Emergence – Part 3 – The Rules

Once before, at a time of great change – the Ending of the Ice Age – Mankind used Emergence to not only come through but to take a new place on the planet. Don’t we face the same kind of challenge today? Is not Emergence our best chance?

We have so little time that if we are to face our challenges directly and use Emergence as a process, that we have to know what to do. We have to know the science and hence the predictable rules?

Because we know the rules for electromagnetism, we can use them to change our world. My bet is that we we know the rules for how best to use the social energy of people, amplified by social media, we may change the world even more than when we first amplified our group potential when we acquired complex language.

Then we created consciousness.

We were able to discuss novelty into being – the very essence of Emergence. And for most of this time, all of this happened like this – face to face in small groups.


What might happen, if we can expand our circle from face to face to a global conversation but with the same intimacy? If the result 60,000 years ago was so momentous then – what might be our destiny now?

With our place in the world in such jeopardy, global warming, resource shortages, peak oil, political logjams – we don’t seem to be making any progress with our current way of “seeing” and “acting”. I wonder if our only hope to “see” our place more clearly and to “discover” solution that will work is to press for a larger process of Emergence. If we could harness a global conversation, what might be the result.

In parts 1 and parts 2 – I have done my best to offer a directional approach to this voyage of discovery.

Now we come to the hard part. What are the rules. For if social energy is as real as electro-magnetism, it will have rules.

That once we know them, we can make a break from mere speculation, techno babble and kumbya and design in the full power of social media to make this great link up that it offers. Then we can get to work.


In the prior posts, I have talked about the utility of this way of seeing the preconditions for human emergence.

We need a Container – the Circle of Concern. We need inside this a boiling mass of many connected points – the Circle of Influence.

We need to know what are the rules to produce the best container and the best circle of influence within it.

The Rules for the Container – What makes containers more powerful than others?

The container is a force multiplier. Like a boiler – the more pressure the more force and hence work. The ideal container is then an energetic multiplier that brings into play the full energy of human beings. All of them and every part of them.  It creates complete alignment and hence the full energetic force becomes available. So what does our observation tell us about when is their an event that brings all of people and all people together as one? Usually it is when we are at war – in a war of survival – like WWII.

Observation reminds us that Tribal Survival is the ultimate Circle of Concern.

So what in the modern era is Tribal? I don’t think that it is a group of sports fans. They are bonded by a conformity and by identifying with what others do. In a way sports fans may be people who would like more of a cause but have no other choice in the drab world we live in. It’s not the work force of a traditional organization. There is not enough equality in the rewards or risks. Also there is too much conformity demanded in most traditional organizations.

For we can also see that conformity is death to emergence. It was the added diversity that made up the gains in the last months of the Netflix prize. Really new ideas are by nature disruptive. Too much conformity hates disruption.

It can’t just be the folks on the web we feel most comfort with as well – for the same reasons of diversity. The Echo Chamber is where we get stuck in a repeating loop. We know that most disruptive ideas are mergers of other views and ideas.

A real tribe is much more complex and diverse. Diversity is the critical ingredient. So the challenge is how do you get people who are so different to work with each other?

Shared risk seems to be one way.

Designing social groups so that the risk is real and shared is how many older societies enabled this diversity to have its full power. You can see it in the Shield Wall or the Phalanx. All male citizens were in them. All ranks of society, all professions, all sets of personal values, all shapes and sizes. They were united by a shared danger. They relied on each other to get through this. And behind them stood their wives, their children. Behind them stood their culture and their identity as a group. All were at risk. All had to be contributors.

If you wish to feel this energy – here is a link to the defining moment of the South, as Lew Armistead gives the orders for his Brigade to begin Pickett’s charge. They fight not for slavery but for all they have. For “Virginia” known as “Our country”. In the scene preceding he shows the British officer the diverse nature of the men there that day – from aristocrat to farm boy – all points of view – all sorts – united as brothers “All Virginia is here” Armistead says.

I think that such a mix – diverse – contributing/participative – high stakes for all – makes the most powerful containers for human emergence. Don’t we live at a time now when this is again true? For if we don’t do the right thing, is not all at risk?

Tribal Issues defined like this make the best containers – the more that the threat is immediate, widespread and dangerous, the more power it has to produce the preconditions for emergence. The more that people can see that they can and should act themselves, the more that this energy is maximized.

The more the issue is truly life or death for the Tribe – the more contextual and rooted in the soul of the people  – the more that the solutions are participative the more powerful the container.

We don’t have to go to war to find this energy. What about people living in Detroit now? What about California? I am seeing that there is a group of people, with their backs to the wall, who have stopped looking “out there” for help. Who will not run. Who are going to create something themselves. They are banding together into a circle of concern that is “Their Country”.

