Beer’s Viable System Model and Luhmann’s Communication Theory: ‘Organizations’ from the Perspective of Meta?Games
Beyond the descriptions of ‘viability’ provided by Beer’s Viable System Model, Maturana’s autopoietic theory or Luhmann’s communication theory, questions remain as to what ‘viability’ means across different contexts. How is ‘viability’ affected by the Internet and the changing information environments in a knowledge?based economy? For Luhmann, social systems like businesses are coordination systems that do not ‘live’ as viable systems but operate because they relieve human beings from environmental complexity. We situate Beer’s concept of viability with Luhmann’s through analyzing the way that ‘decisions’ shape organizations in an information environment. Howard’s (1971) meta?game analysis enables us to consider the ‘viable system’ as an ‘agent system’ producing utterances as moves in a discourse game within the context of its information environment. We discuss how this approach can lead to an accommodation between Beer’s practical orientation and Luhmann’s sociological critique where the relationship between viability, decision and information can be further explored.