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Emergence: Complexity & Organization (E:CO) is an international and interdisciplinary conversation about human organizations as complex systems and the implications of complexity science for those organizations. With a unique format blending the integrity of academic inquiry and the impact of business practice, E:CO integrates multiple perspectives in management theory, research, practice and education. E:CO is a quarterly online journal published (also available in print) by Emergent Publications in accordance with academic publishing standards and processes.

Intellectual ecology

E:CO’s niche is the opportunity to bridge three gaps:

  • The distance between academic theory and professional practice;
  • The space between the mathematics and the metaphors of complexity thinking; and,
  • The disparity between formal idealizations and actual human organizations.

Organizations of all kinds struggle to understand, adapt, respond and manipulate changing conditions in their internal and external environments. Approaches based on the causal, linear logic of mechanistic sciences and engineering continue to play an important role, given people’s ability to create order. But such approaches are valid only within carefully circumscribed boundaries. They become counterproductive when the same organizations display the highly reflexive, context-dependent, dynamic nature of systems in which agents learn and adapt and new patterns emerge. The rapidly expanding discussion about complex systems offers important contributions to the integration of diverse perspectives and ultimately new insights into organizational effectiveness. There is increasing interest in complexity in mainstream business education, as well as in specialist business disciplines such as knowledge management. Real world systems can’t be completely designed, controlled, understood or predicted, even by the so-called sciences of complexity, but they can be more effective when understood as complex systems. While many scientific disciplines explore complexity through mathematical models and simulations, E:CO explores the emerging understanding of human systems that is informed by this research. Engineered and emergent views of human systems can coexist, creating a useful tension that drives organizational evolution. However, neither academics nor practitioners can leverage complexity alone. Academic discussions about complexity are often biased towards quantitative research and mathematical models that are inappropriately prescriptive for systems comprised of actors endowed with free will, who are simultaneously part of and aware of the system. The metaphors of complexity have a usefulness of their own as well, but too often they are applied without adequate reference to the mechanisms, models and mathematics behind them.

Content in context

Readers of E:CO are managers, academics, consultants and others interested in developing and applying the insights of complex systems theories and models to analysis and management of private-, public- and social-sector organizations and applying insights derived from organizational experience to understanding complex systems theories.

E:CO encourages multidisciplinary contributions from all sectors of social and natural sciences and all sectors of organizational practice. The journal’s unique format presents both reviewed and non-reviewed content from three overlapping sources. Peer-reviewed articles are at the heart of our content, but with an emphasis on communicating across boundaries. Academic articles pass double-blind reviews by two academics and one practitioner. When subject matter is theoretical or reporting research findings, authors will be encouraged to discuss practical implications of the ideas. Similarly, practitioner articles also will be double-blind reviewed by two practitioners and one academic. When appropriate, authors will be encouraged to connect to theory or research that has either already been done or needs to be done.

Additional non-reviewed content includes feature articles, essays, profiles, conversations and conference summaries, as well as news, commentary, book reviews, etc. Each article is clearly tagged according to which path it took to publication. E:CO incorporates Emergence, originally published by the Institute for the Study of Coherence and Emergence (which closed down in Dec 2018).

Scope and aims

The emerging theory of complex systems research has resulted in a growing movement to reinvigorate management. Theory, research, practice, and education can all benefit by adopting a more dynamic, systemic, cognitive, and holistic approach to the management process. As interest in the study of complex systems has grown, a new vocabulary is emerging to describe discoveries about wide-ranging and fundamental phenomena. Complexity theory research has allowed for new insights into many phenomena and for the development of new manners of discussing issues regarding management and organizations.

A shared language based on the insights of complexity can have an important role in a management context. The use of complexity theory metaphors can change the way managers think about the problems they face. Instead of competing in a game or a war, managers of a complexity thinking enterprise are trying to find their way on an ever changing, ever turbulent landscape. Such a conception of their organizations’ basic task can, in turn, change the day-to-day decisions made by management.

The most productive applications of complexity insights have to do with new possibilities for innovation in organizations. These possibilities require new ways of thinking, but old models of thinking persist long after they are productive. New ways of thinking don’t just happen; they require new models which have to be learned. E:CO is dedicated to helping both practicing managers and academics acquire, understand and examine these new mental models.

E:CO publishes articles of a qualitative and quantitative nature relating complex systems, sensemaking, psychology, philosophy, semiotics, and cognitive science to the management of organizations both public and private.

The readers of E:CO are managers, academics, consultants, and others interested in the possibility of applying the insights of the science of complex systems to day-to-day management and leadership problems.


  • To further develop and extend the concepts, applications, and research in management and leadership practice;
  • To enlarge the domain of management theory, issues, and research beyond those currently recognized by mainstream academia and practice;
  • To use complex systems perspectives, theory, and research to integrate multiple perspectives in management theory, research, practice, and education;
  • To develop linkages between complex systems perspectives, theory, and research and other perspectives in management;
  • To consider new institutional practices that can help to reconnect management theory and management practice, and;
  • To discuss alternative approaches to management and leadership education and practice suggested by the more dynamic, systemic, cognitive, and holistic view of the management process derived from complex systems perspectives, theory, and research.

Article Topics:

  • Understanding complexity and complex adaptive systems, such as the economy, business, and the marketplace;
  • Developing techniques for organizations to examine their models, metaphors, and beliefs, and to adapt new ones as conditions change;
  • Creating strategies for businesses to interact with the unexpected, accidental, and ambiguous in their environments;
  • Resolving the needs for both stability and creativity, and the institutional tensions between “authorized” and “innovative”;
  • Applications of psychology, philosophy, semiotics, or cognitive science to the management of organizations;
  • Complex systems implications for business process and strategy;
  • The development of new organizational forms;
  • The development of new patterns of work;
  • Managerial cognition;
  • Knowledge management, and;
  • Organizational learning.

Since the first issue of E:CO we have tended away from papers on network theory, mainly because many of the articles submitted were focused on static network representations, and did not adequately address nonlinear feedback and emergence: key ingredients of complexity; the articles we received were more about ‘complicatedness’ rather than ‘complexity’.  However, much has changed in the world of network science, and tools for the consideration of dynamic networks are becoming more readily available.  To reflect these developments we like to encourage papers that blend complexity and network sciences/approaches.  The kinds of topics we’re interested in include:

  • Models of Complex Networks
  • Structural Network Properties and Analysis
  • Complex Network Data Mining
  • Community Structure in Complex Networks
  • Community Discovery in Complex Networks
  • Motif Discovery in Complex Networks
  • Dynamics and Evolutional Patterns of Complex Networks
  • Multiplex Networks
  • Complex Networks and Epidemics
  • Synchronization in Complex Networks
  • Algorithms for Complex Network Analysis
  • Large-scale Graph Analytics
  • Visual Representation of Complex Networks
  • Applications of Complex Network Analysis
  • Social Reputation, Influence, and Trust
  • Information Spreading in Social Media
  • Rumor and Viral Marketing in Social Networks
  • Recommendation Systems
  • Link Prediction
  • Financial and Economic Networks
  • Complex Network Analysis in Social and Political Science
  • Complex Networks and Mobility
  • Communication and Information Complex Networks
  • Network Controllability
  • Resilience and Robustness of Complex Networks
  • Biological and Technological Complex Networks
  • Bioinformatics and Earth Sciences Applications
  • Complex Networks for Physical Infrastructures
  • Complex Networks, Smart Cities and Smart Grids