Thursday, May 12, 2016

Organizational forms compared: my evolving TIMN table vs. other analysts’ tables — revised & expanded

This post provides an expanded iteration of my similarly-titled May 2009 post (here). Besides making a few edits to the text about my TIMN table, I have added numerous tables.

In addition to my TIMN table, this new inventory presents tables in rough chronological order from William Ouchi (1980), Walter Powell (1990), Jane Jacobs (1992), Allen Paige Fiske (1992, 2004), Max Boisot (1995, 2004), Jessica Lipnack & Jeffrey Stamps (2000), Grahame Thompson (2003), Bob Jessop (2003), Mark Considine & Jenny Lewis (2003), Gerard Fairtlough (2005), Federico Iannacci & Eve Mitleton–Kelly (2005), Paul Adler & Charles Heckscher (2005), Karen Stephenson (2009), Kim Cameron & Robert Quinn (2006), Harold Jarche (2012), Clay Spinuzzi (2013), Otto Scharmer (2013), and Kojin Karatani (2014).

As with my 2009 post, the purpose of this 2016 post is to present my TIMN table comparing the four TIMN forms, along with alternative tables by other analysts. My notion is that it should be instructive to have various tables available in one place for side-by-side comparison. It provides a way to highlight differences in underlying assumptions and dimensions. For me, it also helps substantiate the validity of my TIMN table.

* * *

My TIMN table comparing the four forms: tribes, institutions, markets, and networks (1996, 2009)

Table 1 summarizes many points I’ve made (plus some not yet made) about the four TIMN forms. Its details indicate their differing strengths and limitations. This version of the table is from my 2009 post here, as indicated above. The original version is in my first paper about TIMN (1996, p. 17).

As an overview, the table conveys that each form, once it is subscribed to by many actors, is more than a mere form — it develops into a realm, even a system of thought and action. Each form embodies a distinctive cluster of values, norms, and codes of conduct; and these must be learned and disseminated for a form to take root and for a realm or sector of activity to grow around it. Indeed, each form’s rise spells an ideational and structural revolution. Each is a generator of order, for each defines a set of interactions (or, if you prefer, transactions) that are attractive, powerful, and useful enough to create a distinct realm of activity, or at least its core. Each becomes the basis for a governance system that is self-regulating and ultimately self-limiting. And each tends to foster a different kind of worldview, for each orients people differently toward social space, social time, and social action. Indeed, what is rational — how a “rational actor” should behave — is different for each form; no single “utility function” suits all of them. Each attracts different kinds of personalities.

Thus each form becomes associated with high ideals as well as new capabilities. As each develops, it enables people to organize to do more than they could previously. Yet all the forms are ethically neutral — as neutral as technologies — in the sense that they have both bright and dark sides, and can be used for good or ill. The tribal form, which should foster community solidarity and mutual caring, may also breed a narrow, bitter clannishness that can justify anything from nepotism to murder in order to shield and strengthen a clan (or other tribal form) and its leaders. The hierarchical institutional form, which is supposed to lead to professional rule and regulation, may also be used to uphold corrupt, arbitrary dictators. The market form, which should bring free, fair, open exchanges, may also be distorted and rigged to allow unbridled speculation and profiteering. And the network form, which can empower civil society and its nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), may also serve to strengthen “uncivil society” — say, by enabling terrorist groups and crime syndicates to organize transnational networks. Thus, it is not just the bright sides of each form that foster new values and actors; their dark sides may do so as well. As Jane Jacobs (Systems of Survival, 1992, esp. p. 151) observed about what she calls the guardian (i.e., +I) and commercial (i.e., +M) syndromes, “monstrous moral hybrids” can take shape if they are mingled improperly.

Finally, note the last three rows. One points out that each form has a different architecture: Tribes, with their interlaced lineages and marriages, resemble circles and labyrinths (not to mention networks and webs). Hierarchical institutions are often depicted as pyramids or stovepipes, and markets as atomized billiard balls moving freely in space. Nowadays, information-age networks are said to resemble geodesic domes and “buckyballs” (after Buckminster Fuller). The next row observes that each form corresponds to a different aspect of anatomy: tribes to a body’s skin or look; hierarchical institutions to a musculo-skeletal system (as Thomas Hobbes implied); markets to a cardio-pulmonary circulatory system (as Karl Marx noted); and networks to a sensory nerve system (as Herbert Spencer thought, and many writers still suppose today). These are only analogies and metaphors, but they help impart the distinctive nature of each form.

