As illustrated by the knot analogy, the same strings can give rise to different knots. Each type of knot has a different form and displays different qualities (e.g. being decorative, strong, difficult or easy to undo), even if the strings themselves are the same.
Likewise, a changing interaction of the activity systems of a person or organisation will change their nature and development. For example, placing parenting above work or self-development (or vice versa) will change the quality of life of the person and other stakeholders. Or a change in organisational structure (e.g. from a traditional hierarchy to a matrix structure) will change the functioning of the organisation and give rise to different outcomes.
In natural systems, relatively stable patterns of interaction evolved. A deviation from this pattern will impact on the system and its stakeholders (e.g. disease in the body, climate change on the planet).
The pattern of interaction is determined by the ethos of the entity system, analogous to the different instructions for different knots. The pattern formed by the interaction of its activity systems represents the structure of the entity system.
The famous saying by Aristotle that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts” also implies that an entity system is greater than the sum of its activity systems (e.g. the person, organisation and society are more than the sum of its functions or roles).
Even if each activity system functions perfectly, their interaction could give rise to a less than perfect entity system, illustrated by another famous saying that “perfect parts do not make a perfect whole.” (Ackoff)
relevance for the change manager
Some organisational structures produce better qualities and outcomes for an organisation and better development for itself and its parts (e.g. a three-dimensional organisational matrix, versus a traditional hierarchy). Thus, changing the structure of the organisation and the interaction of its business and support functions can be even more important than improving the functions per se.
what is the relevance of this concept for you?