Bioteams Glossary

Here is a number of terms definitions that relate to bioteaming and virtual teams.


Autopoiesis literally means “self-production” (from the Greek: auto for self- and poiesis for creation or production) and expresses a fundamental complementarity between structure and function. The term was originally introduced by Chilean biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana in the early 1970s. More precisely, the term refers to the dynamics of non-equilibrium structures; that is, organised states (sometimes also called dissipative structures) that remain stable for long periods of time despite matter and energy continually flowing through them…..

Bioteam, Bioteaming

A Bioteam is an organisational team which operates on the principles embodied by natures most successful teams including ants, bees, geese, cells. micro-organisms and termites. All these teams share common traits which have emerged through millions of years evolutionary experience and include self-organisation (autopoiesis), indirect communications (stigmergy) and emergent behavior….


The word Caste is derived from the Portuguese word casta, meaning lineage, breed or race. The term “caste”, when used in human culture, is usually in conjunction with the social division in Hindu society, particularly in India. This term is also used in entomology to describe social insects species who have a specific sub-type of which is specialised in a certain task. For example, social insects like ants, bees and termites have caste divisions of queen (specialization in reproduction) and worker (specialization in food gathering)……


The term cognition is used in several different loosely related ways. In psychology it is used to refer to the mental processes of an individual, with particular relation to a view that argues that the mind has internal mental states (such as beliefs, desires and intentions) and can be understood in terms of information processing, especially when a lot of abstraction or concretization is involved, or processes such as involving knowledge, expertise or learning for example are at work. It is also used in a wider sense to mean the act of knowing or knowledge, and may be interpreted in a social or cultural sense to describe the emergent development of knowledge and concepts within a group….

Complex (Adaptive) System

A complex system is a system whose properties are not fully explained by an understanding of its component parts. Complex systems consist of a large number of mutually interacting and interwoven parts, entities or agents. They are woven out of many parts, the Latin complexus comes from the Greek pleko or plektos, meaning “to plait or twine.” (Gell-Mann). Complex systems is also often used as a broad term addressing a research approach which includes ideas and techniques from chaos theory, artificial life, evolutionary computation and genetic algorithms…..


In ecology, an ecosystem is a naturally occuring assemblage of organisms (plant, animal and other living organisms-living together with their environment (or biotope), functioning as a unit of sorts…..

Edge of Chaos, Sweet Spot

In the sciences in general, the phrase Edge of Chaos has come to refer to a metaphor that some physical, biological, economic and social systems operate in a region between order and complete randomness or chaos, where the complexity is maximal. Stuart Kauffman has studied mathematical models of evolving systems in which the rate of evolution is maximized near the edge of chaos….

Emergence, Emergent Behavior

Emergence is the process of deriving some new and coherent structures, patterns and properties in a complex system. Emergent phenomena occur due to the pattern of interactions between the elements of a system over time. Emergent phenomena are often unexpected, nontrivial results of relatively simple interactions of relatively simple components. What distinguishes a complex system from a merely complicated one is that in a complex system, some behaviours and patterns emerge as a result of the patterns of relationship between the elements….


Eusociality is the phenomenon of reproductive specialisation found in some species of animal, whereby a specialised caste carries out reproduction in a colony of non-reproductive animals……..

Fitness Landscape

Apart from the field of evolutionary biology, the concept of a Fitness Landscape has gained importance in evolutionary optimization methods such as genetic algorithms or evolutionary strategies. In evolutionary optimization, one tries to solve real-world problems (e.g., engineering or logistics problems) by imitating the dynamics of biological evolution…


Metabolism (from metabolismos, the Greek word for “change”), describes the biochemical modification of chemical compounds in living organisms and cells. This includes the biosynthesis of complex organic molecules (anabolism) and their breakdown (catabolism). Metabolism usually consists of sequences of enzymatic steps, also called metabolic pathways. The total metabolism are all biochemical processes of an organism. The cell metabolism includes all chemical processes in a cell…

Nervous System

The nervous system of an animal coordinates the activity of the muscles, monitors the organs, constructs and processes input from the senses, and initiates actions…..


Stigmergy is a method of communication in decentralised systems in which the individual parts of the system communicate with one another by modifying their local environment. Stigmergy was first observed in nature; for example, ants communicate to one another by laying down pheromones along their trails, so an ant colony is a stigmergic system. Another common example is nest-building in termites………

Requisite Variety

In 1963 Ross Ashby formulated the law of Requisite Variety – when the variety or complexity of the environment exceeds the capacity of a system (natural or artificial) the environment will dominate and ultimately destroy that system….

Swarm Intelligence

Swarm intelligence (SI) is an artificial intelligence technique based around the study of collective behaviour in decentralised, self-organised, systems. The expression “swarm intelligence” was introduced by Beni & Wang in 1989, in the context of cellular robotic systems (see also cellular automata)……..

One Reply to “Bioteams Glossary”

  1. What are Bioteams?

    I stumbled across Ken Thompson’s blog which looks at Bioteams. This is a new idea to me, but I like the sound of self organising teams, developing some of the biological metaphors and applying them to organisations and teams.
    Ken’s posted a glossa…

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