This paper is a review of my completed thesis, which argues that the biotensegrity model could explain organizational culture. The use of the biotensegrity model to represent organizational culture partially comes from the findings of researchers, such as Clément (2004) and Aspromourgos (2001), who have demonstrated how the tensegrity structure explains economic systems and organizational structures around the world. Researchers who have supported this parallel comparison have used the human body as a metaphor, or an identity of modern economic systems, to explain how it mirrors organizational activities (Landreth, 1975; Webster, 1975).
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As I demonstrated in the completed thesis, today, we could draw many parallels between the biotensegrity model and organizational culture; however, this comparison has not always been there because many researchers have in the past only focused on how the biotensegrity model replicates today’s modern economic systems (Clément, 2004; Aspromourgos, 2001). Those who have explored the issue through an organizational performance lens have mostly focused on explaining how the tensegrity structure compares with an organizational structure. Nonetheless, a growing body of literature is striving to explain the relationship between the biotensegrity structure and organizational culture.
Researchers who are championing this area of study have used different metaphors to highlight the same relationship (Coleman, 2001). For example, some of them have provided us with the understanding that the breadth of life is the main driving force for all bodily functions (Dunn, 1990). However, for organizations and the state, the responsibility of managers, or those in power, is to provide the structure for governance that would ensure the needs of all stakeholders or parties are met (Landreth, 1975; Webster, 1975). This analogy highlights the bedrock of my thesis, which partly explained the parallel between our conceptions of an organization, the universe, and the human body.
The most fascinating thing about the metaphors highlighted in the thesis is that they provide a good representation of organization culture, biotensegrity structures, and the economy at large. In the same text, I explored the relationship between the biotensegrity model and organizational culture. This field of analysis emerged from the glaring similarities between the model and organizational culture (including the failure of researchers to use aspects of the biotensegrity model to explain organizational culture correctly). In this paper, I review the literature supporting my completed thesis in detail.
Categories and Concepts
When exploring the concept of biotensegrity and organizational culture, it was prudent to provide a background of the concept itself (biotensegrity) because it was at the core of our understanding of organizational culture and, by extension, the whole merit of the thesis. From the findings of different researchers who have broadly investigated the same relationship, in the study, I demonstrated that tensegrity was a model of anatomy that has been applied in different fields of art and human sciences. To present a more accurate understanding of this concept, the thesis contained information about the findings of different researchers in the field, such as William Sutherland, who developed a model with the same name. Sutherland was among the first researchers and professionals in the medical field to demonstrate how the cranial system represented the biotensegrity structure (Coleman, 2001).
In the thesis, I explored how rhythmic changes in the bones of the cranial system represented similar rhythmic movements in a biotensegrity model. I also relied on the findings of Christensen (1989) and Letwin (1963) who also affirmed the relations between the biotensegrity structure and the cranial system. Through extrapolation, I deduced the same relationship by explaining how the cranial system (as a representation of the biotensegrity structure) highlighted organizational culture. This study focus is explained more intricately in the section titled “Relationship between Organizational Culture and the Biotensegrity Model.”
To have a better grasp of the relationship between organizational culture and the tensegrity model, the findings of some experienced economists, such as Locke (1975), helped to explain how organizational culture impacted organizational performance. They also explained the relationship between organizational structure and culture as an antecedent of the effect or influence of culture on organizational performance. In the same analytical scope, in the thesis, I was able to use good and bad cultures to explain how culture could promote positive organizational growth and performance, or create a negative effect on the same. This explanation sets the stage for further discussions regarding how organizational culture related to the biotensegrity model.
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Behind the process of understanding how the biology of the human body relates to the operations of an economic or organizational system is an underlying attempt by researchers to liken an organization to a living organism (Landreth, 1975). The attempt to compare the two was common in the 17th century, when researchers, such as Hobbes, Nicole, and Boisguilbert, used the human body to draw parallels with an organization’s structure (Mirowski, 1994). The source of their work is found in Renaissance writings. Nonetheless, it is important to point out that their research did not present a simple illustrative metaphor as some poets in the 16th century did by presenting nature as a source of inspiration for their work.
Based on the above-mentioned focus of discussion, the findings of Lee (2005) and Janićijević (2013) helped to provide intricate details about the relationship between organizational culture and the biotensegrity model. They also highlighted key areas of commonality between the two unrelated areas of analysis. By reviewing the findings of Judge (1984) and Lee (2005), in the thesis, we were able to establish that the main areas of commonality between organizational culture and the biotensegrity model were flexibility, proper communication, self-regeneration, self-regulation, stability, patterning/integration, and problem assessment mechanism. These focal points of discussion were pivotal in highlighting the main areas of focus that other researchers have used to explain the relationship between organizational culture and the biotensegrity model.
