Center for Business Innovation
complexity science have much to give.
What they say about science of complexity
and coupling to organization strategy, and the day-to-day activation.
The scientists but fully readable
and very enjoyed newspaper Complexity by the producer John Wiley &
Executive Editor is John L Casti
Santa Fe Institute.
Volume 3, Number 4, Pages 36-40 March 1998
Copyright © 1998 © John
Wiley & Sons, Inc.
SPECIAL ISSUE: COMPLEXITY AND
Christopher Meyer is Director of the Ernst &
Young Center for Business Innovation, an applied research organization
focused on the horizon of management thinking. As Director, Chris holds
overall responsibility for ensuring that the Center’s research produces
insights and innovative solution approaches for Ernst & Young consulting
practitioners and clients. His own research interest is in the business
applications of the new sciences of chaos and complexity, and particularly
the management of the organization as a complex adaptive system. Chris
and his colleagues designed this conference to promote a shared conversation
among the managers, academics, and business commentators who are bringing
the topic to the fore.
Chris Meyer believes that recent discoveries about the
nature of complexity and the phenomenon of self-organization will have
a profound effect on how companies formulate strategy, inter-relate with
other players in their industry, and organize themselves to compete—possibly
the most profound shift they have undergone since the industrial revolution.
In this introductory session, he suggests that business people will ultimately
apply these lessons in operations, strategy, and management of the organization.
Speakers at the conference are diverse group, with some offering ideas
and predictions, others espousing theories, and still others explaining
specific tools that are already proving useful. Today, it seems, we have
many ideas about how management of the organization might change with a
new perspective on it as a complex adaptive system. We have some excellent
theories about how strategy might be better informed by a new view of the
economy. But so far, we have actual tools in place only in the realm of
operations. Signs are good, however, that we are pushing the envelope of
theory and practice, and will see the emergence of practical tools for
strategy and organization management. This conference is a launching point
for ongoing research and development by the Ernst & Young Center for
Business Innovation, which hopes to be a major contributor to that progress.
Stuart Kauffman´s own project,
financed with E&Y CBI.
Stuart Kauffman is the leading thinker on self-organization
and the science of complexity as applied to biology. He was formerly Professor
of Bio-chemistry and Biophysics at the School of Medicine, University of
Pennsylvania, and External Professor at the Santa Fe Institute. Professor
Kauffman was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship in
Understanding how complex adaptive systems relate to business
begins with understanding something about complexity science. And understanding
complexity science means appreciating why it is a revolutionary break from
earlier thought. Author and educator Stuart Kauffman takes on the task
of giving us that background in a single session. Thirty years of research
have convinced him that the dominant view of biology—the theory of natural
selection—is incomplete. It’s another source, he believes, that is the
root of the order we see in our world: self-organization. Through its workings,
order arises naturally and spontaneously (in fact, “for free”)—not simply
through a process of selection among random mutations. The phenomenon of
self-organization accounts for much in our world that cannot be explained
purely by natural selection. The greatest contribution of complexity science
is that it corrects for a tendency in science to be reductionist. To make
problems soluble, scientists have worked ceaselessly to break complex systems
into simple parts, and those in turn to simpler parts. The problem with
the reductionist program is that, in the end, it leaves us without a theory
of the whole. “The deep difficulty,” Kauffman writes, “lies in the fact
that the complex whole may exhibit properties that are not readily explained
by understanding the parts.” Such collective features, known to complexity
scientists as “emergent properties”, are the all-important forest so often
masked by trees.