The art of coach-based consulting is founded in part on identification and appreciation of organizational culture: the patterns and pattern-variations in the life of an organization. We know from the scientists who study chaotic and complex systems that vibrant and sustainable systems incorporate both redundancy and diversity. Systems sustain certain patterns and replicate basic structures everywhere, while also ensuring that each subsystem is a bit different from other subsystems. Scientists suggest that viable systems are in dynamic equilibrium. Each viable system fits into a specific ecological niche and sustains a specific operational pattern that is compatible with (adapted to) this niche. The pattern is sustained and reinforced precisely because of this ongoing adaptive outcome.
The story doesn’t end here. Any viable system is not totally successful in adapting to its environmental niche. If it were totally successful, then it would dominate and literally take over the niche—leading eventually (and ironically) to its own demise. We see this poignantly and often tragically illustrated in the way human beings have learned how to adapt with complete success to certain niches. We have “tamed” nature and in doing so have come to dominate specific environmental niches, which in turn has led to the extinction of certain species and to many environmental disruptions (such as climate instability).
In essence, there exists an inevitable tension between adaptation and mal-adaptation of any system to its environment. Patterns provide stability and the capacity of systems to adapt with some success and in a sustained manner to its environment. The disruptions of and variations in patterns not only enable an organization to adjust to changes in its environment, but also enable other systems to dwell in this environment and enable each system to enter into mutually beneficial relationships with other systems in the environment. Each system is good enough to live in the environment, but not good enough to dominate this environment—this is the beauty of nature when working effectively.