I was in a meeting last week with some people who were telling of colleagues who were tired of the low risk route. “I want to die on a hill” said one. I don’t think he really wanted to die – but he did want to be connected with people in that way. Don’t most of us long for this kind of commitment. With it, trust is so high that emergence is possible.

Trust – real trust – comes from shared risk and shred experience in risk. With very high trust comes openness and with enough mass and enough openness comes emergence.

In summary here appear to be the rules for the optimal “Container” or “Circle of Concern”

  • Tribal survival – where all are at risk and all can be rewarded – this then goes on to allow
  • High levels of Trust – this goes on to allow
  • Maximum Diversity – this then sets the conditions for
  • Emergence

So now what might be the rules for the Circle of Influence?

The Rules for the Circle of Influence – What makes influence more powerful?

scale free networks

We know what the Circle of Influence has to look like – It has to look like this.

For emergence occurs in scale free networks and this is what they look like. So we have a check point – if your Circle of Influence does not look like this – it is not optimal.

Note that they have hubs of major concentration of “influence” (All these great slides come from Ricard V Sole’s – ICREA-Complex Systems Lab, UPF, Barcelona & Santa Fe Institute, USA talk at ECCS at Jerusalem Sept 2008). So we can expect our human energy networks to have this pattern.

The Circle of Influence is not an undifferentiated mass of people and connections. It will be made up of fractal clumps of “cells” that will lean towards being optimal in influential power. So it will not be about having 5,000 Twitter Followers but it will be about what is the ideal number to have to maximize influence.

Not this- You and masses of “friends”


But this – You and a a few close friends connected to other close friends in a huge scale free network


Another view of Scale Free – Thanks to Valdis Krebs

So the pattern is clear. It is lots of small networks hyper linked to others. We also know from the brain that the more links the better. Linking is good. More is better. Best is the most possible.

But what about the detail – how big are these cells and what are they like inside?

The answer to how big is not very big. We know how big is ideal and we know why as well.  All these little sub-networks are ideally bounded by the Magic Numbers of Fibonacci. Here is the most complete review of this new science of the nature of ideal human connections that I have been able to assemble

Here is Chris Allen’s research into group satisfaction:


Here is his observation about Guild sizes in WOW


We know what groups work best and under what circumstances. 8 is the ideal group where we find the tightest connection in the largest group. 144 is the maximum – likely that the power of the connection is much weaker at 144. Where is the most leverage? Likely at 34. This may be where the connection is tightest versus the reach. 2 – 3 – 5 may be too tight and too close?

Across all militaries the ideal unit sizes are:

  • 8 – Squad/Section
  • 35 – Platoon
  • 150 – Company

There are thousands of years of experimentation involved in these numbers. They are not made up they have emerged!

So these numbers seem very small to all those that have 15,000 Twitter followers and think that they are connected. How do such small groups have the power to have massive influence?

I think the key rule here is “Influence”. Not Malcolm Gladwell’s idea of a few people who have a lot more influence that the rest of us – though I still know there to be merit in that.

I think that we come back to Trust again. If you are a real friend of mine and you ask me to look at something or to do some thing, it is a good bet that I will say yes. The rule then is to find the sweet spot between reach – total numbers – and influence – how much we trust each other.

Even small groups have a lot of total influence. H\here is an example of the reach if we assume that each of our “friends” has 4 friends

2 – 16

3 – 82

5 – 625

8 – 4,096

13 – 28,561

34 – 1,336,336

55 – 9,150, 625

89 – 62, 742,241

144 – 429, 981, 696

With 34 I can reach 1.3 million with a lot of power of influence. With 144 I can reach 429 million but I have doubts about the power of the influence.

Even with 8 I can reach 4,000 and be assured that I will have a lot of influence.

With a scale free network, it may be better to think small but to work to ensure that we have the best connections.

So here we come to the biggest challenge – Emergence demands diversity as well as connections. We can only trust people like us. If all our “friends” are in the echo chamber, we lose the chance. How do we make connections to other cells out there who are not like us? Even harder, how do we make Trusted connections to people not like us?

For true diversity is not about race or color but about values. Way out geeks or creative people don’t care much for money or efficiency. Hey many don’t even know what day it is. Those who need to win look at nurturers with contempt. Those who care about how things work and about people are mystified by people who don’t.

This is I think the most challenging part of the “Rules” and fortunately, my pal Stuart Baker may have found the answer here as well.

scalefree architecture

If we have a true survival situation, then we tend to get alignment. But what about a less do or die situation? Also even in a do or die situation how do we reduce the friction of the essential diversity.

Our bodies are very diverse and full of many separate and even opposing processes and entities. But there is a design that regulates the system to trend to homeostasis. Not a God – not a parent – not a CEO – but a simple regulating process that BALANCES the system.

