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Inherent Time and Chronology

Chronos, in ancient Greek, is the term for the regular, measurable passing of time – that aspect of time that is the same for all who agree to a shared measurement process. There were and still are different calendars and time measures in history. There have been weeks with ten days (Roman) and five (Russia)! Apart from that, the Greeks distinguished time as Kairos, the ‘favourable moment’. Kairos was the messenger of the gods who only had a small tuft of hair at the front of his head where he could be grabbed. Once he had passed, he could no longer be detained by means of his well-oiled rear head.

One can connect modern, system-theoretical considerations to this myth, because it makes it indispensable to differentiate between a chronological – and, with it, harmonised world time (Luhmann) – and a system’s inherent time. In inherent time mode, organisations, teams and psychological systems must find their situational, specific reference framework with regard to the respective environmental and world times. They must both slow down and speed up themselves and others, prepare for both, delays and an increase in pace, readjust and synchronise. On a time dimension, they are in continuous tension with the environment. This process is considerably more complex that the planning concept prevailing in our culture. Even the factually-orientated directing (from the ‘actual’ state to the ‘should be’ state) is dramatically under-complex and theoretically too simple to cope with highly dynamic environments. Those who pursue goals will easily become blind to the possibilities that Kairos can offer.