Editorial: Rationality vs. irrationality (vii-ix)
Paradox in organizations seen as social complex systems (1-27)
Paradox may be the ground zero for disciplined speculation that forces individuals, organizations and societies to challenge normality and existing mental frames. Paradox can be a threat, and paradox can be a source for new insight. This paper examines how a paradox can emerge and develop in organizations. I will argue that the organization can be seen as a complex social system, and that the paradox rises as the system faces increased complexity in its environment, while equipped with an information processing architecture that reduces the complexity in an inadequate way. Following a review of classes of paradoxes: rhetorical, logical and social, the paper describes an organization as a complex social system with cognitive operations. The cognitive operations include drawing of distinctions, forming of categories, individuation of the system and the boundaries to the environment, and adaptability as a second order reorganization. The paper then discusses the dynamics and micro-foundation of how a paradox is formed based on this model. Three categories of social paradoxes: paradox of belonging, paradox of learning, and paradox of organizing, are analyzed and described as dynamic behavior in a system. The paper intends to inform a trans-disciplinary approach to describe phenomenon in organizations seen as complex social systems, and to contribute with conceptual understanding to be applied in empirical studies of paradoxical situations in organizations.
Viewing WIL in business schools through a new lens: Moving to the edge of chaos with complexity theory (28-54)
Laura Rook & Lisa McManus
Employers require well rounded work-ready graduates with the skills to adapt to a contemporary workplace. Australian universities are responding to these needs through the implementation of Work-integrated Learning (WIL) programs aimed at providing students with the necessary skills, knowledge and attributes employers seek. This paper describes a study of Work-integrated Learning programs in the Human Resource Management (HRM) discipline at a number of Australian business schools. Exploratory interviews were undertaken with a range of stakeholders and examined within a complexity theory lens. The findings suggest that WIL is viewed as a threat to the role of higher education rather than an opportunity. There is increased interdependence and vulnerability within universities and as universities struggle for resources to respond to uncertainties in their ecosystem, they are being forced into making short term changes rather than co-evolving with their environment. By looking at the connectedness and evolutionary properties of the universities involved in the study, a number of recommendations are suggested to encourage universities to move to the edge of chaos, where a university’s full potential can be realized. Complexity theory provides a new way for viewing the intricacies of higher education course development and provides an argument for universities to create enabling conditions to co-evolve with the ever changing and complex world we live in.
Social systems: Complex adaptive loci of cognition (55-89)
Marta Lenartowicz, David (Weaver) Weinbaum & Petter Braathen
We argue the case that human social systems and social organizations in particular are concrete, non-metaphorical, cognitive agents operating in their own self-constructed environments. Our point of departure is Luhmann’s theory of social systems as self-organizing systems of communications. Integrating the Luhmannian theory with the enactive theory of cognition and Simondon’s theory of individuation, results in a novel view of social systems as complex, individuating sequences of communicative interactions that together constitute distributed yet distinct cognitive agencies. The relations of such agencies with their respective environments (involving other agencies of the same construction) is further clarified by discussing both the Hayek-Hebb and the perturbation-compensation perspectives on systems adaptiveness as each reveals different and complementary facets of the operation of social systems as loci of cognitive activity. The major theoretical points of the argument are followed and demonstrated by an analysis of NASA’s communications showing how a social organization undergoes a process of individuation from which it emerges as an autonomous cognitive agent with a distinct and adaptive identity. With this example we hope to invite a debate on how the presented approach could inform a transdisciplinary method of cognitive modeling applied to human social systems.
A cladistics and Linnaean exploration into the Darwinian selection of favorable varieties of the ideal / textbook manufacturing species (90-118)
Christen Rose-Anderssen, James Baldwin & Keith Ridgway
The paper explores the Darwinian idea of natural selection through the preservation of favorable variations and the rejection of injurious variations. This is shown through focus on the evolutionary processes of variation and selective retention. Variability is necessary is necessary for success in a rough and unpredictable environment. It is the micro-diversity that drives evolving, emerging organizational structures. The paper has tried to answer how manufacturers can make sense of variety and see opportunities for the future. Thus how can these processes be explained through the complexity of interactive entities. The methodology through which the evolutionary processes of variation and selective retention is explored is through cladistics and Linnaean classifications. The concept of evolutionary stable strategy is applied to these systems. This is demonstrated through the examples on the Varieties of Product Centered Genus. The paper then suggests a three level approach to variation, selection and retention, namely a genetic analogy where the phenotypic or interactor manifestation is taken, the concern about the fitness of the Variety within the external environment, and finally the implementation of a new manufacturing Variety through human action.
Complexity, conceptual models, and teacher decision-making research (119-136)
Marla Robertson & Leslie Patterson
Informed by complexity research and models for analyzing conditions in complex adaptive systems such as schools, I describe findings from a descriptive case study of influences on teacher decision-making about writing instruction in a high-stakes writing assessment grade. I highlight how the use of complexity as a theoretical framework for research provides a unique look at education systems, particularly looking at one teachers decisions across a school semester. I focus specifically on two conceptual models from the field of human systems dynamics (HSD), one used as a conceptual framework for complex adaptive systems, and the other used as a retrospective analysis tool in describing and explaining underlying conditions at work at a particular time for a particular decision.
Four domains of complexity (137-176)
In this short paper, which reflects on one of my contributions to the systems literature in 1992 (Pluralism and the Legitimation of Systems Science), I discuss the context at that time. Systems scientists were embroiled in a paradigm war, which threatened to fragment the systems research community. This is relevant, not only to understanding my 1992 contribution, but also because the same paradigms are evident in the complexity science community, and therefore it potentially faces the same risk of fragmentation. Having explained the context, I then go on to discuss my proposed solution to the paradigm war: that there are four domains of complexity, three of which reflect the competing paradigms. The problem comes when researchers say that inquiry into just one of these domains is valid. However, when we recognise all four as part of a new theory of complexity, we can view them as complementary. The four domains are natural world complexity, or “what is” (where the ideal of inquiry is truth); social world complexity, or the complexity of “what ought to be” in relation to actual or potential action (where the ideal of inquiry is rightness); subjective world complexity, or the complexity of what any individual (the self or another) is thinking, intending or feeling (where the ideal of inquiry is understanding subjectivity); and the complexity of interactions between elements of the other domains of complexity in the context of research and intervention practice. Following a discussion of the relevance of this theory for complexity scientists, I end the paper with a final critical reflection on my 1992 paper, pointing to some theoretical assumptions and terminology that I would, in retrospect, revise.
Adjacent opportunities: Enlightened economics (177-180)