Purpose Autopoiesis is a concept originally used to define living systems. However, no measure for autopoiesis has been proposed so far. Moreover, how can we build systems with a higher autopoiesis value The paper aims to discuss these issues. Design/methodology/approach: Relating autopoiesis with Ashby’s law of requisite variety, self-organization is put forward as a way in which systems can be designed to match the variety of their environment. Findings: Guided self-organization has been shown to produce systems which can adapt to the requisite variety of their environment, offering more efficient solutions for problems that change in time than those obtained with traditional techniques. Originality/value: Being able to measure autopoiesis allows us to apply this measure to all systems. More “living” systems will be fitter to survive in their environments: biological, social, technological, or urban.