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


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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    • "Under the impetus of the Santa Fe Institute and a growing community of scientists worldwide, the approach spread in the natural sciences, biology (Rosen, 1985, 1991), ecology (Levin, 1998, 2000) economics (e.g. Colander, 2000), organization and management science (Schneider and Somers, 2006; Dooley, 1997; Choi et al., 2001), engineering and the social sciences (e.g. Lansing, 2003; Miller and Page, 2009). "

    Full-text · Article · Jan 2015 · Natures Sciences Sociétés
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    • "In the late 1980s and 1990s, complexity thinking for organizations had not yet come into sharp focus. Still the application of complexity was all the rage within the social sciences (Anderson, 1999; Cilliers, 1998; Dooley, 1997; Goldstein, 1989; Levinthal, 1997; McKelvey, 1997; Thietart & Forgues, 1995). Exotic concepts that were discovered in the natural sciences, like chaos, strange attractors and the possibilities implied by emergence -where entirely new order springs forth seemingly in whole cloth -led researchers to look for complexity applications in management and human organizations (Wheatley, 1999). "

    Full-text · Chapter · Jun 2014
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    • "Examples of CAS include economies, social systems, organizations, ecologies, cultures, politics, technologies, traffic, and weather (Dooley, 1997). Choi et al. (2001) analyzed the CAS literature and developed a comprehensive framework of its elements and attributes as shown in Figure 1. "
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    ABSTRACT: Drawing upon the theories of complexity and complex adaptive systems and the Singerian inquiring system from C. West Churchman's seminal work The Design of Inquiring Systems , the study herein develops a systems design theory for continuous auditing systems. The discussion focuses on the two foundational theories, development of the theory of Complex Adaptive Inquiring Organizations (CAIO) and associated design principles for a continuous auditing system supporting a CAIO, and instantiation of the CAIO theory. The instantiation consists of an agent-based model depicting the marketplace for Frontier Airlines that generates an anticipated market share used as an integral component in a mock auditor going concern opinion for the airline. As a whole, the study addresses the lack of an underlying system design theory and comprehensive view needed to build upon and advance the continuous assurance movement and addresses the question of how continuous auditing systems should be designed to produce knowledge – knowledge that benefits auditors, clients, and society as a whole.
    Full-text · Article · May 2014 · The Knowledge Engineering Review
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