Greetings all Adizes Blog readers.

Ichak has asked me to let you all know a little bit about my ongoing research into the PAEI typology. My research project is unfinished, so perhaps some of you will be able to help finalize it. In this ‘Part I’ blog entry I will describe the background of the project. In a subsequent ‘Part II’ blog entry I will describe my findings, and offer my best guess about how the future of this project must proceed.

I first became aware of the Adizes Methodology in 1999, as an online course developer. I wrote several online courses based on different aspects of Adizes conceptual foundations, and I became pretty familiar with those foundational concepts. I became particularly interested in PAEI, because I felt that in my readings I was constantly encountering other models that were essentially the same as PAEI. Some of these models are in fields that are close to management studies, like psychology, decision theory, learning styles theories and so on. However, some of them are in much more remote disciplines, like geography, neuroanatomy, behavioural ecology and the fine arts.

I kept on finding more models! These PAEI-like models are everywhere, and it is not a just a case of people all copying some root idea. Some of these models are based on others, it is true. In psychology, many PAEI-like models can be traced back to Jungian psychology, for example. However, a very significant number of them are independent discoveries. Ichak himself has described in his earlier works how he induced these categories from his research in organizations, and was only later appraised of the similarity of his model to other models – from traditional native models to modern psychological ones. Ichak is not alone. Investigators in many fields regularly rediscover and re-express PAEI-like dynamics.

I find this urgently fascinating. If people are regularly and independently rediscovering the PAEI pattern, that strongly validates the assertion that these concepts apply to something real – to an objective and pervasive fact about reality. Perhaps this reality is outside of us, like the elephant for the three blind sages, and we are all calling it by different names.

We must also logically allow for possibility that the widespread use of PAEI-like models tells us something about how human brains process and categorize information. A third possibility is that these categories have deep cultural roots of some kind. No matter which of these possibilities is true, it would be extremely interesting! Perhaps a blend of all three is the truth – the “whole elephant”. However, because I have found these models in natural sciences and across cultures, I think that PAEI has some kind of physical reality outside the human realm, much in the way that the concept of “feedback” applies outside that realm, as a general systems principle. The fact that Ichak could use these categories to describe both types (human) and roles (systemic/functional) also attests to it being a general systems principle.

To indulge in a casual analogy here, just like Einstein had a “Special” and a “General” theory of relativity, we can take Ichak’s use of PAEI to understand human organizations as the “Special” theory of (whatever this is…). Now how do we generalize this to account for non-human systems (like forest ecosystems, say…)?

The general theory would have to:

– cover all the cases it applies to (e.g. human, geographic, ecological, mathematical),
– in terms that allow us to productively connect it to other general organizational principles.

I have both “E” and “I” reasons for being very excited about the prospect of figuring out how to do this. From an “E” perspective, one of the greatest and most beautiful accomplishments in science is when you are able to accurately characterize a general pattern or principle – one that unifies thousands of particular observations within a new coherent framework, setting the direction for future studies for generations to come… So I recognize a strategic opportunity with potentially huge payoff. From an “I” perspective, if people from many different fields are struggling to rediscover and re-articulate PAEI over and over again, they might be helped by prior knowledge of the PAEI pattern. If they already knew about it, perhaps instead of having to induce it anew all the time, they could approach their data sets with PAEI as a ready hypothesis, and test for it. They could even anticipate it in systems of certain kinds. This would save them time and aid them in their discovery processes. So I recognize a service calling to work towards a successful account of the PAEI phenomenon.

Animated by this excitement, I took some time off and spent about three years full-time working on this problem. This was not under the auspices of any particular institution. I did a staggering amount of research, scanning approximately 30,000 books/papers in those three years, bringing home a subset of about 1700 library books and downloading 4000 papers. I found about 130 PAEI-like models in about 10 to 15 different disciplines (depending on how you drawn disciplinary lines). This includes models from:

1. Business Management
2. Knowledge Management
3. Organizational Studies
4. Sociology
5. Psychology
6. Education
7. Philosophy
8. Language Arts and Drama
9. Fine Arts
10. Religious and Historical Sources
11. Decision Theory
12. Cognitive Science
13. Computer Science and Engineering
14. Evolutionary Theory
15. Ecological Theory

This broad review was very illuminating; however I did not succeed in producing a definitive account of PAEI. I think I know where this definitive account can be built, but it is beyond my capacity to construct. Perhaps some of the readers of this blog could do it better than I.

I think the most general account of the reality underlying PAEI can be given in terms of evolutionary ecology. As a corollary, I think that the emergence of PAEI-like dynamics could be modeled using evolutionary computer programming. My research has brought me to this point, but I cannot go any further alone. I would need to collaborate from this point forward.

So that describes the background of my research project. The next time I write I will share the key concepts from ecology and evolutionary theory that I think will be relevant to the ultimate explanation of PAEI.