The last row notes that each TIMN form is associated with a different information and communications technology revolution. In brief, the rise of the tribal form depended on a symbolic revolution: the emergence of language and early writing (runes, glyphs), enabling the storytelling that is central to tribal cultures. The rise of the hierarchical institutional form — as in the Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, the absolutist states, and their vast administrative structures — reflected a mechanical revolution: the development of formal writing and printing, first penned script and later the printing press. This was important not only for keeping records and issuing commands, but also for inscribing laws that chiefdoms and states could apply to growing populations who were not kinfolk and often not well-known to each other. Next, the rise of the market form and its far-flung business enterprises was sped by the electrical technologies of the 19th century: the telegraph, telephone, and radio. Today’s spread of the network form extends from the digital revolution and its technologies, notably the Internet, fax machines, and cellular telephones, which are especially empowering for civil-society associations around the world and across political spectrums.

I suppose I should get around to revising some lines in this May 2009 table. For example, the line about key products: as I discuss in a later May 2009 post (here), “club goods” could be added to “gifts” under Tribes, and “commons goods” could replace “collective goods” under Networks. Also, the line about key philosophers: because of a recent op-ed by David Brooks (here), I realize I could add “Durkheim” under Tribes.

I’ve also been meaning for years to add a line (or more). For example, about religious expressions: much paganism could fit under Tribes, the Catholic Papacy under Institutions, Protestantism under Markets, and by implication, whatever-comes-next (something more Buddhist?) as a result of the Network form taking hold. But right now, I am more intent on generating a survey of other analysts’ tables — a lot of work — so I shall leave such revisions to my table for a future effort.

Of course, readers should remember that this table and its write-up are lifted out of context. The context I’d like others to be aware of is provided mainly by two posts: an overview of TIMN (here) and a deeper look at TIMN system-dynamics (here). Readers should also notice that a key challenge for TIMN, still not fully resolved but discussed in many posts (e.g., here), is distinguishing between the Tribe and Network forms. My table speaks to this challenge, but it endures anyway.

* * *

Other analysts’ tables about organizational forms

My goal is to display and briefly discuss tables comparable to TIMN’s that identify key forms of organization, preferably tables that focus on cardinal forms of organization, are about society in general, and have an evolutionary orientation. A few tables meet these criteria exactly, but others only obliquely.

Thus, the following typologies are, like TIMN, mostly about hierarchies, markets, and networks. However, some refer to other forms, such as clans or heterarchies, or use other terms, such as peer-to-peer (P2P) instead of networks. Far as I know, my TIMN table is the only table that treats tribes as a distinct, separate organizational form. Also, many tables don’t really focus on forms of organization, but rather on something related — i.e., “ways of getting things done” or “modes of exchange”. Moreover, many tables focus on something less grand than society — usually business organizations. And they are not truly evolutionary — instead they typologize tendencies happening today. No matter: all are close enough to meeting my preferred criteria, and they are all interesting and instructive for TIMN.

For comparative and inspirational purposes, what follows are screen grabs (click to enlarge) and blurbs about the other tables I have come across. There are of course many write-ups that compare organizational forms, as I have discussed elsewhere, especially (here). But not every write-up is accompanied by a table (or figure, or chart — or it is, but I can’t do a screen grab). This constrains whose ideas get presented here. Indeed, some appealing discussions (e.g., Jung & Lake, 2011; Carson, 2016) are devoid of tables like those below. Moreover, I have not included any analysis, even if it includes a table, that discusses just two forms. Thus, myriad analyses about hierarchies vs. markets, or hierarchies vs. networks, are not represented here, even though I discuss them in other writings. My concern here is with analyses accompanied by tables that purport to identify a cosmology of at least three organizational or related kinds of forms, preferably with an evolutionary bent that overlaps well with TIMN. (See end note for further information.)

