Metaphorum was established in 2003 as an NGO to develop Stafford Beer’s legacy and has organized a series of management cybernetics conferences and workshops over the years.
I attended three Metaphorum conferences so far.
In Hull, 2015, I shared ideas on how some of the findings of the enactive school of cognitive science can enrich the Viable System Model (VSM). Only about 8 minutes of the talk were recorded but the full Prezi and a PDF export of the frames are available.
The next Metaphorum event I attended was in Düsseldorf, 2018. The conference theme was Re-designing Freedom which was also embodied in the conference design, emphasizing different forms of self-organization1For example, this was the first Metaphorum conference to use BarCamp. and held at the premises of a company proud with their agile work hacks.
At both conferences, I tried to point to a promising new area of research. In Hull, it was towards enactivism as a rich source to draw from and fill some of the gaps in the VSM. In Düsseldorf, my invitation was to travel to another uncharted territory. There I tried to put and start answering the question “What can Social Systems Theory bring to the VSM?” You can check out the slides here.
The last day of the conference was a short hacked version of team synthegrity that worked pretty well. My topic was “Burst the VSM bubble” and in the following year, I demonstrated one way to do that.
The 2019 conference took place in Huizen, a beautiful village in The Netherlands, not far from Amsterdam. I decided, instead of delivering a typical management cybernetics talk, to present the Essential Balances.
Management cybernetics has its models and language. They are valuable when discussing with peers and for the advancement of the discipline. Yet, they limit the accessibility of the wider audience to these ideas. What’s more, they limit the spread of the mindset and skills needed for understanding and working with organizational complexity. There is no need to put off people with transducers, amplifiers, attenuators and algedonic alerts. Even using the word “system” is unnecessary. But the first essential balance, the one influenced by the VSM, does not differ only in avoiding the cybernetic jargon. It offers an observer-centric, non-mechanistic way of dealing with organizations, and – importantly – doing so without models and prescriptions.
The next Metaphorum conference is now open for registration. It’s planned for June this year.
- 1For example, this was the first Metaphorum conference to use BarCamp.