Harmonious Working Patterns

Community Jan 14, 2021


Life is music, you don’t go to a concert to hear the last crash cymbal and leave, you go for the experience and enjoy a dance or you’ve missed the point¹.

This is a proposal for scaling human organisation in swarms;² it is a non-prescriptive allegorical pattern that follows musical laws.³ Individuals are considered as notes in a scale and thus chords typically represent three person working groups. This is a basic premise upon which we can expand.

Punk rock on the left, Jazz on the right.


The basis for this proposal integrates number of sources, but the synthesis of it is largely non-linear.⁴⁵⁶ So that things are easier to follow and agreeable it’s suggested that we use the laws of harmonious vibration to guide organisational experimentation. If you prefer colour as a medium, your welcome to substitute it for music theory, it’s probably all the same so long as it’s Pythagorean!⁷

Looks kinda natural, sounds kinda natural… naturally it should work!?

Problem / Driver

We need to scale and integrate causes in general for exponential value creation. We also need to shift global patterns from zero-sum games to reciprocal ones or face a planetary lose-lose scenario.⁸ Single organisations often have problems with alignment, let alone extitutions with theoretically infinite stakeholders. How do we create a metastable commons?

Working with others generally results in increased focus, information dispersion and output quality. This is by and large the point of organising as a group — to create positive sum returns! Admittedly this doesn't always work out and group think can create situations that are to the detriment of an individual.

As organisations scale, they tend to slowly commit Seppuku by building up an arsenal of complicated processes. The intent is usually to handle a short term problem, but as time marches on they accumulate and the organisation eventually begins to self-suffocate on the bureaucracy... at the point it becomes critical many are already likely to have had enough.

As an alternative, we are looking for working patterns that are fluid, self-directing and actualising — while at the same time acknowledging the importance of connection, belonging and working together!

This might sound counter intuitive, but paradox it turns out is pretty damn common in nature! To illustrate I suggest trying to describe a fractal — does the opposite word also apply? Cool, so let’s find allegory in the natural to guide our collaboration and elaboration biomimetically!


The proposal is to base our working patterns in music. In an organisational context, chords become working groups consisting of notes or people that form around a "strange attractor" - before disbanding again towards completion.

When forming the next chord (or working group) its internal makeup should probably retain a good deal of harmonic self-similarity — members ideally remain related to the previous group but not completely identical. The musical example of this relationship is C major and A minor, who’s constituent notes are CEG and ACE — a single note or persons difference.

Paired programming in this regard can be considered a simple “power chord” or “dyad” where the fundamental note is mutually reinforced by its closest consonant relation or good friend the musical fifth. These notes are indeed mutually reinforcing but may tend to lack meaningful direction in a larger context; they are too similar! At this point we can obtain a gravitational center simply by adding a third person or note to the mix, giving rise to major or minor directionality and enabling the emergence of a minimally coordinated or self-directing group (“triad’).⁹

Chords or groups of higher complexity have lower consonance or alignment initially, but because of the discord they can perhaps be used to navigate complex changes or create stronger resolutions (alignment) within an organisation.

Practically we might suggest that sounding or gathering all the notes of a given octave might be equivalent to other octaves which would be self-similar and thus a representative sample of the whole. Seven also happens to be the number of neighbors a murmuring starling appears to follow¹⁰ and is often the limit of our own object tracking capabilities for things like phone numbers.¹¹

I don’t wish to prescribe anything, but perhaps that’s also the limit for making complex decisions?

Practical steps…

  • Take it upon oneself to form a power chord (duo) with a friend.
  • Decide on a third party who you think can add value to the party in either a major or minor direction. When necessary you may adopt suspensions and other alternate voices, but I’d suggest ideally only when up scaling or changing key.
  • As a trio decide on an activity you think is impactful towards a larger goal and commit to doing the work together.
  • When the task is complete, two parties continue with a related next step. At the end of group work, decide who this should be but not what to do.
  • The two people/notes continuing the epic, should procure a new third party based on a “strange attractor” otherwise known as alignment to the previously completed work. From here the newly formed chord can decide on the direction of the next movement.
  • Scale infinitely.

The Open Coop were good enough to invite me to a panel discussion as a result of this article so I decided to add it on the end as a thanks:

Get to know me real intimately 'ear' ❤


[1] Alan Watts Life and Music
[2] Scale-free correlations in starling flocks
[3] To be clear pythagorean tuning means that there is no quantisation of the octave which we force upon the instruments we have built with equally tempered tuning, thus octaves are fractal within themselves and do not repeat more than once. Here is a less quantised piano that closer abides to the constraints of this theory, though real perfection can only be found in nature (you lucky human!).
[4] Paul Biedler
[5] Tribal leadership
[6] Three body problem
[7] About Pythagorean tuning
[8] Which probably looks like the Mad Max now-now days… if we’re lucky
[9] This stack of three is also a primitive of many other interesting disciplines such as DAOist philosophy (subjective, objective, interrelated) or some of the other references on the previous page. How many examples can you find?
[10] Starling tracking
[11] The magic number 7


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