A few generalizations appear to apply across the tables that I have included:
  • The treatment of hierarchies and markets (and their cognates) is generally clearer and more standardized than is the treatment of networks (not to mention tribes).
  • Where networks (and their cognates) are discussed, the tables and related text are often more about social than organizational networks — and the analyst may not be clear about the distinction between social and organizational networks.
  • “Trust” is often listed as an attribute of networks, but not of hierarchies or markets. This is a sign the analyst may be thinking more in terms of social than organizational networking — and it’s not a good sign. Some kind of trust is involved in each and every form — trust is not unique to networks.
  • Tribes (or cognates, like clans) rarely get identified as a distinct form. Instead, their attributes often show up listed under the network form, especially when the analyst is thinking in terms of social networks. Indeed, drawing clear distinctions between tribes and networks (or their cognates) remains a challenge (as noted earlier).
  • There is little consistency to the order in which the forms are listed. If the analyst is a sociologist or economist thinking in terms of the classic dichotomy between hierarchies and markets, then either markets or hierarchies usually get listed first, and networks later on the right side of a table. But I have seen tables where networks are given the middle position, especially if the analyst views it as an in-between or hybrid form. It depends on the analyst’s focus and rationale. In contrast, I have a specific, evolutionary order in mind: T+I+M+N.
After pondering all these alternative tables, I continue to believe that TIMN is preferable. I also notice that, the more time goes by, the more other analysts’ tables have evolved toward resembling TIMN. Indeed, the penultimate two — Jarche, then Spinuzzi —rely on TIMN. And the final two — Scharmer, then Karatani — overlap with TIMN so much that I am surprised and pleased, though neither seems to know about TIMN. Which reminds me of what I replied to an inquiry about resemblances between TIMN and Max Boisot’s “I-Space” work: “I've long figured that when it's time for a new idea to arise, it's likely to do so via various people at about the same time, all scattered around unknown to each other. Sort of a variation on William Gibson's famous remark about the future being already here, just poorly distributed” (email, October 4, 2012)

From William Ouchi’s article about clans as an alternative to bureaucracies and markets (1980 — walled but lately here):

Ouchi is a management professor and strategist. This table (p. 137) summarizes his proposal (p. 132) that: “Markets, bureaucracies, and clans are therefore three distinct mechanisms which may be present in differing degrees, in any real organization.” With this, the paper offers a rare early effort to add clans — a variant of TIMN’s tribes — to the established transaction-cost view that hierarchies and markets are the key alternatives. Accordingly, clans may, under some conditions, offer a better way to create efficiencies and avoid organizational failures from a transaction-cost perspective. The conditions Ouchi identifies are where harmony is essential — i.e., where teamwork and a strong sense of community are needed, and individualistic opportunism must be avoided — such that relying on hierarchies and markets is inadvisable. His concept of clans draws on Durkheim’s concept of organic solidarity, and he notes how common this was in preindustrial enterprises. But his focus is its rising significance in modern high-tech industries, notably in Japan.

From Walter Powell’s seminal paper on networks as neither hierarchies nor markets (1990):

This is a classic table, the first by an economic sociologist to add networks to the traditional dichotomy of hierarchies and markets as the paradigmatic options that business enterprises face. It’s also the table and write-up that most reassured me, early on, that TIMN was viable — that scholars would increasingly recognize networks as a cardinal form of organization. His particular focus was on craft and high-tech industries. What the table (p. 300) indicates is that, by comparison, network designs are (more?) relational, reputational, open-ended, and nimble. Among the points that the table misses but the text notes is that networks may also excel at gathering and processing information. I also like the point in the text (p. 303) that “In essence, the parties to a network agree to forego the right to pursue their own interests at the expense of others.” However, this kind of behavior is not unique to networks — it often crops up in other organizational settings as well.