How the Thesis Connects with the Findings of Other Researchers
Generally, in the thesis, we found out that most organizational problems were mere consequences of unquestioned axioms surrounding organizational and cultural norms. We also found out that they are products of inherent assumptions of the same norms and values that have caused decades of perpetual unethical practices, such as greed and inefficiency, in organizational processes. The literature used to affirm the above assertions come from a review of the findings of different researchers, scholars, and academicians who have explored the concept of tensegrity and related it with different scientific fields, such as biology (Orthopaedics), economics, and architecture. Some of these researchers include Clément (2004), Judge (1984), Lee (2005), and Aspromourgos (2001), just to mention a few.
The completed thesis is connected with the findings of different researchers on the premise that it builds on the literature of biologists such as William Sutherland who have identified the similarities between organizational culture and the biotensegrity model. However, the thesis’s findings are unique to this area of analysis because they build on research work that only focused on the relationship between biotensegirty and organizational structure. The focus on organizational culture viz-a-viz organizational structure was unique to the thesis because few studies have explored the relationship between organizational structure, organizational culture, and biotensegrity. This research gap was the main justification for undertaking the thesis.
Based on a review of the literature used in the thesis, it is prudent to point out that many economists were captivated by the idea of comparing economic and organizational systems with the biotensegrity or biological model (Appleby, 1978). Mostly, they were fascinated by how the biological system would structure economic thought. Therefore, they chose to understand how both sets of systems would present an analogical imagination. Stemming from this point of analysis, many economic experts started using different human organs to explain the different roles of an organization in a wider economic system (Hodgson, 1993; Mirowski, 1989). For example, some of them used the stomach to represent the people (the stomach was likened to a factor of production in an organization and the distribution of wealth in a political system).
The main strengths of the literature used in the thesis are their strong validity and reliability. Indeed, they are interdisciplinary and come from reputable research data sources. Stated differently, the literature used in the completed study comes from economic research, medical research, and the arts. Through such a multilayered and interdisciplinary scope, we were able to get a holistic understanding of the relationship between biotensegrity and organizational culture. More importantly, we were able to get a definitive understanding of how well the biotensegrity model explains organizational culture.
Broadly, researchers have likened the use of the biotensegrity model of the human body to organizational culture to understand certain aspects of organizational performance, such as the circulation of money and the division of labor in an organization (Groenewegen, 2001). Macroeconomic experts have often used the same analogy to explain the hierarchy of economic activities in an organization. Indeed, behind the goal of understanding the biology of the human body and the operations of an economic or organizational system is an underlying attempt by researchers to liken an organization to a living organism (Landreth, 1975).
The analogies and metaphors used in the thesis explain the relationship between biology and the political or economic systems that highlight the understanding of different researchers about biotensegrity and culture. In other words, each part of the state, similar to each part of the human body, contributes to its proper structure. Concisely, the comparison between the human body system and the economic system was, largely conceptualized within the understanding that the human body was a microcosm of the universe. In the thesis, I demonstrated that linking organizational models to the biotensegrity model was key to understanding how the processes of one part of the system explain the operations of another part. Based on such an analogy, this paper demonstrates that the literature used in the thesis came from the understanding that the medical field greatly inspired economic thought. Similarly, many people understand that the research done on the biotensegrity model helped to clarify many economic ideas.
Appleby, J. (1978). Economic thought and ideology in seventeenth century England. Princeton, NJ: University Press.
Aspromourgos, T. (2001). Political economy, political arithmetic and political medicine in the thought of William Petty. London, UK: Routledge.
Christensen, P. (1989). Hobbes and physiological origins. History of Political Economy, 21(1): 689-709.
Clément, A. (2004). The influence of medicine on political economy in the seventeenth century. History of Economics Review, 38(1), 1-22.
Coleman, W. (2001). The significance of John Locke’s medical studies for his economic thought. London, UK: Routledge.
Dunn, J. (1990). The economic limits to modern politics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Groenewegen, P. (2001). Physicians and political economy: six studies of the work of doctor economists. London, UK: Routledge.
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Hodgson, G. (1993). Economics and evolution: bringing life back into economics. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Janićijević, N. (2013). The mutual impact of organizational culture and structure. Economic Annals, 58(198), 35-60.
Judge, A. (1984), From networking to tensegrity organization. Washington, DC: Union of International Associations.
Landreth, H. (1975). The economic thought of Bernard Mandeville. History of Political Economy, 7(1), 193-208.
Lee, P. (2005). Review of the intelligent body. AAO Journal, 15(2), 69-79.
Lee, P. (2011). Interface: Mechanics of spirit in osteopathy stillness. Portland, OR: Press Publications.
Letwin, W. (1963). The origins of scientific economics. London, UK: Methuen.
Locke, J. (1975). An essay concerning human understanding. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Mirowski, P. (1989). More heat than light: economics as social physics, physics as nature’s economics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Mirowski, P. (1994). Natural images in economic thought. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Webster, C. (1975). The great instauration. science, medicine and reform 1626-1660. London, UK: Duckworth.