Exploring the fractalities of True Storytelling Principles, Processes, and Tools

The Three Loops are interplaying fractals that keep recurring. Fractals are self-similar patterns recurring across scales from micro to macro in spaces, times, and mattering (SpaceTimeMattering inseparabilities of entanglement) . Here we focus on the ways of networking that is about collective intelligence of systems organizing, developing, and changing.

We have 7 tools in ODC 2.0 to get from Single to Double Loop, then address Triple Loop.

Each tool amplifies, animates, and refracts (like a prism) a facet of the 7 principles.

7 Principles and 7 Processes are associated with underlying 7 processes of antenarrative.

We have a 3D model to show this.

The Single Loop fractal pattern, a vertical, command-and-control, conformity to a single narrative logic, a single emplotment, and single voice expressed on the front stage region.

The Double Loop fractal pattern is the loops, more or less, in or out of balance, of retrospective-sensemaking (looking backwards at past from here-and-now), and prospective-sensemaking (looking forward at various futures from the here-and-now). Double Loop is an Open System, that has feedback (deviation-counteraction) and feedforward (deviation-amplification in new configurations), both loop allow navigation in relation to the environment. However, there is something BEYOND the Open System.

Let’s start with a cognitive (single loop) definition of systems.

Immanuel Kant (1781) reduced systems thinking to the cognitive in dialectic [mentioned 82 times in Critique of Pure Reason]with the transcendental he called ‘architectonic’, and this prevented relational process ontology system thinking in organizations from coming to the fore.

“By an architectonic I understand the art of systems. Since systematic unity is that which first makes ordinary cognition into science, i.e., makes a system out of a mere aggregate of it, architectonic is the doctrine of that which is scientific in our cognition in general, and therefore necessarily belongs to the doctrine of method” (Kant 1781Critique of Pure Reason, available online for free, p.691).

“Human reason is by nature architectonic, i.e., it considers all cognitions as belonging to a possible system, and hence it permits only such principles as at least do not render an intended cognition incapable of standing together with others in some system or other. But the propositions of the antithesis are of a kind that they do render the completion of an edifice of cognitions entirely impossible. According to them, beyond every state of the world there is another still older one; within every part there are always still more that are divisible; before every occurrence there was always another which was in turn generated by others; and in existence in general everything is always only conditioned, and no unconditioned or first existence is to be recognized” (Kant 1781 Critique of Pure Reason, available online for free, p. 502).

Kant was a Single Loop System Thinker. Systems were concepts, and space & time were a priori concepts (out-of-this-world of Being). Kant’s (1781: Introduction to Kant, p. 41) space and time are a priori to what we call sensemaking (Weick, 1995) by the empiric 5 senses, in organization systems studies. Space and time for Kant are intuitive conceptions a priori to our empirical experience of sensemaking of systems.


William James (1907) was aware of the limits of ‘closed systems’ thinking rejects the Kantian cognitive abstraction, and as a pragmatist James has a rarely-cited, (double loop) open systems theory.

A pragmatist goes ” from bad a priori reasons, from fixed principles, closed systems, and pretended absolutes and origins. He turns towards concreteness and adequacy, towards facts, towards action and towards power” (William James, 1907 Pragmatism book, online for free).

One of my favorite quotes (James, 1907: 96) is that “systems tell a story.” He brings the materiality and social into view.

“AESTHETIC UNION among things also obtains, and is very analogous to ideological union. Things tell a story. Their parts hang together so as to work out a climax. They play into each other’s hands expressively. Retrospectively, we can see that altho no definite purpose presided over a chain of events, yet the events fell into a dramatic form, with a start, a middle, and a finish”  James, 1907, Section IV, The One and The Many, p. 96, boldness ours).

What is interesting, in this particular passage, James, only looks retrospectively and with a beginning, middle, end logic of Single Loop. Here is a brief summary of Jame’s System Theory::

1. The world is a subject of discourse in its manliness no union of system parts and in the whole of it intends no part is left out. Chaos “has as much unity of discourse as a cosmos”
2. Are systems continuous? Do they pass form one to another? Do parts of a system hang together.
3. “There are innumerable other paths of practical continuity among things.” You pass from one thing to another thing in “all-uniting influences” of the physical world, with many lines of connexion. And the social (humans) are conjoined in a “vast network of acquaintanceship” with the material.
4. “All these systems of influence or non-influence may be listed under the general problem of the world’s causal unity”.
5. “The most important sort of union that obtains among things, pragmatically speaking, is their generic unity”. Kinds of things exist in kinds, in specimens, not in the singular, or single instance, but in “monstrous unity”.
6. Unity of purpose of living beings in human-made systems (“administrative, industrial, military, or what not”) but appearances conflict with the view of unity of purpose, since purposes daily are changed and become more complex and different.
7. Aesthetic union among things also obtains, analogous to teleological union. This is where my favorite quote occurs, “Things tell a story”. The stories things are telling are mutually interlacing and interfering at points in our life-history. “It follows that whoever says that the whole world tells one story utters another of this monistic dogmas that a man believes at his risk”. In sum, the things of the world tell many stories. “So far, then we see how the world is unified by its many systems, kinds, purposes, and dramas”. But this appearance of unity is open.
8. The monistic systems thinking of one purpose, one systems, in one unity, avoids the “many kinds of difference” important in “Being’s existence” The world is one and the many, in a dialectal open systems thinking that James foretold.