From Jane Jacobs book Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics (1992):

Jacobs lays out the “guardian moral syndrome” and the “commercial moral syndrome” as the two key “systems of survival” that lie behind successful social evolution. For each syndrome, she specifies fifteen precepts (see chart). Her view tracks with TIMN, for the syndromes correspond roughly to TIMN’s institutional (+I) and market (+M) forms. She refers to practices that correspond to TIMN’s tribal (T) form; but rather than separate them out, she embeds them mostly under the guardian syndrome — in my view a shortcoming that makes it more a tribal (T) than administrative (+I) syndrome in some of her applications. But I like very much her emphasis on keeping the syndromes separate and in balance. For additional discussion, see my post about her concept of “monstrous moral hybrids”.

About Alan Paige Fiske’s work on “four elementary forms of sociality” and Relational Model Theory (1992, 2004):

Fiske, a behavioral anthropologist, posits that all social relationships, minor and major, reduce to four forms of interaction: communal sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing. People develop their capacities for social interaction in mostly that order, from infancy onward. His own table about these forms is large and detailed; so I’m displaying a simplified table by a proponent. Fiske’s sharing, ranking, and pricing forms correspond to TIMN’s tribal, hierarchical, and market forms. But his equality-matching form, which is mainly about equal-status peer-group behavior, does not correspond to any single form — some attributes fit the network form, but other attributes (e.g., reciprocity, feuding, revenge) fit better under TIMN’s tribal or market form. So the overlap is limited. Fiske’s approach has greatly influenced P2P theory (here & here), resulting in a pertinent exchange between Michel Bauwens and myself (here — esp. comments section).

From Max Boisot on markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs in I-Space (1995, 2004):

In his influential book Information Space (1995) about the nature of the information environment in which agents operate, Boisot depicts “I-Space” as a three-dimensional cube with three axes: degree of codification, abstraction / concreteness, and diffusion / concentration. Then (whether in that or a later book I still don’t know for sure), he argues “that certain institutional structures thrive because they best adapt to specific conditions in a given I-Space” (source). The four structures he identifies are markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs — offering a typology he constructed on his own, “derived from the characteristics of the information environment that agents confront” (personal email, 05/10/2001). Accordingly, “Information and knowledge move through the space either through the cognitive efforts of individual agents or through a process of social exchange or transactions between agents. Both activities are either facilitated or hindered by the presence of institutional structures designed to lower data processing and transmission costs in a given region of the information environment captured by the I-Space. We identify four of these – markets, bureaucracies, clans, and fiefs - in Figure 5 and briefly summarize some of the information and cultural characteristics of these transactional structures in Table 1.” (2004, p. 12) While not an evolutionary framework, it can be used as such — say, for tracking how technology changes may affect the nature and location of information in I-Space, and how information’s changing nature may interact with organizational changes. Boisot’s ideas have been quite influential in Singapore, and elsewhere on the Cynefin framework. It overlaps to a degree with TIMN.

From Jessica Lipnack and Jeffrey Stamps’s book on the rise of virtual teams (2000):

In this Toffleresque table (p. 36), management strategists Lipnack and Stamps highlight what they regard as the four ages of organization, beginning millennia ago. The first age is about small groups, but in the text these are equated with nomads and tribes — terms I prefer. The authors explain their distinction between hierarchy and bureaucracy, but I question its significance. Moreover, why markets are not featured as a form of organization remains a mystery to me — but it has something to do, I suppose, with their emphasis on the internal workings of organizations. In any case, the table barely does justice to their ideas. They were early, articulate pioneers in spotting that an “age of networks” was dawning, and in analyzing the rise of “virtual teams.” And I like their point (p. 46) that “The postindustrial model is inclusive of old models, not a replacement for them.”

