In case study methods of organizations, researchers are often limited to the aggregation of individual cases within the context of the organizational case. Borrowing from Stake’s (1995) use of instrumental and intrinsic case studies, this paper presents a fractal geometry case study method. For the purposes of this article, on site interviews of seventeen librarians who work in a research institution were conducted to learn more about their experiences with organizational change. Instrumental case studies of these individuals, or rather those cases that respond to other phenomena, were performed and analyzed at the micro level. A clustering technique, serving as a fractal seed, was also incorporated to draw out themes that highlighted the interconnections of individuals. These cases were then recursively integrated into an emergent framework of the intrinsic case of the organization. The use of this method suggests that observations of individuals, and the subsequent meaning they generate at the micro level, reflect the complex interconnections of these cases. At the same time, this method suggests that the recursive integration of individual cases contributes to the understanding of the complex organization at the macro level.
Complexity scholars have identified two distinct catalysts of emergence: (1) Far-from-equilibrium dynamics that trigger order creation, and (2) adaptive tension (McKelvey, 2004) which can push a system toward instability, leading to the emergence of new order. Each of these provides a necessary but incomplete explanation of the catalyst for emergent order. In particular, the far-from-equilibrium framework, when taken to its logical ends, would conclude that most dynamic and fluid organizations are the ones farthest-from-thermodynamic equilibrium—like Exxon or GM, for example. Adaptive tension on the other hand identifies an exogenous force of market change, but doesn’t explain how emergence is actually triggered. As a solution I propose “Opportunity Tension,” which integrates the endogenous intention of an entrepreneur to create a new venture to the exogenous changes that open up an entrepreneurial opportunity—a market that will exchange money for the value being created. Opportunity tension occurs in “pulses,” each cycle leading to a new dynamic state of the system. This model, which is consonant with the notion of “dynamic creation” (Chiles et al., 2010), contributes to a complexity science that is moves us beyond a far-from-equilibrium framework.
As more scholars join the conversation around complexity theory (CT), it seems a useful time to ask ourselves if we are talking about the “same thing?” This concern is highlighted by the present survey, which finds more conflict than agreement between definitions. In contrast to the conflict, a path toward common ground may be found by applying the idea of a “robust” theory. A robust theory is expected to be more effective in application and more reasonably falsifiable. In this paper, Reflexive Dimensional Analysis (RDA) is used to analyze existing definitions of CT. These definitions are deconstructed, redefined as scalar dimensions, combined, and investigated to identify co-causal relationships. The robustness of CT is identified as 0.56 on a scale of zero to one. Paths for advancing the theory are suggested, with important implications for complexity science.
We analyze four scenarios commonly encountered in social processes undergoing competitive pressures: resource depletion by individuals acting greedily (‘tragedy of the commons’), wasted opportunity due to over protective players (‘tragedy of the anti-commons’), crowd following (‘majority wins’) and competition for niches (‘minority wins’). We show that these scenarios are extremes of a continuous resource exploitation problem and that complex and counter-intuitive behaviors are found at the transitions between ‘pure’ scenarios. We discuss the likely community behaviors and under what conditions a centralised management intervention may play a role in the resource and community resilience.
Even in simple contexts, the dynamical interaction between agents creates complex features. The presence of agents of change affects dramatically the underlying social structure. Some agents seem to be important in shaping the evolution of interactions: traditionally, these agents have been referred to as leaders; nevertheless, recently scholarly interest has been attracted by social entrepreneurs. Do social leaders and social entrepreneurs act differently? Can a social entrepreneurship culture, one that aims for a large number of social entrepreneurs, be welcomed? This paper presents a model of interaction among agents in a community, and sheds light on the catalytic role that some individuals have on the social structure. The results provide some implications about the role of social entrepreneurs and the differences between social entrepreneurship and leadership.
Rigorous investigation of organizational epistemology, or what can an organization know and why, is a sadly underdeveloped field. Knowledge management as a field has suffered from naïve assumptions about what knowledge is and how it can(not) be shared. David Seidl in E:CO (2007) made a significant contribution to organizational epistemology, which I want to further problematize. Seidl made two assumptions: one ontological namely that organizations know things; and one epistemological namely that knowledge can be defined as perceptual complexity reduction. I wish to counter that persons and not organizations know things and that knowledge is more social than perceptual. I will argue that the problem of social knowing is not so much grounded in the epistemological question of knowledge / nonknowledge—that is, in the relations of foreground and background, facts and assumptions or knowledge and hermeneutics, as in the much more radical circularities of eternal return (duration) and the continual (re-)founding of social order. I will be inspired for the first point by Pierre Klossowski and for the second by Michel Serres.
The hard problem of emergence is its property of self-transcendence I first read this classic paper on emergence by the American philosopher Paul Henle over ten years ago. Rereading it, I am surprised by several themes which did not strike me so the first time around. First is Henle’s early avowal—this article is after all […]
Engaging an audience to buy-in to what is being offered has been the goal of advertisers, scientists, salespeople, politicians, hate mongers, social activists, professors, all the world’s religions and entrepreneurs trying to fill every enterprising nook they might possibly exploit, to name just a few. And to go along with those selling their ideas and […]
Recognition that the reductionist approach to science leaves great gaps in our understanding has led to the synthesis approach to further explain the world around us. The synthetic approach examines the inter-relationships of individual entities as they interact to create complex networks. This approach spawned the creation of a new science—the study of Complex Systems. This article takes the concepts of Complexity Theory and hypothesizes a process of simple steps iterated many times over that explains the emergence of new entities and the evolution of our Universe. The concept of systems, emergence, iteration and evolution is proposed to explain the process underlying our evolving Universe. This process would be expected to leave fractal patterns in its wake. The fractal patterns are related to the shared tendencies for self-organization found in complex networks. The principles apply to all networks irrespective of their component parts and include both inanimate and living systems.