Applicability and Jobs

Physically speaking there is no absolute time nor place, and an event is determined by its relative location in space and time. The universe is relative. It is also subjective, because it exists by its observer. She determines the importance of the event to her, by the frame of reference she has built up in her life time. The subjectivity originates from the uniqueness of her experiences and their order, and causes unique observations. We need a frame of thought to caters for this this subjective perspective by way of a multi-centric view, and non-anthropocentric at that.

I make use of the philosophical notion of assemblages and rhizomes of Deleuze and Guattari (2004) to capture the nature of the firm. They are behavioral phenomena put in motion by an immanent guiding principle, for instance of a physical, chemical, biological, and in this case a social nature. They do (behave) as they have to do in a particular circumstance, attracted or repelled to others by aspects of their behavior. What connection attracts has a chance of becoming stable and last, and what repels is more likely to be unstable and disappear.

Assemblages form a rhizome as they get taken up into an organization. One assemblage can be attracted to another because it is pink, while another is attracted to it because it produces an interesting sound or smell. This can occur in many different combinations of pairs. Intermittently and temporarily stable complexes of nested assemblages showing behavioural combinations and juxtapositions constitute new ones with new behavior. A rhizome is the organization of such a tangle of assemblages plus all the (linguistic) instruments required to mutually translate and interpret their individual behavioral expressions and perceptions. Everything is external to the organisation.

A fairly simple instance of a rhizome is a murmuration. Each sparrow picks one direction and speed form many possible ones it is capable of, all the while observing (groups of) neighbouring ones. Together their behavior makes an assemblage, but as a whole the assemblages including their expressions (behavioral aspects) make up the entire murmuration, as a rhizome.

An individual is identified by carving her out from the rhizome: she (the sub-population of the murmuration or the firm she belongs to) is n-1. From all the sparrows emerges (or self-organises) the murmuration, its behavior irreducible from the individuals’. The rhizome is a unity: 1. It has no central coordination, but instead its coordination develops from individuals’ behaviors. It develops from the recursive (not continuous) myriads of individual observations. This model caters for the multi-entered approach.

Firms are havens that cater for a whole range of different interests of the members of the population of the firm (roughly synonymous with its stakeholders). Many different people have different interest that are guided by the different ideas they hold. They put them in motion to do as they do, and they meet the other members of the population in the firm. In order to explain the nature of the firm in this fashion it is not required that these guiding ideas mention the firm. It emerges from them, in fact from the behavior they induce in people.

The first meaning of ’to apply’ is (Merriam-Webster Dictionary): to put to use (especially for some practical purpose). I previously wrote that the purpose of the firm (if there is such a thing) is different for different members of its sub-populations, and for itself which is to maintain its identity. This means that there are many different applications of the model, because it has many different (practical) uses and interpretations. The particular use of a firm for a shareholder is somewhat different from that for a customer, by the dimension of n-1 generally speaking.


He applies pressure to get what he wants.


to bring into action

apply the brakes


to put into operation or effect

apply a law

The interests of the sub-population are fulfilled by the firm (1), not by one or more of its parts. The interests of the individual constituents are irrelevant to determine the behavior of the firm, because they are irreducible to one another. You cannot predict a person’s behavior from that of her cells from which she emerged (or her atoms). This is impossible, but their second-order observations of the firm, of the others, and of themselves are relevant. From this we may induce the repertoire of behavior of the firm in an inductive process.

So what do my partners in the discussions with business schools and businesses mean when they say they prefer an applied model (to the extent of not hiring me): for whom is it of practical use? The answer is of course that each sub-population needs to make up their mind for another round of commitment to this firm by assessing the contribution to all the others, of the firm as a whole (its repertoire) and of itself in order to anticipate the future behavior of the firm.

To my interlocutors an increase of applicability means that the firms they represent or study are better able to anticipate their futures. I can contribute to that by deriving an approach to strategy for the firm as a multi-centered system in a nomad environment.