From Grahame Thompson on hierarchies, markets, and networks (2003):

After co-editing a fine early reader on Markets, Hierarchies and Networks (1991), Thompson, a British political economist, wrote his own book on Between Hierarchies and Markets: The Logic and Limits of Network Forms of Organization (2003). As this table shows (p. 48), he views network forms of order as distinct from hierarchical and market forms, yet as having variable attributes that mean they often fit somewhere in between. Indeed, networks “do not so much completely displace markets and hierarchical modes of governance as complement and support them in different ways … in a manner that often ‘re-moulds’ the operation of markets and hierarchies to such an extent that these themselves become ‘something different’ with enhanced performative effectiveness.” He clarifies (p. 28) that “networks as a third coordinating mechanism” arise in two versions: “an ‘organized’ variant and a ‘self-organizing’ variant.” And that hybrids may arise, e.g., of markets and networks (p. 146). While new kinds of “policy networks” can be helpful, they are often caught pincer-like between the “shadow of the hierarchy” and the “shadow of the market” (p. 187) Thus, “networks — any networks — cannot operate effectively without the support of a framework in which the state and the other authoritative or hierarchical government institutions … continues to play a leading role.” (p. 222) Uh-oh, there’s that word trust in the table — but he clarifies (p. 173) that “trust is a precondition for any form of social life.” (There’s a helpful Venn diagram about the three forms on p. 51 — I wish more analysts did likewise, for it illuminates the possibilities for hybrids.)

From Bob Jessop’s paper on governance and metagovernance (2003):

Jessop writes about governance (and what he calls metagovernance) for solving coordination problems, particularly in the European Union. In this chart about the major modalities of governance (p. 3), the terms he prefers — exchange, command, and dialogue — correspond, as two rows indicate, to markets, hierarchies, and networks respectively. I like that it has a row about spatial-temporal horizons — a rarity among these kinds of tables, but an interest of mine (the STA:C theme at this blog, along with TIMN). I also like that it has two rows about system failure, a focus of this particular paper.

From Mark Considine and Jenny Lewis’s paper about bureaucracy, network, and enterprise models (2003 — walled):

This paper and its chart (p. 133) are focused on alternatives ways of delivering services — the evolution from traditional bureaucratic, to new corporate, market, and network models of governance. A key finding is that “A new corporate-market hybrid (called ‘enterprise governance’) and a new network type have become significant models for the organization of frontline work in public programs” (p. 131), particularly in Europe and around the British Commonwealth. It’s a pertinent finding, but I don’t find the chart all that illuminating. Moreover, the write-up emphasizes trust and a shared organizational culture as being essential to network designs. This is not a wrong point, but as I’ve already indicated, it may well be that in the final analysis all organizational systems rest on trust and a shared acceptance of the culture most suited to the functioning of that form (even if it is a hierarchy).

From Gerard Fairtlough on hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy (2005):

In his book The Three Ways of Getting Things Done (2005), Fairtlough lays out his “triarchy theory” about three fundamental ways of getting things done in organizations: hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy. A key point is that organizations have become over-dependent on hierarchy, while two alternative ways often perform better: heterarchy, and responsible autonomy. Accordingly (p. 12), “These two ways of getting things done are similar in being non-hierarchical. But heterarchy involves continuous interactions between individuals and units as they decide what to do and how to work together. This takes time and effort — a possible disadvantage for heterarchy. Responsible autonomy, if set up properly, means sub-units are much more self-sufficient and interaction between them less intense.” Indeed, the autonomy he characterizes is more about groups than individuals. He also clarifies (p. 12) that “Every organization is a mixture of hierarchy, heterarchy and autonomy — in varying proportions.” For further background and discussion, I’d point here. [NOTE: I can’t locate the table I thought I had. Pending finding it, I’ve posted a screen grab from the book’s table of contents.]

Pro-commons P2P theorist Michel Bauwens has shown particular interest in Fairtlough’s theory and its overlaps with P2P theory. Consider a key distinction among centralized, decentralized, and distributed networks: Says Bauwens (here), “If hierarchy is the power system of centralized systems, then heterarchical power is the power system of decentralized systems, and Responsible Autonomy is the power system of distributed systems.” By extension, Bauwens has proposed a “new triarchy”: the state, enterprise, and the commons (2010), which line up with hierarchy, heterarchy, and responsible autonomy respectively. This helps Bauwens argue that people should start thinking in terms of three sectors — public, private, and the commons —not just the standard first two.

