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  • Writer's pictureAdam Timlett

How Turing Meta Can Image Your Organisation's 'Dragon'

Updated: Jul 17, 2023

Lots of researchers talk about the need for a holistic approach to problems in order to actually solve them. And many organisation transformations fail because they don't have a holistic view of the whole organisation. But how can you get a holistic view of something no-one has directly experienced? This is the problem that Turing Meta solves. By applying theory from biology we can adopt a unique perspective and, for the first time, your organisation can truly be seen holistically, in an accurate way.


Grasping the Tail of the Dragon

In the 1970s, the American physicist John Wheeler compared quantum mechanics with a "great smoky dragon": He said: "One can see the tail, that is the source of the particles, and the head, which are the measurement results. But in between the whole body is covered in smoke. And this smoke cannot be removed."


Before that, Einstein had compared the quest to understand nature with a view of a lion. In a letter to a friend in 1914 he wrote: "Nature shows us only the tail of the lion. But there is no doubt in my mind that the lion belongs with it even if he cannot reveal himself to the eye all at once because of his huge dimension. We see him only the way a louse sitting upon him would."


And the objective view of organisations above 150 persons are also 'smoky dragons' (or 'huge lions') that we try to grasp, but can't experience directly.

That's because, if your organisation is over 150 people, it doesn't really operate at a human scale.

Working in a 216 Person Organisation for 72 years. Credit: Turing Meta


For example, to better understand a 216 person organisation by actually doing each distinct team's job for a year, assuming teams of 3, might take one person 72 years. Even then their view would still likely be quite superficial, as many jobs take longer than a year to master, or require professional qualifications. Also, jobs vary enormously in the skills required. Finally most of the person's experience would be out of date before their lifetime tour of the organisation was even halfway completed.

To see the view of your organisation objectively; to grasp the tail of the dragon, is to grasp the View From Nowhere. It's outside of any individual's single experience.

As a result, everyone who works within your organisation sees some pieces of the puzzle, but never the whole.

So, we cannot experience the whole organisation directly. But it gets worse:

We can't use science to directly understand our organisations, either.

That's because the scientific method relies on controlled experiments to generate high quality information and to develop high quality theories. But even very small organisations of 10 people are far too large for scientists to perform controlled experiments. This means that scientific efforts to study organisations directly, such as management science, social psychology and organisational economics, are at best immature in their theories compared to sciences where controlled experiments are possible. The higher quality domains include physics, chemistry and biology.

Fortunately, science does give us a way of understanding things that are too big or too small to experiment on directly. This is by experimenting and understanding systems that can be treated as analogous models of those things we want to know about. Scientists choose a system they can study directly, experiment on it, and theorise how it is similar enough to the very large or small system they want to understand.

And it turns out that modern biological science is in the sweet spot of things that happens to be a good model for many of the problems of human organisations and yet also 'small' enough for us to understand in detail and with theory depth and subtlety. This is all because biologists are using controlled experiments to test hypotheses and refine their theories.

Figure 1: Quality of Theories and Information & Distances Between Subjects, Credit: Turing Meta

The unusual nature of science is such that if you start with very high quality theory generated by high quality methods and then lose a lot information because it is a theory which is only analogous to the subject you are actually interested in, then this 'fuzzy picture' of your subject is still actually very, very useful. And it will still likely be of far higher quality than a theory of the very same subject you are interested in, just because that direct theory has been generated by far inferior methods and so is highly inaccurate, even though it appears precise.

Black Hole MH87 Taken by Event Horizon Telescope, Generated by PRIMO Algorithm. Credit: Medeiros et al. 2023


It is like the image of the black hole that was taken last year. Any attempts to image a black hole directly will fail as no light escapes from it. In the same way, you can't see the whole organisation directly. But, you can see it accurately, if indirectly, via biological science. And because it's the only picture of the whole organisation it is priceless. Just like the only image of a black hole, despite being fuzzy, or imprecise, it is also priceless, because it is accurate.

So by translating experimental biology research into organisational theory, we unlock the enormous power of high quality science and theory. And for the first time, by studying organisms, we have indirect experience of our organisation's real problems from the perspective of the whole organisation rather than just pieces of individual teams and their subjective perspectives within it. For the first time, the holistic view, which is the View From Nowhere, becomes available. And this 'fuzzy picture' of your organisation has enormous value because you have no other image of the whole organisation with this level of accuracy. Theories developed by direct observation of organisations such as management science and social psychology are precise or 'high res' pictures of organisations but also likely to be highly inaccurate because they weren't developed using controlled experiments. They are pictures of the wrong thing or just a piece of the whole, which can be highly misleading.

As a result, the insights from biopowered organisation theories are deep and real.

By finally grasping the tail, and imaging the whole organisation, we can begin to tame your dragon.


Have a look at www.turingmeta.org to see how your organisation can benefit.

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