Currently 65-70 percent of organizational change efforts fail. This paper suggests that the dominant, linear approaches to organizational change may be less functional than complexity analyses and approaches to organizational change. Focusing on self-organizing rather than linear relationships, the author attempts to distinguish organizational capacity for adaptability among different organizational patterns identified by Glor (2001a, 2001b), emphasizing the three complex factors of individuals, social dynamics, and the challenge of implemention. It defines adaptation using criteria drawn from the theory of complex adaptive systems: variety, reactivity, and capacity for self-organized emergence. At a conceptual level, the analysis is able to identify varying capacities for adaptation among the different organizational patterns, some of them surprising.
Complexity science, aside from adding considerable jargon, aids in understanding power, powerlessness and empowerment in conflict. Weaker agents, that would traditionally be viewed as powerless in a conflict, use protest and direct action to improve their own fitness, and deform stronger agents’ fitness on their shared landscape. They attempt to drive a conflict system into instability, or unpredictability, or launch a cascade where a new equilibrium may favor their disadvantaged position. The data suggest that networked protest groups, as well as having passion and commitment, are structurally and organizationally well adapted for their fight against the powerful. Following complexity principles makes protest groups fitter, and makes the hierarchies against which they are protesting less inclined to understand or tolerate them.
This paper combines insights from literature on complex systems theory and the conjunctive state, applies them to new challenges facing public administrators in metropolitan areas, and tests them in a case study of the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County (POALAC). The argument is advanced that administrative networks, shared governance, and co-production of public services developed in the conjunctive state are real-world exemplars of the emergent properties of complex adaptive systems (CAS). As the production of social capital and public trust of government decline in response to the increasing inability of hierarchical, top-down, command-and-control institutions to solve complex societal problems, the fundamental nature of associations and relations among citizens, policy makers, civic leaders, and government is changing in metropolitan areas as government slowly shifts toward governance. The case study of POALAC reveals a coordinated networked administrative response to the complexity of regional law enforcement consistent with theoretical predictions.
Internationally, cognitive behavioral theories form the foundation of work with offenders, because they have proved to be the most effective in bringing about changes and reducing levels of reoffending. As with any theory, the original theory has been consistently modified and adapted in attempts to make it even more effective at bringing about behavioral changes in offenders. This paper first gives an overview of cognitive behavioral theory, seeing how its linear approach has cut it off from wider perspectives that might make it more effective. It also develops an understanding of criminal behavior from a complexity viewpoint. From there it examines from a complexity perspective the work of the Community Probation Service in New Zealand, which uses a cognitive behavioral approach, and the recently completed pilot of the restorative justice system, bringing offender and victim together in a mediated forum. An effective complex adaptive system has strong autonomy and efficient connectivity. If any member of a community violates the autonomy or connectivity of another, a crime is committed. Work with offenders and victims focuses on restoring the autonomy and connectivity of those involved and the whole community, better enabling the dynamics of self-organization to reemerge. Offenders are seen as developing schemas supported by cognitive distortions that allow them to bypass the barriers that keep most of us from offending. If an existing maladaptive schema can be carefully destabilized, it can enable the formation of a new, more effective schema that does not include offending behaviors.
Indigenous tribal groups can operate as complex adaptive systems. Tribal members are then autonomous agents interacting intensely among themselves and with their environment. Technology, social structure, economics, education, and so on develop over time to help the tribe maintain its fitness within its environment. These developments may be due to chance discoveries, the operation of natural selection, and under certain critical conditions the intense interactions may enable the emergence of higher levels of social complexity. At times when the environment becomes less favorable for human habitation, the means of subsistence regresses to earlier forms, which necessitates a similar regression in the social structure binding the society together. This paper examines the three tribes living in the South Island of New Zealand between 1250 and 1800 ad. The three tribes were named Waitaha, Ngati Mamoe, and Kaitahu. They had to cope with changes in climate, food, and resources, as well as intra- and inter-tribal threats. Particularly during the latter stages, there was intense competition for the more productive land and sea areas. On the Chatham Islands, some 800 kilometers to the East of the South Island, the Moriori people formed their own distinctive culture, which will also be examined. The Moriori, who descended from the Maori people of New Zealand, lived in an even more harsh and isolated environment than the Maori, which significantly shaped their distinctive culture.