Mary Parker Follett used to hang out with William James and several other American Pragmatists. Follett’s (1942, essays she wrote in same time frame as James), develop what we are calling ‘Double Loop open systems’ (her pioneering work is rarely acknowledged as the Mother of Open Systems Theory).

Follett, Mary Parker (1942). Dynamic administration. Edited by Metcalf, H. C., & Urwick, L. F.

Follett stressed: “the joint responsibility of management and labor is an interpenetrating responsibility, and is utterly different from responsibility divided into sections: (1941: 78, as cited in Rosile 2001 essay on co-power and co-leadership). Follett focused on joint-search and joint-conferencing about the situation of the environment, making the system adaptation a joint-responsibility. This is a very different fractal than the power-over. For Follett, it was about power-with, and hers is the original writing on empowerment, as a genuine power of building one’s own capacity, and quite different form delegation (which is still power-over).

Boje, D. M., & Rosile, G. A. (2001). Where’s the power in empowerment? Answers from Follett and Clegg. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science37(1), 90-117.

In the tools that get us into Double Loop, conflict escalation single has a conflict de-escalation sense (or double) loop. This is worked out in Pondy’s open systems model, tool 6, in relation to preparing for staging principle.


Call it a fractal pattern enacting collective intelligence of the ICEND (Interactive, Communicative, Experiential, Networking. There is a transformation of Tamara-Land in Triple Loop, we represent by the Heart emanating from the Triple Loop. the Helping Story Along (Principle 5) and the Staging (Principle 6) tie to processes (Becoming & Between the 4 red hearts in model).

I (Boje) studied systems theory with a grand master, a physicist turned organization scholar, named Louis R. Pondy. Lou wrote two pivotal papers, one is called, Leadership as a Language Game (1978) and the other “Beyond Open Systems Theory” (1979, with Mitroff) an important sequel to Kenneth Boulding’s (1956a, b) classic work. Boulding elaborated the types or levels of system based on the complexity of their parts and the nature of the relations among the parts in system:

1. Frameworks: single loop, monologic-systems comprising static (cognitive structures, such as by Kant’s architectonic), structures, such as the arrangements of atoms in a crystal or the anatomy of an animal, a division of labor coordinated in command and control, according to one linear plot.

2. Clockworks: single loop, simple dynamic mechanistic-systems with predetermined motions, such as the clock and the solar system. People follow the programming in the software and hardare.

3. Cybernetic systems: single loop systems capable of self-regulation (deviation-counteracting) in terms of some externally prescribed target (common purpose seeking) or criterion, such as a thermostat.

4. Open systems: systems capable of self-maintenance based on a throughput of resources from its environment, such as a living cell. Two loops: feedback (deviation-counteracting), and feedforward (deviation-counteracting).

5. Organic-Blueprinted-growth systems: basic triple loop systems that reproduce not by duplication but by the production of seeds (acorn becomes oak tree) or eggs containing preprogrammed instructions for development, such as the acorn-oak system or the egg-chicken system. However, recently science is learning Nature is full of collective intelligence of its swarms, herds, flocks of birds, colonies of ants or bees, and plants mycelial networks communicating and sending nutrients, carbon, and water to weakest neighboring plants/trees in a networking.

6. Internal-image systems: triple loop systems capable of a detailed awareness of the environment in which information is received and organized into an image or knowledge structure of the environment as a whole, a level at which animals function. We are learning in Nature, plants, trees, birds, and so on have this form of collective intelligence. Human systems attempt this by integrating more and more software and hardware (see fractals of sociomateriality).

7. Symbol-processing systems: triple loop systems that possess self-consciousness and so are capable of using language. Humans function at this level. Human systems are supposed to exhibit collective intelligence, i.e. ICEND, and Tamra-Land re-con-figuring using more and more digital technologies (enterprise software and hardware directing human task programs). However, Nature’s examples in overstory and understory of trees (networking caring for one another, even for different tree species), the ways of swarming of herds and flocks, etc. seems to surpass what humans can do.

8. Social systems of Multiple Brains: triple loop multi-cephalous systems comprising actors functioning at level 7 who share a common social order and culture. Social organizations operate at this level in plant, fungal, and animal communities, exhibiting multi-brain intelligence.

For example, a Zebra Mare directs the herd how to cross a river to avoid crocodiles.

