Over 400,000 people visited Farnam Street last month to learn how to make better decisions, create new ideas, and avoid stupid errors. With more than 100,000 subscribers to our popular weekly digest, we've become an online intellectual hub. To learn more about what we do, start here.

Naturalistic v. Idealistic Approaches to Organizational Planning

Idealistic approaches, however well motivated, rely on top down determination of what is right.

In the idealistic approach, the leaders of an organization set out an ideal future state that they wish to achieve, identify the gap between the ideal and their perception of the present, and seek to close it. This is common not only to process-based theory but also to practice that follows the general heading of the “learning organization”. Naturalistic approaches, by contrast, seek to understand a sufficiency of the present in order to act to stimulate evolution of the system. Once such stimulation is made, monitoring of emergent patterns becomes a critical activity so that desired patterns can be supported and undesired patterns disrupted. The organization thus evolves to a future that was unknowable in advance, but is more contextually appropriate when discovered.

Dave Snowden