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Inherent Time and Environmental Time

Each system has its own inherent time and lives with its environment, which, in turn, cultivates its own inherent time. Most people are familiar with this from little children who have their own ideas (and wish to assert them) about when they want to eat, sleep and play. And, therefore, already, the problem arises about how these ideas of suitable points in time can be synchronised! Parents (like organisations or teams) cannot prepare themselves for every temporal challenge in the environment, correspondingly and point by point. In principal, every system has the choice to react immediately, not at all or with a delay to the challenges of the environment.

To look at the coupling of system and environmental times more closely, a somewhat forgotten but extremely important distinction by N. Luhmann is helpful for the understanding of change. He distinguishes between time-plastic and time-dynamic environments. What is meant by this?

Time-dynamic environments provide the system with unambiguous points in time, time schedules and speed specifications. These do not usually correspond to the system’s inherent time pattern. Time-plastic environments can be ‘processed’ by the system. They offer more possibilities that allow the system to be less ‘directed from outside’ by exploiting the tolerance areas of the environment variably and formatively.

Those, who, as parents of patient children, as teams with relaxed team leaders, as organisations during slower development times or with fixed launch dates can react differently internally than if exactly the opposite is the case. One does not specifically need to state here that such time-plastic conditions, at least in the working world, tend to be the exception and, therefore, temporal stress has become a characteristic of many systems.

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