The word “stigmergy” is new, but it refers to an innate life capacity. It is about collaboration and correlation; about co-living and co-working in communities; about trusting your and others’ creative abilities. It is about trusting the process of co-creation and being able to be part of this process.
It can be considered a kind of sense, or intelligence, or attitude that helps us to co-create together. The stigmergy is an ageless way of human correlation.
Stigmergic “Intelligence” enhances the ability to sense others and correlate with them creatively. It is the intelligence we need to engage in open-projects.
Stigmergy is a communication method used in decentralized systems in which individuals communicate with each other by changing the surrounding environment: leaving a trace, inviting others to participate and take further the co-creation. This is accompanied by a highly robust, flexible and adaptable system architecture.
Stigmergy is a form of self-organization. It produces intelligent structures without the need for too much planning and control. An appealing feature of stigmergic intelligence is that, despite the fact that the basic components are simple, the outcome of the system can be very sophisticated. We are designing Butterfly Communities in the same way.
The concept of “stigmergy” will help us become aware of the basic nature of collaboration and, consequently, to develop individual skills and organizational structures that can foster collaboration.
Pierre-Paul Grasse in the 1950’s coined the term stigmergy to describe a mechanism of a decentralized pathway of information flow in social insects. In general, all kinds of multi-agent groups require coordination for their effort and it seems that stigmergy is a very powerful means to coordinate activity over great spans of time and space in a wide variety of systems. “The stigmergy concept may turn out to be a crucial concept in the social, political and economic fields, to which its relevance is intuitively obvious.” (Eric Bonabeau, Santa Fe Institute)
“Stigmergy is a mechanism of indirect coordination, through the environment, between agents of actions. The principle is that the trace left in the environment by an action stimulates the performance of the next action. In that way, subsequent actions tend to reinforce and build on each other, leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, systematic activity.” (from Wikipedia)
The term “stigmergy” was derived by Grassé from the Greek roots, “stigma”, which means “mark or puncture” (typically referring to the tattoo used to mark slaves), and “ergon” which can mean “work, action, or the product of work”
Stigmergic intelligence is about sensing others and being willing and able to cooperate with them. We can do a lot of things in a stigmergic way, using no words, just paying attention to the others and trying to sense what are their intentions: we can make together a fruit salad, we can bring forth a beautiful permaculture garden, we can dance. If we use words, we can make everything in a stigmergic way.
Stigmergism is about participation. An improvised dance is the perfect expression of what stigmergism is. First of all: everybody participates. You can not say: I am dancing when you are just looking. You have to dance if you intend to be a part of the dance. Being part of the dance you start to have an important role in the creation of the dance itself. Because your moves will influence others’ moves. And their moves will influence yours. And so, in a stigmergic design, the dance self-creates itself through the unique and unpredictable participation of everybody.
What the “stigmergic” word enhances is that, when you make your creative move, you leave a “trace”. This “trace” influences, in a way or another, the others’ decisions on how to continue to dance. Your “trace” inspires them. Everybody is free to choose their move, but for sure they will want to continue what you already started. They will sense somehow your intention and will want to continue it, expressing themselves too in this continuation, using their liberty and creativity on how to do their move. Stigmergic design enhances participation: liberty, authenticity, spontaneity and creativity of self-expression, but used in a way that enhances not only individuality, but community too. Stigmergic design is a co-creative process.
To improve stigmergic intelligence you have to act in three directions:
1) improve individual’s skills that enhance their participative abilities
2) craft together a relational architecture (a holarchy)
3) work as a group until you reach some kind of synchronization/ flow states
Stigmergic correlation will become a basic ability for a Yellow-Turquoise person, who is able to welcome the Unknown / Unexpected in Life and integrate it in an ever-emergent life-design. In our VUCA world, we have to become artists in managing the ambiguity of life, in stigmergic correlation with others. We have to model our perception to see the Unexpected as an opportunity, the Uncertainty as a dialogue, the world as a playground, the Life as a rite of passage.
In a competitive mode, we first notice the superiority of others as a threat (because our old set of emotions has evolved to prepare us to compete with them). Switching to a collaborative mode, we first observe the complementarity between us. We see first how we could complement each-other with our resources and abilities, how we could help each other, how we could co-create something in a stigmergic way.