On August 7, 1999, a motley collection of academics, business people, consultants, and writers assembled in Chicago to discuss the intersection of complexity research and management science. The Academy of Management, the professional organization of management professors, provided the venue for the all-day workshop. This text attempts to capture and expand on the vigorous discussion that took place. Our hope is that it will help managers develop perspectives on what recent research concerning complex adaptive systems can mean for them.
We choose the plural, perspectives, intentionally. Complexity research is not yet a fixed field with proven theorems and accepted truths. 1 Rather, it is a community of individuals with overlapping interests and a nagging feeling that some deeper patterns underlie those interests. As the reader will see, participants in the workshop have very different views concerning how, and in some cases whether, complexity thinking should be applied to management practice. This book will not provide definitive answers. But it will raise many questions, asking which may be more valuable than reading any how-to book.
In editing this book, we have tried to maintain the structure, content, and tone of the conversation that took place in Chicago. The workshop consisted of four panels, reflected in the first four parts of this book.