This paper documents the findings of research into a rare example of successful school-based education reform. The reform commenced within the South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services in 1999 and is ongoing. It drew explicitly on systems thinking in establishing change principles. Subsequent research into “what worked” reinforced the value of following practices consistent with loosely coupled and complex systems theory. This paper compares the approach adopted in South Australia with the more commonly adopted managerialist or so-called new public management approaches and elaborates on the relevance of complexity as a base for planning and implementing reform. The paper demonstrates that complex systems ideas have profound implications for the policy underpinning institutional change and provides evidence of their relevance and value in practice.
Traditional, hierarchical views of leadership are less and less useful given the complexities of our modern world. Leadership theory must transition to new perspectives that account for the complex adaptive needs of organizations. In this paper, we propose that leadership (as opposed to leaders) can be seen as a complex dynamic process that emerges in the interactive “spaces between” people and ideas. That is, leadership is a dynamic that transcends the capabilities of individuals alone; it is the product of interaction, tension, and exchange rules governing changes in perceptions and understanding. We label this a dynamic of adaptive leadership, and we show how this dynamic provides important insights about the nature of leadership and its outcomes in organizational fields. We define a leadership event as a perceived segment of action whose meaning is created by the interactions of actors involved in producing it, and we present a set of innovative methods for capturing and analyzing these contextually driven processes. We provide theoretical and practical implications of these ideas for organizational behavior and organization and management theory.
This paper contributes a theoretical framework for generative leadership, a form of leadership that creates a context to stimulate innovation in complex systems. Our framework links theories of leadership with perspectives on innovation and complex systems to suggest that generative leadership involves balancing connectivity and interaction among individuals and groups in complex systems by managing complexity and institutionalizing innovation. By focusing on how generative leaders create conditions that nurture innovation rather than individual traits or creativity, our framework provides new directions for leadership research and policy implications for managers.
As complex systems, organizations face the challenge of continuing efficient operations and adapting to a changing environment. This challenge is often framed in the context of strategic leadership: leaders are seen as managing the tension between long- and short-term objectives and between exploration and exploitation. This article looks at how leadership and the actions of leaders relate to these adaptive tensions and how the effectiveness of leadership can be measured in a complexity science context. To do this, leadership is conceptualized as an organizational meta-capability that processes information about the environment and the organization, and then changes the organization by reconfiguring and building new capabilities. The article suggests a family of possible metrics, discusses the complexity of their interactions, and suggests future research to further the field’s understanding of the important question: how individual human actions influence the social systems in which they occur.
This study details the research of three organizations from the perspectives of complexity science and communities of practice. We conducted in-depth interviews with key leaders from three organizations: an organization for nursing leaders, a spiritual and self-development practice of the Jewish faith called Mussar, and an urban co-housing community. Meaningful connections between the interviewees’ stories and 12 comprehensive elements of complex adaptive entities are discussed. From these findings, a relevant similarity dealing with community, specifically communities of practice, emerges, and we subsequently identify key elements of communities of practice among the three entities. The paper concludes with lessons from our research to date as well as recommendations for future research.
This paper focuses on one theme from complexity and new science literature: the theme of boundaries. It responds to requests from complexity theorists to bring organizational perspectives into dialogues about the use of complexity thinking by managers and leaders. The researcher has used phenomenographic analysis to explore published authors’ qualitatively different ways of understanding boundaries. These have been grouped into two major categories, and several subcategories. These authors believed that boundaries deserve attention, and that they can be actively managed for a range of benefits. These ways of understanding are interpreted through a model based on theoretical work by Etienne Wenger. This is the first part of a two-part paper that attempts to strengthen a bridge between theoretical and practical worlds, and to create a space for further research and dialogue.
Critical path of M&A (history) In the last decade M&A activity throughout the world, accounted for approximately 70% of the total value of inward investment in developed countries, making mergers and acquisitions a more important component than greenfield investments in foreign direct investment (Rodriguez-Pose & Zademach, 2003). In 1999, according to J. P. Morgan, companies […]
Many of the most successful firms have placed a strong emphasis on strategy. Strategies help decision-makers in organizations to think through what the organization needs to achieve and how these needs may be satisfied. This case study considers what the Chief Executive Officers of the top three aerospace manufacturers say about their strategies and how these strategies are being implemented. The aerospace manufacturing industry is interesting from a number of respects: its dependence on innovation, its global nature, its relationships with government and other firms, and the different characteristics of the civil and defence markets. This aerospace manufacturing triad is also interesting because of its industry sector coverage: one is a largely defence aerospace manufacturer, the second a largely commercial aerospace manufacturer and the third, an aerospace manufacturer with a balanced portfolio. Strategies are shifting to take an holistic view of the firm as the firm is increasingly being recognized as a complex system. This holism is particularly evident in the manufacturing firms examined, as they balance innovation, strategy and organizational characteristics in an evolutionary manner. Innovation is fundamental to evolution and this case study employs a novel holistic approach to innovation portfolio assessment. A complex systems perspective is taken for organizational analysis allowing the examination of how fluctuations, resource richness, freedom, capacity to innovate, culture, technology and strategy are balanced and made synergetic. This case study reflects upon how these organizations’ strategies are reflected in their organizational forms, their investments in innovations, their performance and ultimately in their potential to evolve.