From Federico Iannacci and Eve Mitleton–Kelly’s paper on heterarchies (networks?) as lying between hierarchies and markets (2005):

This table (online, unpaginated) is from two scholars at the London School of Economics interested in complexity theory, information technology, and open-source networks. It represents their effort to add heterarchies to the usual dichotomy about their being two major forms of organization. What’s unusual here is that they locate heterarchies in between hierarchies and markets. Moreover, they claim that many heterarchies consist of nested hierarchies bound together by loosely coupled networks. So, heterarchies are networks, but not simply so. Indeed, they suggest in a couple spots that “Networks might just be sets of social practices rather than meta– or new organizational forms.” In any case, the table makes the point that heterarchies offer coordination processes different from what’s offered by hierarchical firms or autonomous market actors. And they see this as a boon for developments like open-source software.

From Paul Adler’s and Charles Heckscher’s remarkable paper on collaborative community (2005):

This table (p. 16) distinguishes three approaches to coordination: hierarchy, market, and community. The authors focus is the corporate business realm. Their concern is that hierarchy and market ways of doing things have eroded community ways far more than is desirable, especially now that collaborative knowledge production is becoming paramount. What’s needed is a new kind of community principle to go along with the hierarchy and market principles. By “community” they mean much that other analysts mean by “network” and related terms — thus their trifold array is quite standard. But their key point is unusual: They advise against returning to the old (my T/tribal?) form of community, because it leads to drawing sharp distinctions between insiders and outsiders, protecting traditional values, and stifling individual autonomy and creativity. Instead, what’s needed is the development of a new, higher form — “collaborative community” — that would engage participants who have multiple identities, stimulate the collective creation of shared value, and place trust in peer dialogue, review, and accountability. Indeed, they say (p. 37), “without a rebuilding of communal institutions, the potential of a knowledge economy cannot be realized.” Their best examples presently lie in the scientific community and the open-software movement. (Of all the papers I have blurbed about here, I was especially taken with this one for a while — as expressed here. More on this in a future post.)

From Karen Stephenson’s article commending heterarchy over hierarchy and network (2009 — walled, but maybe here):

This paper strives to make a useful point under a concept of heterarchy: that performance may improve when hierarchical organizations are interconnected by collaborative networks. Yet, the table (p. 6) and some of the text is conceptually problematic, as several of the invited counter-point commenters indicate. The paper’s notion of a network is often more social than organizational — it’s even called a tribal form at one point. And the notion of heterarchy is more what others view as some kind of network — as an organizational network, as a hybrid of a hierarchy and network (a networked organization), or as a networked set of otherwise separate hierarchical organizations (“silos”). Other analysts would probably blend the network and heterarchy columns into one; or perhaps make a case that heterarchy is not so much a distinct major form as a hybrid or amalgam of other forms. It’s good to see the mention of collective goods in the heterarchy column. But it remains unclear to me why networks are associated with personal interests. And there’s that word “trust” again; I’ve already mentioned my view of that. Even so, the text makes a point I like that is not reflected in the table — that heterarchies, not to mention networks, can operate perversely in some contexts, and may have a dark as well as a bright side.

From Kim Cameron’s and Robert Quinn’s work on CVF — the “Competing Values Framework” (esp. 2006 — figure on p. 16):

While early versions (in the 1980s) of this framework about organizational culture do not align well with TIMN, the current version does — with its four quadrants about Clan, Hierarchy, Market, and Adhocracy, so long as adhocracies are viewed as networks.  One criticism: they equate Clan with collaboration and Adhocracy with creativity, but adhocracies are as much about collaboration as are clans, just in a different way.  Another qualm:  theirs is not quite an evolutionary framework about corporate culture, but their presentation makes it seem that Hierarchy evolved first, Market second, Clan third (à la modern Japanese business models), and Adhocracy fourth (because of the digital information revolution).  While their point about Japan is sensible, a longer TIMN-type time perspective implies that family/clan models preceded bureaucratic hierarchical ones.  Yet, much of CVF is in keeping with TIMN dynamics:  They observe that organizations may be constructed around a dominant form, yet may draw on the other forms to suit particular goals and contexts.  They observe that the four value systems embody opposed and competing principles; and that using them in effective combinations means dealing with the necessity of paradox, the need for congruence, and the ever-present challenges of tensions and trade-offs.  Here’s a quote (pp. 21-22):  “The two upper quadrants share in common an emphasis on flexibility and dynamism, whereas the two bottom quadrants share an emphasis on stability and control. The two left-hand quadrants focus on internal capability whereas the two right hand quadrants focus on external opportunity. What is important to remember is that the quadrants represent clusters of similar elements and similar orientations, but those elements and orientations are contradictory to those in the diagonal quadrant. The dimensions in the framework, in other words, separate opposite, competing, or paradoxical elements on the diagonal.” [Thanks to Clay Spinuzzi for spotting this framework. For more about comparing CVF and TIMN, see Spinuzzi's post and our discussion in the comments section here.]

