Introduction This issue of Emergence is an “emergent” in the truest sense of the word. We have made a major journey over the past six years. We were in print, then we were electronic, and now we are back in print. We were overly concerned with scientific relevance, then with managerial relevance, and now with […]
Complex approaches for a complex world The dramatic shift from the Industrial to the Information Age marking the beginning of the twenty-first century has come with a radical increase in global complexity promising both unprecedented uncertainty and unexpected new opportunities. It is surely no accident that along with the accelerating interconnectivity and resulting global interdependency […]
In recent decades, the ideas of interdisciplinarity and complexity have become increasingly entwined. This convergence invites an exploration of the links and their implications. The implications span the nature of knowledge, the structure of the university, the character of problem solving, the dialogue between science and humanities, and the theoretical relationship of the two underlying ideas.
Organizational theory has construed complexity as an objective characteristic of either the structure or the behavior of an organization. We argue that, in order to further our understanding, complexity should be understood in terms of the human cognition of a structure or behavior. This cognitive twist is illustrated by means of two theoretical approaches, whose relationship is discussed.
The Chinese concept of Guanxi is a form of social network theory that defines one’s place in the social structure and provides security, trust and a prescribed role. This essay argues that Eastern Guanxi and recently popularized Western Social Network Theory (SNT) overlap in three ways. First, both imply that information is essential to sustain a social system by prescribing a set of behaviors that regulate the flow of information and that define insider and outsider relationships (Guanxi), or strong ties and weak ties (SNT). Second, both offer a theory of change coupled with an ethic of sustainability where order is created by trust as a local, relative phenomena. Finally, both Guanxi and SNT characterize randomness and order as essential, though Guanxi favors certainty and trust over chaos. The implications of the comparison undermine the claims of ‘newness’ and primacy often associated with recent SNT literature. Furthermore, they suggest that Western network theorists can gain significant insight from traditional Eastern thought.
This paper argues that fundamental questions in relation to organizations seen as complex, evolving systems, operating in far-from-equilibrium conditions are not capable of being resolved by mensuration and, in the absence of this, that a reliable decision procedure is capable of being developed by using aesthetics as defined by Henri Laborit in the foreword to Biologie et structure. A brief description is given of a methodology developed by Psi International at the French Institute for training Public Services employees, Dijon, France. “Quality is practical, and factories and airlines and hospital labs must be practical. But it is also moral and aesthetic. And it is also perceptual and subjective.” (Peters, 1989: 83)
This paper explores the origin of costly complexity/complicatedness from a stance in evolutionary complexity. It argues that the tendency to the former is a property of the evolution in the latter. The creation of space, physical and virtual for adaptation may be a managerial solution – one amenable to various interventions which draw upon complexity as a metaphor.
In this paper I would like to pay attention to two items: First, to how I understand complexity, expressing some ideas through eight thesis that summarize this understanding. Second, hardly touching the surface of human-social complexity, to do it from the perspective of that part of reality that we call Third World, and drawing near to it from the disciplinary problematic of the social sciences, specially political science. To consider complexity from the human-social standpoint means, first of all, to see ourselves – researchers – as people who participate in social life in a context, and not as transcendental subject owners of a privileged and neutral epistemological position that endows us with a definitive knowledge.
An array of complexity-based tools and techniques are available today, but how does the practitioner select a particular approach to respond to a particular need? We present a simple taxonomy to describe the landscape of complexity-derived methods for human systems dynamics. Practitioners can use the landscape to understand the diversity of tools and techniques, to foster respect for approaches different from ones’ own, to build an understanding of the field as a whole, and to select specific techniques to apply in specific situations.
Using the complex systems approach to extend the resource- and capability-based theory of the firm and integrate it into the strategic networks perspective, this article introduces the concept of a ‘System of Business Enterprises’ (SBE). By combining an integrative complex systems framework the two perspectives at hand (strategic resources and strategic networks), I define the SBE as a complex dynamic network of resources and capabilities. Along these lines, the study tries to lay down a first sketch of a theory of firm aggregates, and in particular of the resource- and capability-based interorganizational networks, and fleshes out a few learning points for management practice.
