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Decisions Without Hierarchy by Kathleen Iannello

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TWO

Hierarchy

The concept of hierarchy was invented in the fifth century by Denys the Areopagite.1 He used the term to define and describe an organizational structure based on the top-down delegation of power and determination of functions. This system derived from his religious beliefs; for the Greeks, hierarchy meant “sacred rule.”2 The word was also adopted to “denote the power given by Christ to his apostles and their successors to form and govern the church.”3 Later, Shakespeare defended the concept of hierarchy in his play Troilus and Cressida with the following famous passage: “Take but degree away, untune that string, and hark what discord follows.”4

In the modern literature of organization theory, the term has been defined as “any system ...

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