Patterns of Coordination

A catalogue of (some of) the many ways agents coordinate their behavior, especially how they form and structure groups.

Biological (non-human)

Multi-cellular organisms.


Hives, colonies.

Herds, flocks, schools.

Packs, pods.


Families. Bands. Tribes. Clans. Chiefdoms. City states. Nation states. Federations. Empires. Alliances, trade organizations, treaty organizations. Civilizations.

Neighborhoods. Towns. Villages. Cities. Counties.

Races. Ethnicities.


  • direct democracy, representative democracy, communism, fascism, monarchy, dictatorship, aristocracy, oligarchy, futarchy (theoretical)
  • parliaments, diets, congresses, estates general
  • clientelism, patrimonialism


  • sole proprietorships, partnerships, joint-stock, purpose-driven, lattice structure, holocracy, collectives, studios, franchises
  • banks(?)

Military: troops, platoons, legions, militias, ....

Music: band, choir, orchestra, marching band...

Gangs. Mafia.

Universities. Colleges. Schools. Departments. Classes.

Religions. Churches. Congregations. Cults, sects, denominations.

Social classes. Castes.

Crowds. Mobs. Audiences. Swarms.

General-purpose: hierarchies, bureaucracies, teams, markets, movements (e.g. art movements, schools of thought), syndicate.

Clubs. Cliques. Cabals. Conferences. Committees. Associations. Fraternities/sororities. Civic societies.

Lines (aka queues).

Marriages. Friendship.

Communes. Intentional communities.

Sports teams.

Unions. Guilds.

Generations (e.g. Gen X)

Fleets. Caravans.

Movements (e.g. artistic, philosophical, or political). Causes.


(Relevant questions: Who copies whom? Who dominates whom? How is membership defined? How are members included/excluded? How are decisions made? How does the group form/dissolve? How does information flow within the group? What is the group's purpose? How much agency does it have? What do individuals get out of being part of the group? What are the key norms? Which norms/rules are enforced endogenously vs. exogenously?)


Asymmetrical networks (like Twitter or Quora).

Symmetrical networks (like Facebook).

Hive-mind (reddit).


Open-source software.

Coordination technologies

Flags. Symbols. Logos. Icons.

Shibboleths. Schelling points.

Contracts. Promises. Committments.

Myths. Manifestos.

Foundational documents. Books. Holy books. Written constitutions.

Purposes. Mission statements.

Voting. Polling. Forums. Anonymous feedback.

Aggression, intimidation, dominance.

Last updated April 25, 2015.