Stigmergy as a way to work
"An organization without an organizer"
What is Stigmergy?
To understand this concept, we will make a brief introduction to its appearance in history.
This term was born from the French zoologist Pierre-Paul Grasse, in 1959. Initially he started with the study of termites, and their behavior in the organization and regulation of collective activities.
His observation was to see the termites building their nest, which should have an order, from the mud, which is obviously disorderly, and the way in which the termites managed to make their nests, was through collaboration, that is to say, from a cooperative work among all to achieve order. This is what he called stigmergy: work that encourages more work.
This author recognizes the importance of self-organization, and this concept, although it started with insects, has later been tested in different areas, such as robotics and human societies.
Stigmergy then has a key to its meaning: cooperation without the need for centralized control.
However, it was around 1990, with the help of Francis Heylighen's dissemination of the theory, that this word began to be used to refer to the self-organization of disordered systems, without a central power model.
In this idea, collaboration works as a superior organizational system and with better results than competition-based system.
Now let's define this concept more clearly:
Basically, stigmergy is a method of indirect coordination, where a stimulus left in the environment by one action, results in another subsequent action. There is no need for central control or direct communication between the involved actors performing the actions.
It is not even necessary for them to know of each other's existence. Stigmergy is proper to the study of self-organizing systems.
Agents that respond to stimuli in the environment with a successive action receive benefits, which increases the likelihood that this behavior and response to stimuli will remain over time.
In its most literal meaning, because of the origin of the word, stigmergy means collaboration through the physical environment.
Returning to the example of termites, they are grouped under a decentralized system, so they have different elements of collaboration from certain cues left in their environment, such as pheromones, accumulation of objects or even changes in temperature, all of which represent elements that allow them to regulate themselves.
Thanks to stigmergy, people have the potential to be masters of their own work, i.e., They do not need a central authority or permission from a group to know which part to contribute to or what to work on.
Stigmergy produces intelligent and complex structures and supports efficient collaboration between agents.
Stigmergy in decentralized organizations
Stigmergy, although we say it is "collaborative", is not collaborative in the strict sense of the word, but can be described more as a "decentralized and autonomous" way of working.
That is, the ideas are freely proposed, and if the idea catches the attention of the other members, they will naturally collaborate actively for its development to carry it forward, that is to say that in the end this collaboration will depend on the interest of the person in the proposed idea.
This is what happens with projects: those who vote for the proposal are interested in doing so, and those who collaborate are committed to the proposal.
One way to explain the relationship between Stigmergy and decentralization, is for example, the decentralized system of the blockchain, which is governed through Stigmergy. Basically, this system demonstrates the success of "an organization without an organizer".
It is an innovative way of growing organizations from a different dynamic, where what matters most is the free and voluntary contribution of its members.
Stigmergy and democracy
Heather Marsh, associated with movements such as Anonymous and Occupy, has taken the concept of stigmergy to propose it as a new social system, where the major impetus for societal progress would be collaboration.
In this society based on stigmergy, representative democracy would not be used, but the governance model would be based on collaborative methods, with ideas, actions and contributions.
Therefore, the development of society would depend on ideas, projects and initiative, not on what a group of people decide, and there would be no need for extraordinary permissions to propose ideas, it is simply a matter of contributing and then taking action.
Although most corporations and institutions base their decision making on representative democracy, with web3, this system is being left behind.
The model of representative democracy is very old, it has been used for centuries to guide societies, however, now the world is beginning to take a different direction:
Collaboration is a system that breaks the limits that representative democracy imposed, it is a way to allow each individual to participate, contribute and make decisions autonomously, being that social progress depends on joint initiative and an action that leads to another, to achieve a goal.
All the possibilities of a system whose center is collaboration are not yet determined, however, it is evident that there are many.
Stigmergy as a way to work
Although it has been studied, stigmergy has not yet reached its full potential, what is very clear is that it is an efficient and effective mechanism of coordination, collaboration and self-organization, which does not require planning or much synchronization to function.
Rather, it relies on initiative and action to achieve the objective. In recent years it has been studied even more, because organizations have emerged that unwittingly use this model as their organizational model and have had positive results applying it.
DAOs are a very clear example of this.
At dOrg our vision for the future is total decentralization, so we encourage our members to work from collaborative coordination and to focus on contributing to meaningful activities without the need for a central authority.
In dOrg we are not bound to respond to a vertical system, but all members are able to accomplish goals independently, as a result of prior collaboration and interest among the members of our community.
Autonomy in decision making and initiative are a fundamental part of dOrg, the term "stigmergy" fits very well with our way of organizing ourselves and achieving our goals as a community, based on collaboration, motivation and interest in the common good, considering the meaning of stigmergy and the way we manage activities and projects in dOrg, we can say that we use stigmergy as a way of working.
That's what working under a Stigmergy model is all about:
Each member contributes freely and the action of one member brings another action, therefore, it is not necessary to give specific instructions to produce results, but through initiative and having a clear communication [from stimuli, actions or observation] each member collaborates with the organization, bringing it closer to the desired final objective.
Therefore, stigmergy as a way of working is based on achieving success and organization without the need of one or several authorities.
Do you identify with this way of working? Let us know your thoughts by interacting with us on discord!
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