In Search of the Future Organization-III: The Necessity of Poetry

Pravir Malik
3 min readMar 17, 2024

This mini-series aims to suggest a systems-canvas that would be powerful enough to recognize the emergence of a future organization when it begins to emerge. Part II concluded that viewing a system from the bottom up is just one-half of the coin. Equally, it must be viewed from the top down. This would make the systems-canvas more potent because, in reality, dynamics that occur in any system are equally the result of such top-down dynamics that, in the parlance of complex systems theory, become strange attractors that have power to morph a system to their way of being and becoming.

Such strange attractors are born of ideals that transcend the normality of the existing system. In mathematical language, envision the creation of an extraordinary meta-function that not only multiplies, divides, adds, and subtracts but also differentiates, integrates, and handles imaginary numbers as though this were all child’s play. This meta-function would be fundamentally different from the standard functions—that either add or subtract or multiply or divide—that exist all around it.

The birth of such a meta-function could be easiest imagined by envisioning a seer or forerunner of a different way of operating, who would go away from all typical ways of living and vow to return only when some great secret has been revealed to them.

I experienced the morphing of reality when Tony Hsieh was at the helm of Zappos. I’ve written about some of my experiences with him and will write more in this series. When he passed, I felt that what he stood for, the possibility that he had been working out through decades, could not but diminish. Undoubtedly, practices still exist at Zappos and elsewhere that aim to keep what he envisioned alive. And perhaps in the coterie of people close to him, many of whom went on to other organizations, something of that must continue. But the fact is that in the absence of a threshold set that had adequately internalized his unique ways of seeing things, his way of seeing things is bound to diminish.

In some respects, this differs from my experience of working closely with Nucor, another great American institution. I never met Ken Iverson, but it is clear that more of what he stood for and his way of operating had become central to Nucor’s culture. It is a core part of how employees and managers are taught to perceive things.

At the same time, the poetry that animated Tony Hsieh's heart and Ken Iverson's heart is the real issue. This is something other than arises from the bottom-up. This is imposed top-down by such protagonists because that is what they stand for, in stark contrast to the habitual logic around them. Having embodied a different meta-function and becoming strange attractors, the system morphs into the melodies, rhythms, and insights their poetry stood for. Regardless of practice and efforts at emulating that poetry, it is gone unless it exists in others' hearts. What is left is a shell that may have force because the original poetry had force, but its time is limited because systems require newly created poetry to live.

Systems require newly created poetry to live

So the question is, how can a systems-canvas be such that it will tell you whether such poetry is alive, or even if it is in the making, or even what the system must do to let such poetry become alive?

(To be continued…)

Part — I: The Wizard of Oz

Part — II: The Power of Wolves

Part — III: The Necessity of Poetry

Part — IV: The Other Side of the Coin

Part — V: EQ & Managing at the Margin

Part — VI: The X-Factor

Part — VII: Power, Jedi Power & Light

Part — VIII: The Mathematics of Organization

Part — IX: Imperative of a Quantum-Like Core

Part — X: The Secret of Nataraja