Welcome to Scribd, the world's digital library. Read, publish, and share books and documents. See more
Download
Standard view
Full view
of .
Save to My Library
Look up keyword
Like this
20Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Complexity Theory and Organization Science

Complexity Theory and Organization Science

Ratings:

5.0

(1)
|Views: 1,168 |Likes:
Published by kathuman
Complex organizations exhibit surprising, nonlinear behavior.
Although organization scientists have studied complex organizations
for many years, a developing set of conceptual and computational
tools makes possible new approaches to modeling
nonlinear interactions within and between organizations. Complex
adaptive system models represent a genuinely new way of
simplifying the complex. They are characterized by four key
elements: agents with schemata, self-organizing networks sustained
by importing energy, coevolution to the edge of chaos,
and system evolution based on recombination. New types of
models that incorporate these elements will push organization
science forward by merging empirical observation with computational
agent-based simulation. Applying complex adaptive
systems models to strategic management leads to an emphasis
on building systems that can rapidly evolve effective adaptive
solutions. Strategic direction of complex organizations consists
of establishing and modifying environments within which effective,
improvised, self-organized solutions can evolve. Managers
influence strategic behavior by altering the fitness landscape
for local agents and reconfiguring the organizational
architecture within which agents adapt.
Complex organizations exhibit surprising, nonlinear behavior.
Although organization scientists have studied complex organizations
for many years, a developing set of conceptual and computational
tools makes possible new approaches to modeling
nonlinear interactions within and between organizations. Complex
adaptive system models represent a genuinely new way of
simplifying the complex. They are characterized by four key
elements: agents with schemata, self-organizing networks sustained
by importing energy, coevolution to the edge of chaos,
and system evolution based on recombination. New types of
models that incorporate these elements will push organization
science forward by merging empirical observation with computational
agent-based simulation. Applying complex adaptive
systems models to strategic management leads to an emphasis
on building systems that can rapidly evolve effective adaptive
solutions. Strategic direction of complex organizations consists
of establishing and modifying environments within which effective,
improvised, self-organized solutions can evolve. Managers
influence strategic behavior by altering the fitness landscape
for local agents and reconfiguring the organizational
architecture within which agents adapt.

More info:

Published by: kathuman on Mar 29, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
download as PDF, TXT or read online from Scribd
See more
See less

05/28/2013

pdf

text

original

 
Complexity Theory and Organization ScienceAuthor(s): Philip AndersonSource:
Organization Science,
Vol. 10, No. 3, Special Issue: Application of Complexity Theoryto Organization Science (May - Jun., 1999), pp. 216-232Published by: INFORMSStable URL:
Accessed: 29/03/2010 18:20
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=informs.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.
 INFORMS
is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to
Organization Science.
http://www.jstor.org
 
Complexity
Theory
and
Organization
Science
PhilipAnderson
AmosTuck School,DartmouthCollege,Hanover New Hampshire 03755-9000
Abstract
Complex organizationsexhibitsurprising,nonlinear behavior.Although organization scientistshave studied complex organi-zations for many years, a developing setofconceptualand com-putational tools makes possiblenew approaches to modelingnonlinear interactions within and between organizations.Com-plex adaptive system modelsrepresent a genuinely new way ofsimplifyingthecomplex.They arecharacterized byfourkeyelements: agents with schemata,self-organizing networks sus-tained by importing energy, coevolution to the edge of chaos,andsystemevolution basedonrecombination.Newtypesofmodels that incorporate these elements will push organizationscience forwardby mergingempirical observation withcom-putational agent-basedsimulation. Applying complex adaptivesystemsmodels tostrategicmanagement leads to anemphasisonbuilding systemsthatcanrapidly evolve effective adaptivesolutions. Strategicdirection ofcomplex organizationsconsistsofestablishingandmodifyingenvironments within which ef-fective, improvised, self-organized solutions can evolve. Man-agersinfluencestrategicbehavior by alteringthe fitness land-scapeforlocal agentsandreconfiguringtheorganizationalarchitecture within whichagentsadapt.
(Complexity Theory; OrganizationalEvolution; StrategicManagement)
Sincetheopen-systemsview oforganizations begantodiffuseinthe1960s,
comnplexity
has been a centralcon-structinthevocabularyoforganizationscientists.Opensystemsareopenbecausethey exchangeresources with
the environment, and they are systems because they con-sistof interconnectedcomponentsthat worktogether.Inhis classic discussion of hierarchyin1962, Simon defineda complex system as one made up of a large numberofparts that have many interactions (Simon 1996).Thompson (1967, p. 6) described a complex organizationasa setof interdependent parts, which together makeupa whole thatisinterdependentwith somelargerenviron-ment.Organization theoryhastreatedcomplexityas astruc-turalvariablethat characterizes both organizations andtheir environments. Withrespecttoorganizations,Daft(1992, p. 15) equates complexity with the number of ac-tivities orsubsystemswithin theorganization, notingthatit can be measured along three dimensions. Vertical com-plexity is the number of levels in an organizational hier-archy, horizontal complexity isthe number ofjob titlesordepartmentsacrossthe organization, and spatialcom- plexity isthe number ofgeographical locations. Withre- specttoenvironments, complexityisequatedwith thenumber of different itemsorelementsthat mustbedealtwithsimultaneously bytheorganization (Scott 1992,p.230). Organization design tries to match the complexityof anorganization'sstructure with thecomplexityof itsenvironment andtechnology (Galbraith 1982).Thevery first article ever publishedinOrganizationSciencesuggestedthat it isinappropriateororganizationstudies tosettleprematurelyinto anormal sciencemind-set,becauseorganizationsareenormously complex (Daftand Lewin1990).WhatDaftand Lewin meant is that thebehaviorofcomplex systemsissurprisingandishardto
1047-7039/99/1003/0216/$05.OO
ORGANIZATION CIENCE/Vol.
10, No. 3,May-June1999
Copyright?1999, InstituteorOperationsResearch
pp.216-232
and the ManagementSciences
 