In genetics, P53 is the “governor” of the system – it is the mechanism where the system defaults to homeostasis – it “moderates” or “facilitates” the interactions.

We have to find the “Governor” that will enable the different parts of the human soup get comfortable getting connected. Stuart Baker starts with an extremely simple model of what the gross differences are in the human mindset that makes up the full diverse human experience. It looks like this:

stuatbaker model

Humans can be grouped into 3 realms of mindset. Of course this is a very simple view but this is how science works we have to start here with simple. I will confine myself to the positive – there are shadow sides to these archetypes as well.

Pioneers – a few of us love ideas more than anything – no guesses as to who I am. We live in our heads. We would rather work for free if it meant that we could do more thinking and exploring. Organizations find us hard to “manage” – we tend to be quite fragile emotionally. We tend not to think enough about how people feel. We are intellectual – in that our minds are where we spend most of our best time. We look to the new. Creating the new is our most important thing. We hate the mundane routines of life. Often found in academia.

Nurturers – there are lots of us here – my wife is one thank goodness for me. We look out for others as a priority. We defend the hearth – many soldiers are here! We do for others – this is not just emoting. We are pragmatic in our care. We want to help people become all they can be. (The dark side is that we want to make people dependent on us)We are relational – in that we spend most of our energy on relationships. We are traditionally conservative. The new scares us. Protecting is the most important thing. Often found in government.

Providers – We bring home the bacon. We are very action orientated. We take care of business. We tend not to be very empathic. We tend to be transactional. We find most thinkers too airy fairy and we find many nurturers too whiny. We are active – we need to WIN. We don’t think much about the future and we need to get our information in simple chunks that we can act on right away. We spend most of our time competing. Winning is the most important thing. Often found in business.

Do you see yourself here? You can also see why it is so hard to get out of the Echo Chamber. What Pioneer feels good with the typical no sayer of the Nurturing type or the trivial mindless focus on winning today of the Provider? You can see my bais but please insert your own back – that is my point – this is a hard mix to bring together.

This is why survival is one of the ways of doing that.

But what about day to day life? How can we bridge and balance these opposing groups?


Here is Stuart’s huge insight. That this pattern is of course Fractal.

Inside each of us is a fractal of the whole. Like atom forming into molecules, we can see the linking and the bridging points.

In the Pioneer realm there are Pioneers whose tendency is either to Nurture or Provide. In the Nurturer and Provider realms there are those who tend to the other realms.

So then there is one more step to optimize the balance in this system.


This is a model of a client of mine – the PEI BioAlliance. A Cluster/Emergence Making Network of “cells” with a Circle of Concern of using research into how nature works to improve the economy and society that is PEI.

What we discovered was that we had to add the equivalent of P53 to the mix. The BioAlliance Inc – that lives in the Nurturer Realm – is a small 3 person organization that “facilitates the balance of the system. It Holds the Space. Its director is not the CEO – he is the Facilitator. He is responsible for maintaining trusted links and for creating the habit of trust based on the continual experience of its value in the day to day interactions of the group.

If you wish to know more here is a link to the story of the early trials and failures and the ultimate success of this venture.

In the centre is a board made up of all the parts and all the realms. Here issues of trust are worked out and here is where the larger value of the whole is often realized.

So ideally a p53 – a system facilitator ideally should be designed into a network that seeks emergence. This is what allows the most important aspect of all – there must be the full diversity of being human in play for the best emergent results. All 3 realms must be aligned.


Here is how Dr Chet Richards – John Boyd’s St Paul illustrates the challenge.

We have to use facilitation to get heree:

alignment chet

Whew! This is a long post and I have only really scratched the surface. So let’s close now with a summary.

  • The optimal Circle of Concern will be about Tribal Survival – all must be in the zone of risk and reward
  • The Circle of Influence – has to be a scale free network – no other design replicates nature’s precondition
  • The Circle of Influence ideal cell size is small and relies on the links to scale – there is a design of reach and pull to optimize here – it will be found in the Fibonacci sequence
  • The Circle of Influence must be diverse – we have to get out of the echo chamber – ideally all three realms must be balanced and included – this is very hard to do
  • To get the best alignment/balance – we need a balancing agent/facilitating agent/p53 – this lives in the Nurturing Realm and must be very small – it is an agent not a CEO
  • The live blood of an optimized system is Trust

I am going to take a break and then talk more about how this might be put in place. I will use 2 case studies and Stuart and Rory Francis and I are starting to make some short films about this too.

2 thoughts on “Emergence – Part 3 – The Rules

  1. Pingback: Emergence – How it works – Part 1 | Rob's Fast Forward Blog Posts

  2. Pingback: Emergence – Part 2 | Rob's Fast Forward Blog Posts

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