the time and I saw first hand how a top-down, planned, hierarchical, and reductionist bureaucracy was ill-suited to deal with a fast moving, emergent, and networked environment. The common prescription to go through all of those serial bureaucratic processes faster faster faster simply had no chance in hell of working. I proposed that they put tools in the field that would encourage users of all kinds to field their own solutions rather than waiting on the center to provide things for them. I wanted them to intentionally create fertile soil for systems, organizations, and behaviors to emerge at the edge where they were needed. 

The center, still useful, would provide those platforms and services that enabled the edge, the edge would provide the ideas and sweat to make them happen, or at least to get them to the “working prototype” stage. (The center would be the Amazon AWS to the edge’s startups).

Later, when I left defense work, I adapted this work to my corporate clients (less emphasis on the independently acting edge, more emphasis on encouraging internal emergence).

Well, a decade later (approximately), I got frustrated waiting for The Priests of Corporate Reductionism to get on board and I let the domain lapse just last December. But it looks like I should have kept it, because emergence on purpose with a different name (deliberate) might be back. And who knows, perhaps some companies are finally realizing that it takes a network to survive in a network and that hierarchical planned bureaucracy isn’t cutting it in this new world.

I decided not to keep paying for the domain, but I didn't give up completely. Next week I'm giving a talk on intentional emergence at the Velocity conference in NY. Maybe I'll see you there. 


  1. john s - September 10, 2014 @ 10:56 am

    a few jobs back we came up with a term: guided emergence or guided evolution to push concepts like this. Basically how could you setup the rules/policies of the game to change over time and guide things to where you want them to go.

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