There are six categories in the Pattern Language for the Enterprise: Signals, Language, Field, Knode, Patch and Web. These are related to one another but not in a strictly hierarchical way. A brief explanation follows:

Signals refer to messages passed between Knodes and the mechanism of this transmission. Signals placed in context by receiver Knodes are assigned meaning or value. Signals that demand action in the form of a state change by the receiving Knode are called Compelling Inputs. Signals that lack a partial context or do not require action are called messages. Information has two meanings: it is a measure of the uncertainty on the part of the receiver Knode as to the next message to be received; it is also a measure of the degree of order and complexity inherent in a system. Signals that are not assigned any context are called Noise. All of these types of signals impinge upon Knodes and are generated by them. At least 99.99% of the messages that comprise the Field are ignored or beyond sensory reception. Therefore, the supreme task of the Knode and of the Patch is to decide which to pay attention to (which collections of potentials collapse into manifestation) and which to ignore. For a model of the management of signals and information, see the Ten-Step Knowledge Management model.

Language refers to the organization of Signals into a vocabulary and grammar which allow the user to assemble enterprises that live (see Alexander). In terms of Miller's Living Systems model, language is a shared Associator. It's not enough to merely capture a subset of Signals and categorize them as messages or Compelling Inputs. A Knode must know what to pay attention to and why. This requires the Knode to develop a model of its reality and to therefore assign some value to incoming messages so they may be acted upon. The messages and their results are stored in memory. A sense of knowledge implies that a Knode follows a patter of what to do experientially with a set of Signals. This is the purpose of assembling patterns into a Langauge. Language structures action because it structures Signals. Language structures reality.

The Field refers to the total Environment of the Enterprise. It's also the set of all potential Enterprises in solution. The actions of Knodes and Patches in the interchange of Signals causes a subset of this potential to collapse into a physical, social, cultural, technological and environmental manifestation. The most noticable representation of the Field is the physical environment but the Field itself is invisible and potential. It's the Schrodinger's Cat of the Enterprise in which the cat exists in many states until interaction and observation reveals one specific state. Structure wins. We build our own reality and then live in it. We could change it just as easily were it not for our own disbelief and our tendency to cling to comfortable inhibitions.

A Knode is any adaptive agent in the Web, usually, but not always a person. From a broader vantage point, a Knode is any element of the Web that sends, receives, and processes signals in the sense that "everything speaks." Knodes themselves are made up of Signals, but this notion is beyond the scope of this Pattern Language. Think of the phrase, "you are what you eat" to get some sense of what it means to be a composite of Signals. Knodes strive for personal mastery, awareness, an ability to step up to the work, and an ability to ship their work.

A Patch is a collection of Knodes. Knodes collaborate in Patches of up to some hundreds, but certainly not thousands, of other Knodes. The term is borrowed from Stuart Kauffman in his book At Home in the Universe, where he speaks of Patch theory as a possible means for solving very complex, conflict-laden problems. The purpose of the Patch is to improve its fitness. The interconnection of Knodes in the Web means that Patches are densely interconnected through their Knodes. This interconnection, and the imperative for Patches to increase their own fitness, creates a sort of ecosystem that efficiently manages its own evolution and the solution of conflict-laden problems at the Web level. Patch theory doesn't work if the interconnection between Knodes is broken or channeled through single individuals who act as proxy for all interpatch signaling.

Web refers to the connection and organization of Patches and Knodes, and the behavior of this emergent system over time. Therefore the Web is a subset of the Field, which represents the larger environment within which the Patches and Knodes are connected and influence one another. Nevertheless, the Field and Web influence each other and form ecosystems with other Webs and Fields across time. For a model of the web, see the Business of Enterprise model.

The next article in the series lists the individual patterns by name.

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