The study of various knowledge creation approaches (like operations research, systems thinking, cybernetics, complexity, knowledge management, and scientific method) leads to the development of a framework describing a sufficient capability for trans-disciplinary knowledge innovation and knowledge creation. This is done by looking at knowledge creation as a complex phenomenon, and using an appropriate approach, as found in the Cynefin Framework. The proposed knowledge innovation framework highlights the various aspects to be developed in order to define a capability which can be used for knowledge innovation, scientific problem solving, and quality assurance for knowledge work. This framework can be seen as a ‘knowledge technology’ that can be developed and implemented like any other technology.
Difficulties have been encountered in communicating the meaning and value of complexity science principles to people in organizations. While one school of thought in the literature holds that it is not necessary to attempt to communicate the principles transparently, one set of researchers set out to develop a range of tools and a workshop session to do just this, and called it ‘The Complexity Starter Kit’. The Complexity Starter Kit features a six-day calendar and ‘water—cooler’ area posters, an exercise class and group sensemaking session, and an online knowledge development tool with group discussion boards. This paper describes the Complexity Starter Kit at high level, proposes its usefulness in the context of innovation, and provides an overview of educational strategies that facilitate learning about complexity science, a consideration of the ways in which these correlate with complexity science, and how this informed the development of the Complexity Starter Kit.
Recently, a new initiative has entered the Dutch policy-arena of spatial planning, water management and nature preservation: the so-called Community of Practice (COP). Within such a COP actors with very different backgrounds (experts, inhabitants, officials, stakeholders) participate to try and find creative solutions for persistent political and societal problems by combining conflicting spatial functions in specific areas. From a complex adaptive systems point of view, we analyze the logic and functioning of such a COP. From the literature on complexity and innovation we can learn that staying at the edge of chaos for COPs mean that they not only have to maintain an internal process of coevolution between the very different actors involved, but also have to maintain relations of coevolution with their wider environment. After an in-depth case study ‘Gouwe Wiericke’ we conclude that COPs can produce innovative policy results, but reaching ‘bounded instability’ through sustainable coevolution requires careful balancing acts between extremes.
This paper is occasioned by the Storymaker project, an initiative begun in 1998 to help professionals in organizations to develop their practice by recording and exchanging narratives of work experience. The paper attempts to situate the practice and theory of the Storymaker project within a wider conversation about the future of human organization and communication, centering on the relationship between narrative and complexity. It does so by comparing two approaches to developing professional capability within organizations. The first is taken from the mainstream of management thinking. By example, the paper argues that managerialism is intrinsically inimical to complexity, and has the opposite result from the one that it intends for professionals because its methods diminish human capability and potential. The second example, taken from Storymaker project experience, shows that, narrative methods expose and emphasize complexity. Storymaker, reframing the narrative approaches of nursing practice, helps professionals to create spoken-word resources that bring recorded narrative experience into the living present as a rich medium of contrasting voices. Such emergent narrative practices open up new possibilities for communication between professionals in organizations in ways that foster emergence and creativity and can also liberate the human spirit.
This article advances the idea of ‘narrative processes’ in the metaphor of organizational discourse as a complex system. There are three narrative processes, or ways in which people in organizations story events, namely: story coercion as the conscious or unconscious efforts of individuals to create universal meaning over organizational events; story weaving since narratives are always open to the interpretations of participants while being situated in the context and point of enactment; and, story betting when potential storytellers attempt to pre-story organizational events. Narratives within an organization’s discourse (i.e., stories, drama, chronicles) are a field of choices in which meaning takes place. When organizations are viewed as complex systems, the field of choices change over time, are chaotic but allow for order to emerge, and are orderly but allow for innovation to emerge. The implication is a need to collect narratives of organizational events and engage in a sense making process that provides potential interpretations for organizational members.
