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Organisations as emergent normative personalities: part 1, the concepts

Maurice Yolles (Centre for the Creation of Coherent Change and Knowledge, Liverpool John Moores University, Liverpool, UK)
Gerhard Fink (WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria)
Daniel Dauber (WU – Vienna University of Economics and Business, Vienna, Austria)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 14 June 2011




Modelling the organisation to enable purposeful analysis and diagnosis of its ills is often problematic. This is illustrated by the unconnected non‐synergistic plurality of organisational models each of which relates to a particular isolated frame of thought and purpose. A cybernetic approach is adopted to create a generic psychosocial model for the organisation that is used to characterise its emergent normative personality. Organisations are often complex, and seeing them in terms of their normative personality can reduce the complexity and enable a better understanding of their pathologies. This paper seeks to do two things. The first is to show that it is possible to set up a generic model of the organisation as an agency, and the second is to show that this same model can also be represented in the alternative terms of the emergent normative personality. In order to do this, an understanding of what it is that constitutes generic criteria is required. In addition, the paper shall show that organisational and personality theories can be connected generically. One of the consequences of the theory is that the patterns of behaviour which occur in an agency have underlying trait control processes.


A meta‐systemic view of the organisation is adopted through knowledge cybernetics that enables more flexibility and formality when viewing organisational models. The paper develops a formal generic model of the organisation that should facilitate the exploration of problem situations both theoretically and empirically.


The outcome of the research formulates the cognitive processes of normative personality as a feasible way of explaining organisations and provide a capacity to analyse and predict the likelihood of their behavioural conduct and misconduct. As an agency trait model, agency explains the socio‐cognitive aspects of self‐organisation and the efficacy of connections between the traits. These traits control the personality, and inter‐trait connections are Piagetian intelligences that orient the traits and work through forms of first‐ and second‐order autopoiesis. The development of a typology of pathologies is also suggested as feasible.


There are previous metaphorical notions that link agency with traits. Here, metaphor is extended to produce a formal model for the emergent normative personality. This is the first time that socio‐cognitive and trait approaches are formally linked, as it is the fist time that a typology for organisational pathologies is proposed.



Yolles, M., Fink, G. and Dauber, D. (2011), "Organisations as emergent normative personalities: part 1, the concepts", Kybernetes, Vol. 40 No. 5/6, pp. 635-669.



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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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