Holonic systems

What is a holon?

A holon is both a whole and a part. An example would be that an individual human is composed of cells which are composed of atoms. The individual human is considered to be a whole human but that individual human is also a part of the human society making the individual part of a bigger whole. So the human being would be a good example of a holon but so would a node in a complex adaptive system.

What are holonic systems?

If we remember take bees as an example this time instead of humans then the holonic system would be the bee hive. The bee hive would be a representation of the societal governance structure of the bees that belong to the hive. The bees would be holons because they would be part of the hive due to the fact that they follow the rules of the hive. They cooperate between each other but are all subordinates to the rules of the hive which represents the whole. The bee hive represents a holonic system, as do ant colonies, swarms of birds, schools of fish.

The difference between pathological hierarchies and holonic hierarchies

In a pathological hierarchy perhaps one individual or one node in the network assumes the role of the “whole”. This individual might consider him or herself to be the ruler, the number 1, the head authority, who must coerce and control everyone below them. This structure typically takes the shape of a rigid pyramid where the decision making and thinking typically comes from the head authority, with limited room for individuality below.

Holacracy embeds a generative mix of autonomy and cooperation in a flexible fabric of holonic design constitutional rules. It constitutes a new operating system for organizations that regulate the individual/
group dynamics to eliminate on one side the possibility of capture via power games, and on the other side, the inherent chaos characteristic of “leaderless,” decentralized organizations.


In a holonic system of governance there is a system for generating rules to provide order. So for instance in the case of virtual governance the nodes on the network can all run the same software, the same configurations, and each changing of the configurations of each node in the network the rules for the network can change in collaborative fashion. Roles and rules are set collectively and collaboratively.

Every participant in a holacracy is a sensor for what is going on, and each plays a role in identifying the tensions in a timely way while taking active steps to resolve them. Effectiveness and resistance to
capture are achieved by enhancing the power of collective decision locally via procedures such as: “After taking Individual Action, a Part-ner should tell any affected Role about it, and, on their request, initi-
ate actions to resolve any Tension created by the Individual Action or refrain from taking this Individual Action again in the future.”


Ulieru, M. Organic Governance Through the Logic of Holonic Systems.

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