Integration of Complex Social Systems
A 3-year EPSRC-funded collaborative research project working with BT, Norwich Union Life and Rolls-Royce Marine, which started in September 2001.
· AIM: To co-create, with our business partners an enabling environment to facilitate integration and the emergence of a new organisational form.
By identifying the social, cultural, technical (as well as political and economic) conditions that facilitate the emergence of new ways of organising and new organisational forms. The ICoSS Project is using the principles of complexity as the underpinning theoretical framework.
Funded under the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Science Research Council) Systems Integration Initiative programme, the ICOSS research project is studying:
· the integration of national, business, cultural, and technical systems in the emergent organisational forms;
· the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in facilitating connectivity and the exchange of 'knowledge';
· the tension between globalisation and local cultures and requirements.
The project has been awarded the highest EPSRC grant the LSE has received and the examining Panel rated it first in its list of project priorities.
1. To identify and articulate the conditions that enable and inhibit the creation and sustainability of new organisational forms, able to co-evolve with a changing environment, thus reducing the need for constant restructuring.
2. To co-create with our Business partners, company-specific frameworks of enabling infrastructures (cultural, social and technical conditions that facilitate 'x').
3. To encapsulate the results in generic frameworks, analytic tools, diagrams and supporting computer-based models.
4. To explore processes for the sharing of knowledge within the Business partners.
5. To continue developing a theory of complex social systems, while testing it in practice.
6. To build a comprehensive methodology based on the logic and the principles of complexity, using both qualitative and quantitative methods and tools.
7. To contribute to a business language that allows line managers to use complexity concepts in practical contexts.
· The project will use a combined approach based on collaborative action research involving 'natural experiments'.
· Natural experiments are new ways of working and relating being explored by the organisation itself. They are different from the dominant culture and 'emergent' in the sense that they are not pre-designed or imposed top-down, but are exploratory and bottom-up.
· The methodology uses both conventional practice studies such as case studies, interviews and opinion surveys for evaluation, as well as exploring and developing new methods and tools, such as agent-based models, art and visual facilitation, conceptual architectures, and email exchange mapping (NetMap). It is also exploring how qualitative and quantitative methods complement each other. It is using the logic of complexity to underpin the entire methodology as well as the principles of complexity as an analytic tool.
· By taking part in the collaborative action research process, business partners should expect benefits to accrue in a continuous stream throughout the life of the project, not just at the end.
· The project will provide practitioners with a new conceptual framework, while testing and refining the theory in practice.
· A multi-disciplinary group of International Expert Advisors from academia and business are contributing different perspectives, knowledge and expertise
Project Director and Principal Investigator: Eve Mitleton-Kelly
Founder and Director of the Complexity Research Programme, LSE; Coordinator of Link with Industry & Government, in the Europena Network of Excellence called "Exystence"
Executive Co-ordinator and Director of SOL-UK (London).
Co-investigators: Prof. Ian Angell
Professor of Information Systems, LSE, and
Prof. Frank Land
Visiting Professor of Information Management, LSE and
Leeds Metropolitan University
Dr. Janis Kallinikos
Department of Information Systems, LSE;
Expert in organization theory, cognition and technology
Research Officer: Urooj Amjad
Sevasti-Melissa Nolas has been working with the Complexity Group, on the ICoSS project, since October 2002. Melissa's background is in linguistics and social psychology. She does qualitative research in the areas of action research, new organizational forms and community development. She is interested in the use of multimedia technology for dissemination and group work. Melissa is doing her doctoral research in the Department of Social Psychology, LSE.
Administrative Co-ordinator: Slavica Savic
Has been working in the Complexity Group since 1998, running its seminars and workshops and coordinating the administration and logistics of the project
Business Liaison Co-ordinator & Conceptual Architect: Kate Hopkinson
Director of Inner Skills, will help partners identify their conceptual architectures and develop their enabling infrastructures. Kate will also provide a strong link between the business and academic partners
Modelling Expert: Dr. Ugur Bilge
Developed the Organisational Forms Simulator, an agent based network
simulation and visualisation tool for exploring informal social
networks, and investigating patterns of connectivity within business
NetMap Expert: Prof. John Galloway
Australia, maping Internet connectivity
Artist: Julian Burton
provides visual facilitation through art
Associate Researcher: Nazreen A. Subhan
The Research Team is part of the Complexity Group, within the LSE's Social Psychology Department. The Group has attracted research funding from: BT, Citigroup (New York), GlaxoWellcome UK, the Humberside TEC, Shell (International and Shell Internet Works), World Bank (Washington DC), Astra Zeneca, and the EPSRC on four research projects.
International Team of Advisors
John L. Casti: Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico and IIASA in Vienna. Executive Editor of the Journal “Complexity”. He will advise on modelling and simulation.
Chris Clegg: Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield, will advise on organisational psychology and human factors.
Raul Espejo: Prof. of Information Systems, Lincoln School of Management. Has been awarded an EPSRC grant for a network on ‘Systems and the Information Society’. The network and ICOSS address complementary issues and will benefit from a strong link.
