This paper proposes an analytical framework for a complexity-informed theoretical approach to human interaction and organizations. In doing so, it addresses the increasing call for better theory supporting the microfoundations of social science. A key premise of the argument is that the primary imperatives of social actors are confronting uncertainty and adapting to change as a collective. As such, in addition to seeking requisite resources, human beings interact to gather and use information for their individual and collective benefit. The paper explores this perspective by proposing a complex systems model of organizing that differs from systems theory by placing the actors inside the system rather than assuming they act on the system. We propose a definition of information that enables us to explore the dynamics of human interaction as observers from the outside without necessarily knowing what the information means. This approach is analogous to how physical and biological systems are studied and is intended to complement, rather than replace existing approaches that tend to place their emphasis on inter-subjectivity and meaning-making rather than on the objective measurement of information as a physically measurable quantity.
This paper looks at how ideas, constructs, methods and insights coming out of the sciences of complex systems can be applied to the study of social entrepreneurship. At present, there is no theory that seeks to define social entrepreneurship in complex system terms nor how such a redefinition might contribute to greater positive social outcomes of these kinds of programs. To remedy this, we propose ways that complexity theory can be used to develop useful, and we hope, what is ultimately, a more practical theory. In particular, we explore how complexity ideas might be used to develop a robust theory of social dynamics and of how the mechanisms of social entrepreneurship might be better understood as a practical approach for generating well-defined positive social outcomes. After describing various possibilities, some hopeful thoughts on the future of the field are offered. There is nothing more practical than a good theory. Kurt Lewin
Introduction This Special Issue is special for several reasons. The first concerns its content, the application of complexity sciences to the study of leadership. Although ideas and methods from the sciences of complex systems are increasingly being applied to organizational dynamics including leadership, nowhere until now has there been a forum completely dedicated to a […]
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.
Introduction It is something of a marvel to recognize just how much of what is only now coming forth concerning leadership by means of complex systems research was already anticipated in the carefully considered insights published by Chester Bernard as far back as 1938. In his book, The Functions of the Executive, Barnard described an […]
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.
INTRODUCTION If organizations can be understood as complex adaptive systems, then social structures, even boundaries, may be emergent in nature (Marion, 1999). This is relevant to organizational learning research in the effects that boundaries have on organizational learning and outcome variables. These effects may be emergent and might be explained by locally determined interactions among […]