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There was a seminal work by James Grier Miller - titled Living Systems (which for long has remained Out of print), that has dealt with Flow principle, in depth..I came across this work, as part of my study in 1984.


I believe that as organizations take social design more seriously, it will reinvigorate interest in established disciplines like Six Sigma and C3I (Command-Control-Communications-Intelligence), frameworks to make flow more laminar in nature by eliminating or minimizing the factors that hinder flow.

That being said, there are some real opportunities to dramatically recast roles in 21st century businesses using people-powered flow as part of the design process. If the 20th century was about learning how to scale the manufacture and distribution of stuff, the 21st century is about learning how to scale ambition.


Even as evolution seems to encourage branchiness in physical flows, a reverse process seems to be at work in the case of information.

Information flows originating in the "twigs" of increasingly diverse physical forms of life feed into the branches of a larger "knowledge commons", which in turn may feed into a thickening trunk of testable general knowledge.

Life's increasingly diverse genes - "form viruses" – generate vessels for the discovery of increasingly general memes ("idea viruses"), in an enchanted dance of consilience as E.O. Wilson and Richard Dawkins have described.

These countervailing flows, I think, may be pulled by lumenes (emotion viruses), which in complex assemblies may be viewed as replicating patterns of spiritual response.


Given the trends of what you've focused on since the publishing of The Power of Pull, I'm thinking a better title for the book might have been The Power of Flow. At this point, it seems like the Push/Pull dynamic is just a consequence of this Flow property you're writing about here.

john verdon

Hello John,
I am a huge fan of your book 'the power of pull'. I think it encompasses so much that needs to be understood about how the digital environment enables new approaches to the better more fuller engagement of people.

However, I'm not so sure about this book you review. While I think I would have felt exactly as you do before I read Stuart Kauffman's latest two papers. The one most relevant to this post and one that I think is a 'Gödel' moment in relation to the physics worldview and the scientific orientation appropriate to living systems and the biosphere is here http://arxiv.org/abs/1201.2069

"No Entailing Laws, but enablement in the evolution of the biosphere" This is no easy read - but it is the most exciting paper I've ever read. In some ways I think Kauffman provides the necessary boundary to application of the logics of physics (logics of implication that have powerfully described what we see - but don't actually explain the causal logics of reality) and related metaphors to life, evolution and living systems.

I would love to hear you views on Kauffman in light of this review.

By the way his other paper "Answering Descartes - Beyond Turing" can be found here

Ken Gillgren

This certainly enriches Alexander's Timeless Way of Building, and the ongoing journey of "extending and repairing," with a stronger emphasis on the adventure of discovery, where you may not know in a given context whether you will enter a cul de sac (where energies may actually pool and intensify before breaking through) or an unexpectedly refreshing moment of connection and explicitly new possibilities. This is closer to the "subjective" side of complexity theory, the on-the-ground experience of navigating through an environment that is itself subject to multiple flows and constant motion.
Sorry, I'm seeing this as a re-casting of an extended lineage of thought. I'm off to read the book!

monika hardy

thanks John.

especially intrigued by the emphasis on freedom.
wondering if we're at a point, where self-directedness is vital, flow is vital, but perhaps we're in need of a setting free? some of us anyway, perhaps most of us. an outside offering, of this setting free..

just started reading Susan Cain's Quiet.. but will mostly likely order this as well.

Joe McCarthy

A compelling and inspiring review, and quite well aligned with what I found most inspiring about the Power of Pull: institutions as platforms for [the flow of] individual passions. However, the focus on flow here leads me to wonder if "platform" is the best characterization, as that tends to imply a raised surface, vs. say a river bed. I suppose an aquaduct might be an appropriate image - a raised platform that encourages flow.

In any case, thanks for the review - just ordered the book.

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