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Communication Dans Un Congrès Année : 2015

Business organisations as symbiotic systems: Internal tensions, specific forms and control mechanisms


Living systems represent a popular paradigm for business organisations, which explains the organizational characteristics of self-identity, autopoiesis, self-regulation, and co-evolution with the environment (Kandjani et al., 2013; Vancouver, 1996; Velentzas,Broni, 2011). This paper contributes to the development and clarification of this paradigm, proposing that business organisations can be best represented as symbiotic systems, nested in dynamic ecosystems. The force of the symbiotic system paradigm is derived from the observation that an organisation represents a collection of individuals which collaborate in order to achieve a common goal (Scott, 2008). On the other hand, each participating individual has its own interests, which can create tensions between the individual and collective goals and interests. These tensions are solved through a dynamic equilibrium between opportunism and collaborating benefits, studied by the Game Theory (Myerson, 1991). As in biological symbiotic systems, in business organisations the relationships between various individuals “does not imply a strict compartimentation of interspecific relationships, representing a continuous and dynamic process of different relations, such asmutualism, parasitism and commensalism” (Carrapiço, 2012).In practice, this dynamic equilibrium is realised through inter-individual communication and specific control mechanisms which introduce implicit and/or explicit self-regulating mechanisms which keep in check the internal organizational tensions (Vancouver, 1996). The control mechanisms applied within business organisations to achieve the dynamic equilibrium between individual, group and organizational interests, include four levers (Simons, 1995):(1) beliefs, (2) boundary, (3) diagnostic, and (4) interactive systems. Applying this interpretative framework, the study applied a case study methodology to investigate three instances of symbiotic systems: firms, strategic alliances and meta-organizations. Using an exploratory approach tooted in grounded theory methodology, the study indicates characteristics of the symbiotic parties, the structure of internal collaboration, the main sources of internal tensions, and the control levers applied in each situation. The findings indicate that all four levers are required to create a dynamic equilibrium between positive and negative control forces within these symbiotic systems (Simons, 1995). The theoretical and practical implications of the symbiotic system paradigm are discussed and a series of organizational principles are formulated, to describe the basic relational framework of these systems.
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hal-02078574 , version 1 (25-03-2019)


  • HAL Id : hal-02078574 , version 1


Calin Gurău. Business organisations as symbiotic systems: Internal tensions, specific forms and control mechanisms. 3rd Business Systems Laboratory International Symposium “Advances in Business Management. Towards Systemic Approach", Jan 2015, Perugia, Italy. ⟨hal-02078574⟩
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