The Interaction of Complexity and Management

By Michael R. Lissack | Go to book overview

28

Complexity and Organization Science

Arie Lewin

I have been interested in complexity theory for quite a while. In my view, if one only thinks of complexity as a very profound subject, it has to reform our interest in understanding the systems that we have been studying throughout the modern history of management and organization theory. We have made a lot of progress over the last 150 years, but we have also discovered the limits of inquiry to the way we have been inquiring in our domains.

I was editor-in-chief of Organization Science, of which the September/ October 1999 issue focuses on the concept of coevolution, coevolution of organizations, coevolution of systems, but primarily coevolution of new organizations. Why new organizations? There is much strong literature that says that in the long run old organizations are selected out. We know about the death rate, but our field is almost devoid of research about how existing organizations survive over time. Why do we know very little? Bill McKelvey’s paper in June 1997 in Organization Science claims that this is because the way we research does not allow us to be forward thinking because we have no data. We don’t have the ability to do research that allows us to study what he called microspace in adaptation over time. Since we don’t have sequence data like those, we cannot study rates of change. We cannot find nonlinearities and market duration of

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