Rhizome Model


The rhizome model helps us to understand and interpret change and innovation trajectories differently: horizontally instead of vertically. Instead of a tree model, two philosophers developed the image of a flat network.

Most world explanation models look like a tree: there is a root as origin and from there everything develops to the branches and twigs.

We discover this image throughout Western intellectual history: in Plato, John Stuart Mill, Sigmund Freud, and Noam Chomsky. It always draws a development from the bottom up – from barbaric to civilized.

The two French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari criticized that the tree model naturalizes a hierarchically structured system that determines what is lower and what is higher developed. Instead, they suggested another image from botany: Certain rootless plants are connected by rhizomes in the soil. Lily of the valley, ginger or dyer’s grass each have a weave in which all the plants are interconnected.

The Internet also has a rhizomatic structure – it is a huge network whose parts are linked. It has no beginning and no end. There is no actual state, but a continuous becoming. If you interpret developments of a company in the rhizome model, you can perceive that there are decentralized movements in all directions. All elements are interconnected, cross each other and yet are independent of each other.

It is part of the essence of creativity to question existing models. Reflect on the processes of change and innovation in your current work. Are you more likely to be understood in the tree model or the rhizome model?

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