Rachel Harrison: Prof. of Computer Science, University of Reading. Will advise on e-collaboration.
Bill McKelvey: Prof. of Strategic Organizing at the Anderson School at UCLA, USA. He will advise on socio-technical systems design and on the application of complexity theory and emergent structure, and computational agent-based adaptive-learning models.
Luciano Pietronero: Prof. of Solid State Physics, Department of Physics, University of Rome “La Sapienza” and Director of the INFM Unit, which consists of 200 theoretical and experimental scientists in the area of Condensed Matter. He is a member of the European Network TMR on Fractal Structures and Self-Organisation. He will advise on developments in complex systems in physics and the other natural sciences.
Alan Wilson: Geographer and Vice-Chancellor, Leeds University. There are many industrial situations in which mathematical modelling is a critical component of optimal developments. Prof. Wilson has articulated this task in his recent book (‘Complex spatial systems: the modelling foundations of urban and regional analysis’ 2000) and will contribute by helping to connect this toolkit to complexity theory.
Marcus Speh Birkenkrahe: a physicist and the Knowledge Manager for Shell International, Marcus has been involved with the project for over a year and participated in the ICoSS pilot study in Shell Treasury Operations. He will bring a deep understanding of complexity and its application in business.
Arie de Geus: ex-Shell and author of the ‘Living Company’. Formerly Head of Planning at Royal Dutch/Shell and a founder of the Society for Organisational Learning (SOL), is well known for his ability to put over novel concepts to top business and government leaders and will contribute in this capacity.
Gerard Fairtlough: founder and ex-CEO of Celltech, and author of ‘Creative Compartments’. Has been working with the LSE Complexity Group to develop the ‘Complexity Game’, which provides experiential learning of some complexity principles. He has long experience of business and of putting research findings to practical use and will contribute by advising on the development of business games, on the application of complexity and on the methodology.
Peter Fryer: was Chief Executive of Humberside Training and Enterprise Council (TEC). Peter has based the management, leadership and organisational principles of the TEC on the application of complexity. He will lead the project’s initiative on disseminating the findings to the Small Business Service, and to the media, particularly TV. The TEC has been a member of the LSE Complexity Programme since its inception and a case study is being written on the development of the TEC as a ‘complex evolving system’.
Frances Storr: organisational psychologist with the TEC. She has been a key player in the profound culture change that has been happening at Humberside TEC and in translating complexity theory into practical approaches.
Peter Fryer and Frances Storr will both work with the collaborators to apply the lessons learned at the TEC on the application of the principles of complexity.
Has a preparation stage and 3 phases.
Is using the principles of complexity to offer a new perspective on the creation and sustainability of new organisational forms, able to co-evolve with a changing environment, thus reducing the need for constant restructuring.
Is a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, approaches and tools,
Some have been developed and tested in Complexity Group projects, others are being adapted from existing methods and others are being designed and developed for the project using the 'logic' of complexity.
Phase 1 output: Identification, together our Business Partners, of the conditions that will facilitate an enabling environment.
Phase 2: Experimenting with enabling framework.
· All partners will be supported by the Research team, Advisors and the other Business Partners.
· Monthly telephone conferences and regular meetings will monitor progress and identify any problems.
· A second set of interviews will focus on the implications and consequences of experimentation/ implementation.
Phase 3 (in parallel with Phase 2) will document the outputs and focus on dissemination and exploitation.
The teams will be supported throughout the 3-year project by:
° in-company and inter-organisational meetings
° Guidance & Advisory Group (GAG)
° Dissemination & Exploitation Group
° International team of Advisors
1. Generic frameworks of social, cultural, technical (as well as political and economic) conditions, which enable the emergence of new organisational forms or new ways of organising.
2. Company-specific frameworks of enabling infrastructures based on the pilots.
3. A methodology for identifying and analysing these conditions, to include:
a) characteristics of success, and process and outcome measures
b) criteria of ‘fitness’ for the pilot
4. A well documented process of experimentation/implementation.
5. A communications plan for dissemination to the rest of the organisation.
6. Management handbook, to include 1-5 above and a lexicon of terms.
7. Diagnostic tools that enable any organisation to identify:
a) the appropriateness and relevance of the ICOSS methodology to a given organisational challenge
b) the ‘maturity’ or readiness of the different parts of the organisation and its extended enterprise
c) where, when and how best to introduce the methodology – criteria for choosing pilots
8. An Executive Summary of the above
9. Educational tools including computer simulation models to experiment in a safe (i.e.simulated) environment.
10. A web-enabled knowledge-base, which could be imported into company intranets, introducing complexity thinking, summarising the research findings, and offering recommendations, implications, diagnostic tests.
11. Educational and promotional material for dissemination to the wider community
12. A language, concepts and a way of thinking more in tune with the new economy.
· Interviewees: 1.5 hours
· Core team: 5-10 days to attend workshops, presentations, etc. This will depend on individual commitment and time.
· To gain some understanding of complexity and its application, partners are invited to attend the Complexity Seminars