A Complex Adaptive Systems Model of Organization Change

University of Minnesota
Nonlinear Dynamics Psychology and Life Sciences (Impact Factor: 0.96). 12/1996; 1(1):69-97. DOI: 10.1023/A:1022375910940

ABSTRACT The study of complex adaptive systems has yielded great insight into how complex, organic-like structures can evolve order and purpose over time. Business organizations, typified by semi-autonomous organizational members interacting at many levels of cognition and action, can be portrayed by the generic constructs and driving mechanisms of complex adaptive systems theory. The purpose of this paper is to forge a unified description of complex adaptive systems from several sources, and then investigate the issue of change in a business organization via the framework of complex adaptive systems. The theory of complex adaptive systems uses components from three paradigms of management thought: systems theory, population ecology, and information processing. Specific propositions regarding the nature of dynamical change will be developed, driven by the complex adaptive systems model. Supporting evidence for these propositions is then sought within the existing management theory literature. In doing so, the complex adaptive systems approach to understanding organization change will be better grounded in domain-specific theory, and new insights and research areas will come to light.

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    Complexity and Planning: Systems, Assemblages and Simulations (New directions in planning theory, Edited by G. de Roo, J. Hillier, J van Wezemael, 01/2012: chapter Climate adaptation in complex governance systems. Governance systems between inertia and adaptability: pages 221-242; London: Ashgate Publishing.
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    Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology, 2nd edited by Harry T. Reis, Charles M. Judd, 02/2014: chapter Complex dynamical systems in social and personality psychology: Theory, modeling and analysis.: pages 251-280; Cambridge University Press., ISBN: 978-1107600751
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    ABSTRACT: Our research addresses one of the most vexing issues in IS, that of how IS alignment occurs. Even more vexing, and largely unaddressed, is the issue of sustainable IS alignment. We address sustainable IS alignment as a dynamic, multi-faceted, and non-deterministic process based on the complexity theory worldview. The complexity theory worldview conceives of organizations and IS as complex adaptive systems (CAS) that co-evolve over time. Sustainable IS alignment results when an organization’s complex adaptive IS adapt to remain in alignment with the constantly-changing (that is, evolving) organization’s goals. Our co-evolutionary theory of IS alignment links bottom-up, emergent processes that foster adaptivity with top-down, formal organizational processes essential to established organizations. We illustrate the theory by applying it to the co-evolution and therefore adaptation of enterprise architectures and IS development projects. Our research on the role of co-evolution in sustainable IS alignment contributes to IS research in general and to prior research on IS alignment in particular, and has implications for achieving sustainable IS alignment. We believe that portraying organizations and their IS as complex adaptive systems that co-evolve provides both research and practice with a way to
    Journal of the Association of information systems. 06/2013; JAIS(14(6)):283-311.

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May 16, 2014

Kevin Dooley