History of the Bioteams logo

Dr Humberto Maturana and Dr Franciso Varela, 2 Chilean biologist/neuroscientists, in their ground-breaking book "The Tree of Knowledge - The Biological Roots of Human Understanding" [1] illustrated their concept of a living system with a little graphical symbol. I have taken the symbol and adapted it and turned it on its side to be the icon for bioteams and bioteaming


The model behind the symbol is described in more detail in A Design Framework for Bioteams. It covers the complete spectrum of living systems - from the smallest organisms and animals through to communities such as social insects right through to advanced animal societies, ecosystems and the earth itself. The significant differences in form occur, they argue, not due to different fundamentals but rather due to the vastly differing degrees of 'autonomy' of the individual agents which make up these living systems.

The Bioteams Symbol

The Symbol reminds us about three very important things about bioteams - I call them the "cornerstones" of bioteaming

1. They are Self-Organising Networks

"What is distinctive about them (living systems), however, is that their organization is such that their only product is themselves, with no separation between the producer and the product. The being and doing of a living system are inseparable, and this is their specific mode of organisation" [1, pp. 48-49]

The outer circle represents two interdependent ideas - the boundary of the living system and the processes and activities which operate within this boundary. The arrow on the circle indicates that the boundary and the processes form a unity - you cannot have one without the other. The processes create the boundary and the boundary provides a space in which the processes can operate. In simple terms the boundary demarks "the being" of the living system and the processes constitute "the doing". Each living system is totally self-sustaining and produces everything it needs provided the necessary food enters in through the boundary

2. They have a Nervous System

The inner circle represents the nervous system which is defined as "the system which couples the sensory and motor surfaces of the living system through a network of neurons whose patterns can be quite varied".

Thus the nervous system is a network of connections which enables the living system to respond through movement and other internal processes to triggers in its external environment. Nervous systems are important because they allow the development of language, learning, culture and self-consciousness within the living system. The more sophisticated the nervous system is the more external triggers it can respond to, the more internal states it can sustain and the wider its vocabulary of communications with its external environment.

3. They have a Communications System

The external two-way arrow outside the circles represents all forms of 2-way communications between the living system and its external environment. This external environment consists of other living systems and non-living stimuli (e.g. heat, sound, light, chemicals) but living systems don't differentiate on this basis. Living systems do not "think" in terms of external entities they only react, through the nervous system, to the triggers they are sensitised to receive.

These 3 cornerstones radically change how we should think about designing team processes, member roles, behaviours, strategies, tools and enabling technologies.

The Bioteams Logo

I discovered that by turning the logo on itside it also spelled the letters IO - this led me to develop the Bioteams Logo which is reproduced below:


Bioteaming - an emerging discipline

I believe Bioteams and Bioteaming will become the most appropriate way to think about teams, networks and organisations in the future. It will flourish through a network of interconnected practitioners, reseachers, products and services.

I encourage anybody who wishes to support the development and communication of the Bioteam and Bioteaming concept to make free use of the logo and to include a link to http://www.bioteams.com


1. Maturana, H., Varela F., 1992. The Tree of Knowledge - The Biological Basis of Human Understanding, Shambhala

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Poor organisational intelligence leads to 'coblaboration' instead of collaboration.Harvard Professor, David Perkins, in his latest book, "King Arthur's Round Table : How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations", discusses the importance of "organisational Intelligence" and "developmental leadership" and how the absence of these leads to coblaboration rather than collaboration in organisational teams.

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