In Search of the Future Organization VIII — The Mathematics of Organization

Pravir Malik
7 min readMay 10, 2024

At the end of the day, the way I see all organizational development (OD), design, or change initiatives is that these are nothing other than ways to change the active mathematics of an organization. To become aware of the mathematics that animates an organization and how this can change based on various initiatives is important. A systems-canvas ideally needs to be sensitive enough to depict current reality while also indicating how this is changing and even highlighting where conditions may need to change to facilitate the emergence of the future organization. In the absence of a sophisticated systems-canvas, a lot will be missed. That is why a comprehensive enough mathematical schema is needed.

In this post, I will share aspects of such a mathematical schema and relate it to practical examples at different scales of complexity.

Introduction to the Mathematical Schema

But let me begin with a brief story about the mathematical schema.

Unsurprisingly, this features Tony Hsieh, who had such a genuine and vast appetite for knowledge. I used to have a 1:1 with him monthly. Usually we would discuss a vast range of topics. One day, I brought up the idea of the mathematics of organization and why it would be important to understand Zappos in this context. At the end of the discussion, he agreed to have 2 4-hour sessions with several executives where I would review the mathematics of organization and why it mattered.

The following are some of the actual slides I used:

This was fairly complicated stuff, made more complex by my wanting to integrate concepts from many of the books we continued to discuss to show how they all fit into the one-math. Now, if you were present in the room or a fly on the wall, you might have gotten a kick out of the dynamics. On the one hand, was Tony, who was really driven to understand every single equation. if we moved through something too quickly, he would stop me, make me go back, and repeat it until he got it. On the other hand, several others were almost visibly cursing me under their breath and regretting, no doubt, the day that they had facilitated my introduction to Tony!

The one-math was, in fact, part of a vast body of work I have referred to in a previous post called Cosmology of Light. In this model of light, light held a central place, and all materialization was seen as a result of different dynamics of light. It was possible to alter how things materialized by tapping into different depths of light, which, in turn, has to do with possible different speeds beyond the known speed (c) of 186,000 miles per second that light may travel. Another way to think about the speeds of light greater than the known speed c is that these are generators of different conceptual or mathematical spaces that influence the physical space of practical existence. This, by the way, was the deeper rationale behind the exercises on light I had introduced previously.

The EQ Tool minimizes noise and, beyond a threshold, opens up a deeper source of ‘light.’ The yellow box depicts this change in the second matrix. The change effectively alters the nature of ‘space’ to activate a deeper meta-level (M1). PowersWithin allows reaching further within so that something even deeper gets mobilized: we move further up the condition-matrix to a higher meta-level (M2). The Light exercises are, in effect, a placing of difficulties or situations to the logic of Light. This allows M3 to also become active. Applying the EQ tool, the PowersWithin tool, and Light effectively changes the mathematics of organization. The idea here is that the stage, the evolution, the progress toward the future, the very incarnation of an enterprise from the future, is facilitated by understanding how the underlying ‘mathematics’ of the organization is changing.

Some Agent-Based Modeling Work

My recent work at a large US company focused on bringing to the fore a more sophisticated organization better prepared for the future and the changing competitive landscape, essentially by changing the organization's mathematics. There were many dimensions to consider, but at the crux, there was a set of OD-based levers that, if activated, accelerated a change in the organization's underlying mathematics.

An Agent-Based Model (ABM) was used to model and simulate how the mathematics of the organization would change, and the following illustration depicts parts of this model. In it, one can see key elements that define the work (in the beige box) and roles across the organization (in the pink box) that interact with the foundational elements. The current math of the organization is embedded in the purple ovals, and the orange bubbles depict initiatives that can change the mathematics. Real data can be fed into this mathematics. The white box on the right depicts groups of initiatives with an orchestrated purpose:

An ABM has the advantage that the agent represented by a purple oval can have many instances, each animated by a different mathematics. This can make a model very realistic. For example, assuming that there is a role of type ‘team,’ team-x can have a specific EQ-determined decision-making profile, while team-y can have a completely different one; each will have a different impact on the underlying mathematics if involved in an initiative.

When the ABM-based simulation is run — for a period from months to years — to determine the kind of impact that various initiatives can have on the mathematics, it results in graphs highlighting key aspects of the impact:

In keeping with the times, many initiatives can be AI-type initiatives. Given that the ABM already represents the de facto system of organizational causality with all its quirks, there is now a concrete way to determine the longer-term impact of any AI initiative beyond the immediate razzle-dazzle of the short term.

The following video is a mirror version of a keynote I delivered in March this year at Cambridge University at the UKSim International Conference on Mathematical Modeling & Computer Simulation in Artificial Intelligence. The presentation captures many aspects of the mathematical modeling that goes into understanding and practically using the mathematics of organization:

Simulating World Peace

Another practical example of using this mathematics of organization is in the area of World Peace. I created a simulation based on the light-model some years ago:

The model was useful because the math changes if conditions change, and the two matrices depicted earlier suggest the conditions required for a different math to be activated and the essence of the math that gets activated as a result.

The simulation hinges around two master variables: ‘level of development,’ which refers to the different kinds of light-dynamics that become active, and ‘level of organization,’ which refers to how the development is systematized. The illustration above depicts the mathematics to do with development. The fourfold symmetrical model suggests different ways in which four abstract though fundamental properties related to our notions of ‘knowledge,’ ‘power,’ ‘presence, ‘and ‘harmony ‘ multiply, as it were, to create infinite possibilities based on the meaning and nuance of the four properties.

Four situations that define the bounds of what is possible are simulated over a 20-year period:

  1. 3a: Minimum Development + Minimum Organization — which incrementally worsens world peace.
  2. 3c: Maximum Development + Minimum Organization — which incrementally improves world peace.
  3. 3b: Minimum Development + Maximum Organization — which exponentially worsens world peace.
  4. Maximum Development + Maximum Organization — which exponentially improves world peace.

Many realistic scenarios reflecting different degrees of development and organization based on conditions in different regions of the world can now be simulated within the boundaries set by these limit-scenarios.

A mirror version of the talk I delivered at IAMOT 2021 in Egypt is captured in the following video:

Not bound by today’s thinking, such math must be the substance of the systems-canvas. Different mathematical dynamics get activated based on conditions and how these are changing. With this as the substance of the canvas, it becomes possible to open to new possibilities and morph in a less constrained manner.

(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

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