The Science of Human Behaviour: Self-Organisation – Episode 3.1

The Synergetic Navigation System (SNS)

Everybody who has already gone through a transformation process – whether that is in psychotherapy, relationship building or within an organisation – surely wishes for a blueprint. A recipe that promises a good result. Unfortunately, as discussed last time: There is no such thing. What is more, both, therapy and consulting, often feel like a blackbox in their processes.

The Synergetic Navigation System (SNS) allows to open up this blackbox! The aim of working with the SNS is not only to understand the dynamics of (transformation) processes, but also to apply these real-time collected data to actively shape these processes and thereby enable evidence-based (self-)management.

©Center for Complex Systems Gmbh & CO KG
What is the SNS?

The SNS is a web-based tool to visualise and evaluate employee/ customer satisfaction and/or change & transformation processes with the aim to understand and to shape these. SNS was developed under the leadership of the psychologist Prof. Dr. Günter Schiepek in collaboration between the Clinic for Psychosomatics & Psychotherapeutic Medicine, the Institute for Medical Informatics at the university hospital Aachen and the Fachhochschule Solothurm-Olten[1].

The SNS is characterised by its high adaptability to any application context, which means it can not only be applied in psychotherapy – like originally intended to – but also in the corporate world, such as consultancy, collaborative environments, customer satisfaction, and transformation processes.

What can the SNS do?

The SNS has a high configurability; the acquisition of data can be individually adapted to any context. This means that the questionnaire itself and the frequency with which participants receive the query, can be tailored to any organisation, different teams, departments and functions. The questionnaire aims at the a self- and external assessment of relevant questions regarding the work context – whether that is within a collaboration, a team or a transformation process. Furthermore, it can also be used to evaluate employee or customer satisfaction.

The data acquisition is generally independent of specific hardware – participants can fill in the questionnaire on a variety of different devices, such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, PCs, as well as different operating systems. The SNS provides a variety of functions* for visual presentation and data analysis. In combination with the data collection taking place in real-time, this means that immediately available information can help shaping the (transformation) processes.

Example for the SNS’ sophisticated analytical techniques: 3 colored raw data diagrams[1]. The arrows indicate significant transitions.

For example, through the SNS’ data analysis functions* one can spot pattern changes or current developments, such as critical moments in a process. The SNS is therefore not only useful for a documentation and evaluation in hindsight, but was especially designed to monitor and shape (organisational) change processes. The results can be used to discuss directly with the participants in order to draw conclusions and thereby enable a cooperative process feedback that will shape the further collaboration/ process and facilitates personal and professional growth. Furthermore, research has shown[1] that the direct feedback on current events increases participants’ perception of self-efficacy and thereby increases the motivation to further participate constructively in the respective undertaking.   

What can the SNS do better than SurveyMonkey?

Next to the SNS’ real-time data acquisition and its sophisticated data analysis functions* to determine patterns in human behaviour and collaboration, the SNS is based on a scientific theory – Synergetics. Synergetics is the most developed interdisciplinary science explaining the formation and self-organization of patterns and structures. It was originally founded by the physicist Hermann Haken. Synergetics therefore is a meta-theory of transformation and innovation processes, whose basics principles can be applied to physical, biological, psychological, as well as social and organisational processes.

The SNS’ analytical techniques* are based on synergetics and are therefore focussed on determining procedural patterns and pattern changes, including critical moments. Since the SNS collects the data in real-time, one can react to these immediately and appropriately. Including the SNS in evaluations and organisational collaboration/ transformation processes, therefore, enables an evidence-based approach to (self-) management.

What does the SNS have to do with (organisational) transformation?

The SNS was specifically designed to be used as a process observation & analysis tool in the framework of synergetic process management (SPM). This concept is based on the synergetics principles of change processes and self-organisation.

In terms of synergetics management implies the “facilitation of circumstances, which allow a system to generate or maintain self-organised order and to enable constructive order transitions. In other words: the facilitation of conditions that enable self-organisation.”

– [1: p.588; translated from German]

SPM depends less on the choice of method, but more on an integrative, reflective & reflexive approach.


As described above, the SNS can be applied in any context and can therefore also be used in more stable phases than a transformation process within an organisation or a team. Or to evaluate employee/ customer satisfaction. Wherever people collaborate and/ or willing to (self-)reflect, the SNS is an effective tool to guide, understand and shape further processes.

However – just as no one can step into the same river twice (Heraklit) – no social system is free of change. Especially, in our VUCA world, uncertainty is the only certainty and we need to expect constant change. Even in more stable phases, there are micro-changes in the organisational structures, team configurations, cooperation & conflict constellations and customer desires. The SNS helps to spot these potentials quickly, and enables to identify issues and weak spots, which can be evaluated and interpreted amongst the relevant people. Therefore, even during the more mundane daily business the SNS helps to allocate (human) resources, such as skills & energy, more constructively. 

Synergetics teaches us that even social systems and their management are “scientifically understandable & justifiable”[1, S.647]. The SNS, based on synergetics, enables an empirical and evidence-based approach to process monitoring & analysis and management.

Therefore, the SNS supports agile organisations in forming & testing hypothesis and spot opportunities to grow & adapt. Whether individual or organisation – if we want to grow, it comes down to a willingness to understand how change comes about, what can be changed and what is good as it is.

* A few examples of SNS’ analytical techniques, founded in mathematics & physics:

  • Visualising time series
  • Dynamic complexity (related to amplitude, frequency and timewise distribution of the data)
  • Complexity-Resonance diagrams
  • Dynamic correlation patterns
  • Recurrence plots

[1] Haken, H. & Schiepek, G. (2006, [2010]): “Synergetik in der Psychologie – Selbstorganisation verstehen und gestalten”, Hogrefe; Quotes are translated from German by me

Navigate through the episodes of the special theme The Science of Human Behaviour here:

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to The Science of Human Behaviour
  2. Motivation: Research shows that there are 5 different types of motivation. Especially the aggregate forms – autonomous vs. controlled motivation – have a different impact on our well-being.
  3. Decision Making: Rational Choice Theory explains how we make our 35000 daily decisions and how social phenomena arise from our individual behaviour.
  4. Self-Organisation & Transformation: Synergetics – the meta-theory of order transitions – connects the natural sciences with the social sciences and explain what we can change and what we cannot.

Written by Julia Heuritsch | Last edited: 1st February 2023
This article was originally written for the blog of the unternehmensdemokraten.

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