Emergence: Managing For The Evolutionary Potential

In this paper, we talk about the idea of emergence, a central topic within systems theory. How through the synergistic interaction of the individuals within the organization we get the emergence of global behavior and structure that is qualitatively different from that of the micro level. We look at positive and negative synergies that can give rise to novel desirable outcomes or unintended consequences. We discuss how in such circumstances we do not try to directly control and affect the macro-level to the system but instead use an oblique approach that looks at the nonlinear local interactions creating that behavior and try to alter the context within which those choices are made.

This is very much contra to our traditional approach. Our whole conception of organization and the profession of management is built around the idea of a hierarchy within organizations through which control is exercised in a downward fashion in order to coordinate the individual’s activities towards some desired outcome. This approach may work well within relatively simple environments, after all, this form of management has created the industrial economies we live in today, but unfortunately, it is not designed for more complex environments.

Emergence Is the process whereby new phenomena are created as we combine things together. Our global economy is a good example of emergence, through all of the systems of organization we can collectively produce things like airplanes and laptop computers that none of us could produce if we all acted independently, these things are emergent phenomena of the way the parts are arranged. And this is part of Adam Smith’s insight that even though all of the members of a society may be acting in their own self-interest we can still get globally beneficial outcomes.

  • Publish Date: 20-4-2017

  • Length: 10 pages

  • Type: Research Management

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