This paper employs complexity theory and the principle of emergence as a construct to explain some forms of change observed during the analysis of research concerning change in Australian sport organizations. Although a consortium of well-established theories proved advantageous in revealing the nature of change attempts within a sample of eight case organizations, some changes remained inexplicable. Upon further investigation, these changes were observed to have properties associated with emergence. Several examples are presented to explicate the emergent behavior. This paper presents evidence to suggest that complexity theory has utility as an alternative perspective explaining certain types of organizational change.
Introduction This article is an exposition and defense of a per-spective I call ‘integrative pluralism’. I will argue that integrative pluralism is the best description of the relationship of scientific theories, models, and explanations of complex biological phenomena. Com-plexity is endemic in biology, and various features of multicomponent, multilevel, evolved systems consti-tute it. The types […]
Introduction The attendees at the Complexity and Philosophy gathering in Havana this past January were honored to hear a keynote from Isabelle Stengers the noted philosopher of science who teaches at the Free University of Brussels. While Stengers is perhaps best known for her decades long partnership with Ilya Prigogine, what struck most of the […]
Introduction The brilliant British psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and mathematician Ross Ashby was one of the pioneers in early and mid-phase cybernetics and thereby one of the leading progenitors of modern complexity theory. Not one to take either commonly used terms or popular notions for granted, Ashby probed deeply into the meaning of supposedly self-organizing systems. At […]
Introduction The second of this issue’s two classical papers was written by Kenneth E. Boulding back in 1956 and published in one of the earliest issues of Management Science which is currently celebrating its fiftieth anniversary (Hopp, 2004). Congratulations to the team at Management Science. Boulding is a peer of a number of great systems […]
This report and opinion piece seeks to establish a model in which complexity can be positioned in the context of other management disciplines, in such a way as to effectively communicate to executives in industry and their equivalents in government the importance of applying complexity thinking. It also seeks to differentiate what is termed ‘social complexity’ from ‘mathematical complexity’ in the context of the development of management science. The background to this paper is taken from of the findings in a recently completed study for the European Commission entitled “Business Needs and Technology Trends in Knowledge Management” (the Study). The purpose of the Study was to answer questions concerning the role of, and future research requirements for, knowledge management (KM) that would enlarge an understanding of how knowledge management should contribute to the Lisbon Objectives of Europe becoming a global leader in the knowledge economy. In effect, the study aimed to see how KM should contribute toward growing the competitiveness of European businesses. A critical conclusion of the study was that social complexity provided a key strategic advantage of a diverse multi-cultural economic unit such as Europe (and by implication Asia and Africa) in the emergent knowledge economy, and that imitation of the research agenda and focus of the current dominant economic player, the USA, would in consequence be a mistake. In effect an approach to intellectual capital that arose in the context ofinfinitely available resources[i], and the creation of a common and new cultural identity based on the exploitation of those resources, is not an appropriate approach for the knowledge economy per se. This paper expands briefly and speculatively on some of the implications of this conclusion.
In The Sacred Canopy Peter Berger explores religion as a sensemaking mechanism by which mankind creates an order from, or imposes it upon, the world around him. More recently, David Snowden of Cardiff University has built on his own work with IBM systems to develop the Cynefin framework which further explores the relationship between man, experience and context as a mechanism to improve policy formulation**. This paper seeks to provide an analysis of policymaking within the current Bush administration and the impact of Faith upon that process as expressed through the Cynefin framework. It considers in particular how President George W. Bush’s reported religious sensibilities may be viewed as an effort to straddle the divide between order and chaos. It also examines the evolving relationship between a tightened US security policy and deregulated implementation. Finally, it explores the implications for the nature of the Presidency and impact on religious congregations in the US.
From Complexity to Life is a collection of eleven essays written by leading complexity thinkers. Each author attempts to address some of the big perennial philosophical questions regarding the existence and meaning of life from a complex systems perspective. Such issues have been debated for thousands of years and it is the position of the […]
Decomposition is a way to reduce complexity. After all a problem split up into manageable parts will be easier to understand than a complex whole problem. It is however a tricky, sometimes even impossible task to reconstitute these decomposed problems and solutions to the main whole problem. Within systems science we are therefore advised to keep the complex whole in tact. The idea of wholeness relates to concepts such as layered structure, links and emergent properties. In one important soft systems approach, soft systems methodology (SSM), we are advised to use the concept of wholeness in order to understand the real world in its full richness. However, these holistic systems concepts are rather hard to use for managers. The paper tries to improve the usability of these systems concepts in the management practice.