Academic journal article Emergence: Complexity and Organization

Derivation of Factors Facilitating Organizational Emergence Based on Complex Adaptive Systems and Social Autopoiesis Theories

Academic journal article Emergence: Complexity and Organization

Derivation of Factors Facilitating Organizational Emergence Based on Complex Adaptive Systems and Social Autopoiesis Theories

Article excerpt

Modern turbulent business environments are characterized by rapid change that make businesses unpredictable, which brings emergence to the core of modern organizations. Deriving factors facilitating organizational emergence has been undertaken by drawing on complex adaptive systems (CAS) and social autopoiesis theories. Social autopoiesis was particularly chosen as it focuses on social elements, such as communication, morale, trust, etc. and their relation to social emergence, whereas CAS theory concentrates more on adaptive mechanisms that make a CAS produce emergent order, such as inter-relations, interactions, edge of chaos, feedback, etc. This led to the identification of various factors facilitating emergence and the development of a framework for utilizing these factors that were organized into two dimensions. First the factors are classified as either tangible or intangible. Second, the factors are classified as either dynamic, i.e., realize emergent properties, or they are concerned with the enabling infrastructure, i.e., enable the dynamic factors to become effective, or they are controlling factors, i.e., they attempt to balance excessive change with stability to prevent descent into chaos. The framework was applied to an Information Systems Development (ISD) project which showed that it is applicable to any type of business sector. This framework is argued to be a step forward to realize organizational emergence based on complexity principles derived from literature. The split between factors facilitating emergence and generic principles of CAS is not clear in the complexity literature and it is argued to be an important contribution of the paper.

Introduction

In turbulent business environments organizations need to react quickly and creatively to make the most of new opportunities and business models. These new imperatives of business practice require organizations to selforganise and become more flexible to handle change (Goldman et al, 1995). Of key importance to organizations in responding successfully to change is the concept of emergence. Complexity science, it has been argued, is a way of addressing and improving such capabilities in organizations, as it is concerned with the role of chance, emergence and contingency in the face of frequent and continuous change (Montuori, 2003). McKelvey (1997), Stacey et al (2000) and Mitleton- Kelly (2003) illustrate the growing interest in understanding organizations and new management practices in terms of theories of complexity that seek to provide new ways of thinking and reasoning in relation to emergent behavior.

In this paper factors facilitating organizational emergence have been identified by interpreting complex adaptive systems (CAS) and social autopoiesis theories with the aim of identifying mechanisms or strategies that raise the emergent properties of social business enterprises. Social autopoiesis was chosen as it focuses on social elements of emergence, such as communication, collaboration, morale, trust, etc., whereas CAS theory concentrates more on adaptive mechanisms that make a CAS produce emergent order, such as inter-relations, interconnectivity, edge of chaos, feedback, etc. A thorough literature review of managementrelated contributions in the field of complexity and social autopoiesis theories was undertaken to extract mechanisms or strategies that are argued will facilitate the emergence of new work arrangements in the face of frequent change. Based on this a framework has been derived that summarizes the so-called factors that facilitate organizational emergence. The framework classifies factors as tangible and intangible, and it differentiates between dynamics, enabling infrastructure and controls, amongst emergence factors. Preliminary validation of the framework was carried out through its empirical application in the context of an information systems development (ISD) project, a business to business e-commerce portal. …

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