Terms like ‘narrative’ and ‘story’ are pretty confusing for a person who grew up in linguistic anthropology, where both have been used in a variety of ways for a century or so. The author tries to clarify the terms with the following steps. First, investor Peter Lynch’s popular use of ‘story’ serves as an informal and accessible example to narrow the focus, and Weick’s concept of ‘sensemaking’ brings ‘story’ into the realm of organizational research and practice. Next we draw on the recent work on ‘living narrative’ by Ochs and Capps. Their five dimensions of narrative give sensemaking a more grounded and detailed meaning. Then concepts from discourse analysis allow us to evaluate sensemaking for its fit with ideas about an organization as a complex co-evolutionary system.
This article compares two prominent managerial models – those of Snowden and Weick – that use narrative as a sensemaking response to complexity. After presenting an overview to their approach to narrative and complexity, we then analyze their stylistic differences as a precursor to identifying eight features of the more substantial likeness of their models. In the conclusion we distill the essential features of narrative and complexity that their concepts entail and show that individual behavior, interpersonal communication, participation, and management by exception are their hallmarks.
In this article, the author argues that storytelling is a biological imperative for human beings, the psychological mechanism by which they can capture the coherent perceptions of an unknowably complex world required for survival. After examining how internal story creation reduces the world’s complexity to a state in which people can effectively choose actions, the article explores how acting on such internal stories helps create a spiral of experience, storying, acting and confirmation or contradiction of storying in experience, leading to knowledge. As experience confirms the predictions of storying, a person’s knowledge becomes stronger and stronger. Over time, stories evolve from antenarrative (what might have happened) to narrative (what did happen), and then to myth (the nature of reality). The article concludes with some thoughts on the implications of this theory of the relationship between storying and cognition.
The aim of this paper is to explore how complexity insights can be used to facilitate resource decision making in public systems. The focus is on health care and in particular the UK National Health System. Attempts at rational resource decision making in public systems have identified that there are no explicit frameworks that are acceptable both publicly and politically and that rational decision frameworks are invariably unworkable. This paper explores insights from the UK National Health Service and suggests how complexity insights might be developed to facilitate resource decision making, particularly at grass roots level. The focus moves from the current development of an increasingly methodological competence to creating the conditions for a conversational competence amongst decision makers from which solutions will emerge that may not be optimal but which will satisfy the constraints placed on the system.
One of the celebrated features of the emergence of ‘complexity thinking’ on the research scene is its acclaimed ability to cut across disciplinary boundaries, offering potential explanations to pertinent issues that have haunted ‘experts’ and bureaucrats for a long time. In the field of urban studies, such vexing questions revolve around the notoriety and reluctance of the urban system to be harnessed into our-own-made, control-oriented predictive models. Despite the prevalence of copious volumes of literature on the subject, there are still more questions than answers in the understanding of the urban system. This paper attempts to view urban regeneration through the lenses of complexity theory. The task involves a historical narrative that weighs the evolution of the regeneration processes of a once highly deprived inner city area of Hulme in Manchester against the characteristic features of complex adaptive systems. A premium is placed on the analysis of the design platform and processes that saw Hulme emerge from worst slum in Manchester to one of the exemplars of regeneration in England. The analysis goes beyond mere explanation by making a commitment to securing potential areas for better-informed intervention. The fundamental argument that is championed is that even prior to central intervention, there is usually a resilient prior reality that characterizes that particular setting and that successful intervention is a function of how well a programme conforms to these natural tendencies.
We raise the question of how Ireland can become an innovative knowledge economy. Questioning received orthodoxy we show that Irish culture should put more value on scientific skills, promote a scientifically literate culture, and reform institutional and structural support systems to develop an innovative knowledge-based economy. Developing the idea of knowledge as essentially a complex emergent phenomenon we illustrate the importance of system supports for the development of knowledge and learning through the idea of a national system of innovation. Using the Priority Pointing Procedure, derived from Nomology, we explore the key priorities for Ireland.
This paper draws together material from Operational Research (OR) and Human Sciences (HS) conferences. It explores the need for OR to embrace the full range of knowledge available from HS and for HS, in turn, to integrate and express that knowledge in a form that OR can use. The paper discusses humans as a source of individual and collective variability in complex, socio-technical systems and exposes the challenges facing OR in advising on interventions in them. It then outlines practical approaches to those challenges based on balanced problem formulation, modelling systems ‘naturally’ and embracing uncertainty, leading towards ‘full spectrum’ analysis.