Self-organization is one of the attributes that can be added to any organization or group to improve their ability to deal with complexity.
There are several sciences that explore how systems (including organizations) are dealing with internal and external complexity extremely successfully. The goal of this series of posts is to explain in plain business English what are those conditions. I hope that this series will help you to understand or at least learn about dealing with complexity.
A group of people is self-organized when there is a bottom-up process that creates a new group within organizations from unplanned, nonlinear interactions of people. When a quick chat in the coffee area turns into a group of people that set a goal for themselves and they are working together to reach this goal, regardless of the difficulties in their way.
Self-organization is contradictory to the regular organizational process of planning and design, a top-down approach of defining and staffing groups. Self-organized teams are able to optimize, configure, heal, protect, and manage by themselves; without the need for external forces.
You can see self-organization all around. A group of friends, people at church, the people you play basketball, your neighbors, are all self-organized groups.