From Harold Jarche’s comparison of Cynefin and TIMN (2012) — not to mention Tom Haskins’ comparison (2009):

Jarche, a business consultant “helping people and organizations master the emerging network era”, is interested in both the Cynefin framework about micro-level problem-solving situations and the TIMN framework about macro-level organizational evolution. Starting in 2009, inspired partly by fellow blogger Tom Haskins (beginning here), Jarche has configured tables like this one from 2014 (here, p.61) that relate the two frameworks. Much as I am pleased and intrigued, I continue to question (e.g., here & here) whether it would make more sense to rotate the relationships so as to equate Cynefin’s simple with TIMN’s tribal, and Cynefin’s chaotic with TIMN’s network situations. For more about Cynefin, see Cognitive Edge, especially originator David Snowden’s posts regarding complex systems and problem-solving situations (e.g., here), and about Cynefin’s roots in Boisot’s ideas. Also see Spinuzzi’s post (here) comparing Cynefin, TIMN, I-Space, and CVF ideas, while also appreciating and engaging Haskins for his synthesizing efforts.

From Clay Spinuzzi’s briefing on “Toward a Typology of Activities” (2013):

Spinuzzi, a professor of rhetoric and writing who is keenly interested in networks, has lately “been trying to characterize different sorts of activities and particularly how hybrids of those types lead to internal contradictions.” His preliminary typology looks at group activities according to whether an object of activity is defined internally or externally, and tacitly or explicitly. This leads to a two-by-two matrix — thus his typology — about clans, hierarchies, markets, and networks, as presented in the adjoining graphic. He lists seven main sources for this typology, of which five are among those above, including TIMN. As his work develops, he intends to examine hybrids — activities that combine two or more of the four types — with an eye out for “interference patterns and internal contradictions”. While I refer above to his original 2013 blog post, Spinuzzi’s article, “Toward a typology of activities,” appeared a year later in the Journal of Business and Technical Communications, 2014, as specified here.

From Otto Scharmer on progressing from capitalism 1.0 to capitalism 4.0 (2013):

 As I noted in a 2014 blog post (here), MIT-based innovator Otto Scharmer outlines an evolutionary progression from capitalism 1.0 to capitalism 4.0 that is quite TIMN-like. According to one of his write-ups (here), there are essentially “four logics and paradigms of economic thought. They all respond to the basic coordination problem of our modern economies, but in a different way. • 1.0: Organizing around centralized power: state and central planning → giving rise to socialist and mercantilist economies (single sector) • 2.0: Organizing around decentralized power: markets and competition → giving rise to entrepreneurs and the private sector (two sectors: public, private) • 3.0: Organizing around special interest groups: negotiation and dialogue → giving rise to the NGO sector (three sectors, conflicting: public, private, civic) • 4.0: Organizing around shared awareness and cultivating our commons → giving rise to co-creative relationships among the three sectors (government, business, civil society) in order to innovate at the scale of the whole system. These four logics mirror four different stages of economic development. Each earlier stage is included in the later ones. As economies move from 1.0 to 2.0, 3.0, and now possibly to 4.0, the consciousness of the human economic actors also evolves from traditional (1.0), to ego-system awareness (2.0), to stakeholder awareness (3.0), and to an eco-system awareness (4.0) that we see beginning today.” In other write-ups, and presumably in a co-authored book (2013), he adds another earlier stage: • 0.0 : Organizing around place-based communities (pre-modern)”. This work continues at the Presencing Institute — notably its sections on social and especially economic evolution, from which I grabbed the chart here. Overall, his view maps imperfectly but surprisingly well onto TIMN — partticularly in his ideas about progressions, about sectors adding together, about the old persisting with the new, and about heading toward a revival of the commons.