PHILIP ANDERSONComplexity Theory and Organization Science
predict, because it is nonlinear (Casti 1994). In nonlinearsystems, interveningtochange one or twoparametersasmall amount can drastically change the behavior ofthewhole system, and the wholecanbeverydifferent fromthe sum of theparts. Complex systems change inputs tooutputsina nonlinear way because their componentsin-teract with one another via a web offeedback loops.Gell-Mann (1994a) definescomplexity as the length oftheschema needed to describe and predict the propertiesof an incoming data stream byidentifying its regularities.Nonlinearsystemscan difficult tocompressinto apar-simoniousdescription: this is whatmakes them complex(Casti 1994). According to Simon(1996, p. 1),the centraltask ofanatural scienceisto showthat complexity,cor-rectly viewed, is only a mask forsimplicity. Both socialscientists andpeopleinorganizations reduceacomplexdescriptionofasystemto asimpler one by abstractingout whatis unnecessary or minor. To build a model is toencode a naturalsystemintoaformalsystem, compress-ing a longer description into a shorter one that is easiertograsp. Modeling thenonlinear outcomes ofmanyin-teracting componentshas been so difficult that both socialandnatural scientists have tended to select moreanalyt-ically tractableproblems (Casti 1994).Simpleboxes-and-arrows causalmodels are inadequate formodeling sys-tems withcomplexinterconnections and feedbackloops,even when nonlinear relations betweendependentand in-dependentvariables are introducedbymeans ofexpo-nents, logarithms, or interaction terms. How else mightwecompress complexbehavior sowe cancomprehendit?For Perrow (1967), the more complex anorganizationis,the lessknowableit isand the more deeply ambiguousis itsoperation. Modem complexity theory suggests thatsomesystemswithmany interactionsamong highlydif-ferentiatedpartscanproducesurprisingly simple, pre-dictablebehavior,while othersgeneratebehavior thatisimpossible to forecast, though theyfeature simple lawsand few actors. As Cohen and Stewart(1994) point out,normal science shows howcomplexeffects can be un-derstood fromsimple laws;chaostheorydemonstratesthatsimplelaws can havecomplicated, unpredictableconsequences;andcomplexitytheorydescribes howcomplexcauses canproduce simpleeffects.Since themid-1980s,newapproachestomodelingcomplex systemshave beenemergingfrom an interdis-ciplinaryinvisiblecollege,anchoredonthe SantaFe In- stitute(see Waldrop 1992forahistoricalperspective).Theagendaofthese scholars includesidentifying deepprinciples underlyingawidevarietyofcomplex systems,bethey physical, biological,orsocial(FontanaandBallati 1999). Despite somewhatfrequent declarationsthat a new paradigm has emerged,it isstill prematureodeclare thatascience of complexity,or even a unifiedtheoryofcomplex systems,exists(Horgan 1995).Holland and Miller (1991) have likenedthe present sit-uation to that of evolutionary theorybefore Fisher devel-oped a mathematical theory of genetic selection.This essay is not a reviewoftheemerging body ofresearch in complex systems, becausethat has been ablyreviewed many times,inways accessible to both scholarsandmanagers.Table1describesa number ofrecent,prominent books and articles thatinform this literature;Heylighen (1997) providesanexcellentintroductorybib- liography, with a more comprehensiveversion availableon the Internet athttp://pespmcl.vub.ac.be/
Evocobib.
html. Organizationscience has passed thepointwherewecanregardas novel asummaryof theseideas or an assertion that an empiricalphenomenon isconsistent with them (see Browninget al. 1995 for a path-breaking example).Siximportant nsights, explainedatlengthinthe workscited in Table1,should beregardedas well-establishedscientifically. First, many dynamicalsystems (whosestateattime
t
determinestheirstate attime
t
+1) donot reacheither a fixed-pointor acyclical equilibrium(see Dooleyand Van deVen'spaperinthisissue). Second,processesthatappeartobe randommaybechaotic, revolvingaround identifiable typesofattractorsina deterministicwaythat seldomifever return to the same state.Anat-tractoris a limited areainasystem'sstatespacethatitneverdeparts.Chaoticsystemsrevolvearound"strangeattractors,"ractalobjectsthat constrainthesystemto asmallarea of its statespace,which itexploresina never-endingseries that does notrepeatina finite amount oftime. Tests exist thatcanestablishwhether agiven pro-cess is random or chaotic(Koput 1997,Ott1993).Sim-ilarly, timeseries thatappearto berandom walksmayactuallybe fractals withself-reinforcingtrends(Bar-Yam1997). Third, the behaviorofcomplex processescan bequitesensitive to small differencesininitialconditions,so that two entities withverysimilar initial states canfollowradically divergent pathsover time.Consequently,historical accidentsmay "tip"outcomes stronglyinapar-ticular direction(Arthur 1989).Fourth, complex systemsresistsimplereductionistanalyses,because interconnec-tions and feedbackloops preclude holdingsomesubsys-tems constant in order tostudyothers in isolation. Be-causedescriptionsatmultiplescales arenecessarytoidentifyhowemergent propertiesareproduced (Bar-Yam1997),reductionism and holismarecomplementarystrategiesinanalyzingsuchsystems(FontanaandBallati
ORGANIZATIONCIENCE/Vol.
10,
No.
3,
May-June
1999217

Activity (20)

You've already reviewed this. Edit your review.
1 thousand reads
1 hundred reads
Chris Green liked this
torcazlibre54 liked this
Tom Gray liked this

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->