An autopoietic system is a system that is capable of reproducing and sustaining itself.
The term, autopoiesis, was coined by two Chilean biologists in the 1970s, Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela, to describe cellular activity that was resilient and regenerative. That which is Holonic by nature.
This term is used in juxtaposition to allopoietic systems.
Production lines are a classic example of allopoietic systems, where what is created is other than who the creators are. Think a car factory.
In autopoietic systems, the creators are inherently part of what is created. Theirs is a creative self-reflection that integrates into a great whole.
Autopoietic systems are inherently vital and life giving. Allopoietic systems are not.
When we think about building and sustaining supple, complex systems within organizations, the destinction between organistic autopoietic and machanistic allopoietic systems is helpful. Particularly as our organizations transition from a Cartesian Mindset to an Agile Mindset.
Our challenge, then is to understand the nature of these systems. What we might call a self-awareness or self-consousness. Something that is called Autonoetic Consciousness.
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