MGMT 8007M:Week 7: Complexity Theory for Organizations Essay Assignment Paper

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MGMT 8007M:Week 7: Complexity Theory for Organizations Essay Assignment Paper

MGMT 8007M: Complexity and Applied Systems Thinking | Week 7

Complexity science moves us away from bureaucratic notions of control and predictability to a view of leadership in complex, adaptive, nonlinear feedback networks. It makes you think about leadership not as top-down influence of individuals in managerial roles but, rather, an emergent interactive process embedded in context and history.

—Uhl-Bien and Marion (2008, p. viii)

Complexity theory examines systems from perspectives other than simple input, process, output, and feedback systems. Complex systems are those containing networks of a diverse number and type of agents (nodes) and connections (relationships), and properties of nonlinearity, self-organization or emergence, and adaptation or learning among others.

This week, you explore complexity theory by analyzing some of its characteristics, structures, and dynamics and how each of these influences the others.

Learning Objectives

This week, you will:

  • Evaluate applicability of complexity theory to leadership and management


You will develop the following skills:

  • Advanced systems thinking

Learning Resources

Recommended Readings

Uhl-Bien, M., & Marion, R. (Eds.). (2008). Complexity leadership, part 1: Conceptual foundations. Charlotte, NC: Information Age.

  • Chapter 1, “Complexity Theory for Organizations and Organizational Leadership” (pp. 1–16)

There is no consensus on a definition of complex systems or complex adaptive systems. Both terms are frequently used interchangeably within the literature. Rather, it is much easier to look at the characteristics of complex systems, such as self-organization, information processing, adaptation, resilience, emergence, and cooperation versus competition. Examples of complex adaptive systems include cities, organizations, communities, countries, the economy, ecosystems, technology, the immune system, and ant colonies, among others, as these systems exhibit the characteristics noted in the previous sentence. Principles learned from the study of one type of complex system are typically applicable to other complex systems.

A good start on a definition of complex adaptive systems is from Fichter, Pyle, and Whitmeyer (2010b) in their article on teaching chaos as “a complex system is ‘a group of agents’ existing far from equilibrium, interacting through positive and negative feedbacks, forming interdependent, dynamic, evolutionary networks, that are sensitive dependent, fractionally organized, and exhibit avalanche behavior (abrupt changes) that follow power-law distributions” (p. 65). This definition includes concepts of network science, systems structures, evolution, and tipping points.

Adding complexity elements to an organizational model is another approach to extending the model developed to this point and should provide some additional understanding of the organization.

To prepare for this Discussion, review the resources provided and those you can find on complexity and present something of a brief workshop on complexity in the Discussion.

By Day 3

Initial Post

Post document that contains the materials for a brief workshop on “complexity” that might be given by a consultant to your selected organization.

  • Include an explanation of complexity theory that is applicable to the leadership and management of organizations.
  • Provide a specific example, either from your own experience or from your readings, to support your explanation.
  • Explain the theory and evaluate how you might use it to inform your understanding of your selected organization.
  • Be sure to review the Objectives listed for this week and refer to the Discussion Rubric as guidance for the criteria that will be used to assess your participation in this Discussion.

By Day 5

Responses to your Colleagues

Respond to at least two colleagues’ posts by adding to your colleagues’ ideas or positing a different perspective to your colleagues’ ideas.

Note: Include proper APA citations to support all statements by referencing sources from relevant peer-reviewed articles published within the last 5 years.

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