Wildebeests have a collective intelligence, that is leaderless, and the herd as a whole, probes the river bank for a possible way up and out, and keeps probing. In contrast, the Zebra, have to keep checking with the mare-leader (See Rosile, 2001: Co-power and co-leadership paper).

Emperor penguins, waddle together, and keep stepping, rotating from outside to center, with center moving to the outside, in order to stay warm in the coldest weather, and one of the only mammal species to breed and car for their young, during this process of collective intelligence.

9. Transcendental systems: triple loop systems composed of the “absolutes and the inescapable unknowables” (source: Boulding, 1956: 200-207). Pondy, in his derivation, ignores this level. Neither Boulding nor Pondy addressed the living web of Nature’s collective intelligence,

Triple Loop System of ICEND are operating BEYOND Level 4 (Open System), and are multi-brained collective intelligence patterns (or fractals at another level of performance).

Here is the puzzler. What if the 9 levels assumed by Boulding and Pondy to be hierarchical, with an implicit humans have more double and triple looping than other collaborating species of Nature, is wrong? What is the 9 sorts of systems, are not hierarchically ordered? This is explored in the work on dialogisms (Boje, 2008).

Boje, D. M. (2008). Storytelling organizations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. It is a book about the five dialogisms of Bakhtin, applied, to systems theory, and to strategies of organizing, developing, and changing, that we keep working with since then.

Work by Grace Ann Rosile point directly to Triple Loop, to the BEYOND processes, to ICEND, and its kind of theater of ensemble storytelling and ensemble leadership:

  • Rosile, Grace Ann; Boje, David M; Herder Richard A.; Sanchez, Mabel. (2021). The Coalition of Immokalee Workers Uses Ensemble Storytelling Processes to Overcome Enslavement in Corporate Supply Chains. Business and Society. Business & SocietyVol. 60(2) 376–414. Click here fore pre-press pdf.
  • Rosile, Grace Ann, David M Boje, and Carma M. Claw. “Ensemble leadership theory: Collectivist, relational, and heterarchical roots from indigenous contexts.” Leadership 14, no. 3 (2018): 307-328. Click Here for pdf.
  • Boje, D. M., & Rosile, G. A. (2001). Where’s the power in empowerment? Answers from Follett and Clegg. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science37(1), 90-117.
  • Boje, D. M., Rosile, G. A., Saylors, J., & Saylors, R. (2015). Using storytelling theatrics for leadership training. Advances in Developing Human Resources17(3), 348-362. Click Here for PDF.
  • Flora, J., Boje, D., Rosile, G. A., & Hacker, K. (2016). A theoretical and applied review of embodied restorying for post-deployment family reintegration. Journal of Veterans Studies1(1), 129-162. Click Here for access to article.

What are the Dialogisms of Conversational Storytelling in ODC 2.0 Module? This works through the 5 dialogisms using the case study of McDonald’s Corporation, its founding story quite different than what is in the popular business storytelling, and how it became the globalization role model for US business enterprises, and what Triple Loop could do about its fractal patterning, across scales of self-sameness, becoming too much, invading every other kind of organization for military to education.

Summary Table of ODC 2.0: The Relation of Principles, Processes, and Tools

7 Principles7
Antenarrative Processes
1.TrueBeneath-Heart of the preconceptions that riddle Single LoopNominal Group Technique (NGT)) Ken’s NGT video, and the spreadsheet to calculate NGT rankings
2.Already ThereBefore-Heart, into the deeper histories of Double Loop, and some Double Loop Little Wow Moments, all but forgotten (Explore Transorganizational Development Gameboard)Talking Stick for ICEND (Interactive, Communicative, Experiential, Networking Developing
3.PlotBets-Heart, of many futures to choose among so many plotsTamara-Land Storyboarding all the rooms with storytelling happening at same time, in different places
4.TimingBeing in time, in space, in mattering of SpaceTimeMattering, Going into Double Loop, and ‘what is essence of true’?ICEND Fractal Pattern Diagnosis
5.HelpingTwo kinds of Becoming in Double Loop, part of Double Loop, that connect Before-Heart (Little Wow Moments) to Bets-Heart (opportune moments) in the restorying processPSL2 Problem Solving Learning & Leading in groups
6.StagingBetween the hearts, Preparing for Triple LoopEpisodic Conflict in single & double loops & spirals storyboarding
7.ReflectBeyond-Heart, 5 dialogisms of Enacting Triple Loop: 1 Polyphonic Dialogism, 2. Stylistics Dialogism, 3. Chronotopes Dialogism, 4. Architectonic Dialogism, & 5. Polypi of first four altogether in multifractality. It takes multiple modules to understand all 5 in multifractal togetherness.Socioeconomic tools with special True Storytelling usages – (Note: This is introduction in ODC 2.0, precursor to an ODC 3.0 Module on Triple Loop)

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