From Kojin Karatani (2014) on four modes of exchange behind social evolution:

This impressive new book, The Structure of World History (2014), by Japanese Marxist philosopher Kojin Karatani, provides “an attempt to rethink the history of social formations from the perspective of modes of exchange” rather than the traditional modes of production (p. ix). As the tables depicts (p. 10), Karatani explains (preface) that, “There are four types of mode of exchange: • mode A, which consists of the reciprocity of the gift ; • mode B, which consists of ruling and protection; • mode C, which consists of commodity exchange; and • mode D, which transcends the other three. These four types coexist in all social formations. They differ only on which of the modes is dominant.” Mode A characterized the adoption of fixed-settlement agriculture; Mode B the emergence of the state; and Mode C the commodity exchanges behind capitalism. He argues that Mode D — “a future mode of exchange based on the return of gift exchange, albeit modified for the contemporary moment” through recursions to nomadism and the pooling of resources that characterized nomadic tribes before exchange became a dominant principle — will prevail in the future. Moreover, the outcome may have religious implications, because “this final stage — marking the overcoming of capital, nation, and state — is best understood in light of Kant's writings on eternal peace.” (source) I am astonished at how well this maps with TIMN — it’s four forms, some system dynamics, and the speculative future projection — thus providing a fitting ending for this post. [I just learned about Karatani a couple weeks ago (h/t Michel Bauwens, esp. here & here), and have still not read his book. So this blurb is preliminary; I expect to have to make revisions before long.]

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End note: other pertinent studies

For additional details and citations to key scholars, see Chapter 2 “Rethinking Social Evolution”, esp. pp. 12-16, in my In Search Of How Societies Work: Tribes—The First and Forever Form (2006 — free download). Besides discussing studies that concern each TIMN form separately or in pairs, this chapter also identifies other studies that cover three or more forms. A few I discuss there merit mentioning here:
Wolfgang Streeck & Phillipe Schmitter (1985) posits that community, market, and state — characterized respectively by spontaneous solidarity, dispersed competition, and hierarchical control — have been the main models of social order and governance (Table 1, p. 122). Here they propose adding a fourth: association — an “associative order” characterized by “organizational concertation” (Table 2, p. 125). Their concept of community overlaps with TIMN’s tribe; and their market and state forms equate to +M and +I respectively. But their concept of associations has them so tightly tied together, in a corporatist manner, that it overlaps only somewhat with TIMN’s concept of networks.
Ulf Hannerz (1992, pp. 46–47) posits that “four organizational frameworks encompass most of the cultural process in the world today,” and his “form of life, market, state, and movement” frameworks correspond roughly to TIMN’s tribes, markets, hierarchies, and networks, respectively.
Mary Douglas (1996, 1996) seems to discern three major cultural contexts — enclaves, hierarchies, and markets — and her notion of “enclaves” corresponds roughly to clans, whose external boundaries are closed and whose internal norms are egalitarian. Her “grid-group” framework regarding “‘who am I?’ and ‘how should I behave?’” — leading to a matrix with quadrants for individualism, fatalism, hierarchy, and egalitarianism — aligns somewhat with TIMN.
Neo-Darwinian analyses by various anthropologists show the emergence of egalitarian sociability, hierarchical domination, and social exchange as mankind’s most basic ways of acting together (e.g., Tiger & Fox, 1971; Boehm, 1999) — further helping validate TIMN, in my view.
All very interesting — but I do not have screen grabs for including any of these studies here.

If I were to update those pages today, I would also include numerous more recent studies — so numerous that I quickly find that I must resist starting to list them here. Again, if I have overlooked an analysis that sports a pertinent table, please advise me.

Blog roll: a list of pertinent blogs:

I’ve gone looking for blogs where organizational forms get discussed — all the forms, not just networks. Here are the main ones I've found so far that are still functioning — a different list from that in my 2009 post:


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