domenica, febbraio 03, 2008

I nipotini di Simon: prove tecniche di dialogo.

Buone notizie per chi pensa che sia possibile (oltre che auspicabile) un incontro fra la scienza organizzativa e l’economia istituzionale ed evolutiva. Peccato non poter andare a Cipro…

James March,
uno dei padri della teoria organizzativa e della behavioural economics

* * *

The Fourth Organization Studies Summer Workshop:

Embracing Complexity:
Advancing Ecological Understanding in Organization Studies

57 June 2008, Pissouri, Cyprus


Kevin J. Dooley, Arizona State University, USA
Lloyd Sandelands
, University of Michigan, USA
Haridimos Tsoukas
, ALBA, Greece & University of Warwick, UK

Keynote Speakers:

Michael D. Cohen, University of Michigan, USA, co-author of Harnessing Complexity: Organizational Implications of a Scientific Frontier
Brian Goodwin
, Schumacher College, UK, co-author of Signs of Life: How Complexity Pervades Biology
Peter Harries-Jones
, York University, Canada, author of A Recursive Vision: Ecological Understanding and Gregory Bateson
Katherine Hayles, University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA), USA, author of How we Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics

Geoffrey Hodgson, University of Hertfordshire, UK, Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Institutional Economics, author of How Economics Forgot History
Frederick Turner, University of Texas at Dallas, USA, author of Culture of Hope: A New Birth of the Classical Spirit

About the Topic

"We are observing the birth of a science that is no longer limited to idealized and simplified situations but reflects the complexity of the real world, a science that views us and our creativity as part of a fundamental trend present at all levels of nature."
Ilya Prigogine, The End of Certainty: Time, Chaos, and the New Laws of Nature

"Once we begin to think in ecological terms, we shall soon learn that every niche or habitat is one of its own kind, and that its demands call for a careful eye to its particular, local, and timely circumstances. The Newtonian view encouraged hierarchy and rigidity, standardization and uniformity: an ecological perspective emphasizes, rather, differentiation and diversity, equity and adaptability."
Stephen Toulmin, Cosmopolis: The Hidden Agenda of Modernity

At the end of The Social Psychology of Organizing, Karl Weick urges practitioners to "complicate" themselves. A complex practitioner sees patterns, says Weick, a less complex one misses. It is, in effect, a variation of Ashby's law of requisite variety, which Weick often refers to in his book: only complexity can cope with complexity. But Weick directs this particular advice not only to practitioners: organization theorists, too, need to acknowledge the complexity of their object of study – organization(s) – and reflect it in their theoretical frameworks and research designs. Indeed, the entire The Social Psychology of Organizing may be seen in such terms: how social systems in general, and organizations in particular, might be rethought in terms of processes; how emergence is an irreducible part of organization; how it is more complex to think in terms of verbs than nouns; and how thinking is complexified when it embraces ambivalence and paradox. Weick invites us to see organization not merely as a system of authoritative allocation of resources, but also as a self-generating pattern – a system of immanently generated order. His notion of organizing makes this concept suitable for the analysis of socioeconomic phenomena at different levels: from small groups, right up to large-scale processes of socioeconomic change.

Similar themes are echoed in James March's work. Issues of ambiguity, retrospective sensemaking, confused and unstable preferences, negotiated goals, and limited rationality have been consistently highlighted in March's research. The vocabulary may be different from that of Weick but the outcome is similar: to obtain a more complex understanding of what organizations are and how they function. For March, rationality is not only bounded but, also, adaptive, contextual and retrospective. Organizations resemble more garbage cans than neat pyramids. Reason is not omniscient – it is developmental, experiential and embedded in social practices. Ambiguity is part of the human condition; individuals are both observers and participants in the decision making processes they are part of.

Karl Weick, ovvero l'«organizzare» in evoluzione

March and Weick have helped shift organization studies from the "Newtonian style" of abstract formalism, or what philosopher Stephen Toulmin calls "the decontextualized ideal", according to which the sciences at large, and organization studies in particular, should search for the universal, the general and the timeless. The Newtonian style is acontextual and ahistorical: contextual influences upon the phenomenon under study must be turned off so that its intrinsic properties may be reveled; time is reversible, and prediction is symmetrical with explanation. The Newtonian style seeks to dispense with the contingent experience of empirical diversity to identify, under controlled conditions, universal principles. The style of thinking that underlies March and Weick's work is different. It resonates with developments in strands of traditional cybernetics and systems thinking, secondorder cybernetics and, more recently, chaos and complexity science, autopoietic systems, and post-modern philosophy. According to Toulmin, post-War intellectual, social and technological developments made it increasingly possible to challenge the reductionism involved in the Newtonian ideal and articulate what he calls the "ecological style", a style of thinking that embraces complexity by reinstating the importance of the particular, the local, and the timely. The ecological style acknowledges connectivity, recursive patterns of communication, feedback, nonlinearity, emergence, tacitness, change.

From an ecological perspective, organizational phenomena are seen to consist not of dissociated collections of parts but of wholes emerging out of the interactivity of constituent parts, embedded in broader wholes, especially societal institutions, interorganizational fields, and technological paradigms. Organization is not only imposed from outside but is also immanently generated from within – self-organization is an irreducible feature of social systems. The patterns we observe are crucially shaped by initial conditions and path-dependent processes. Organizations cannot escape finitude, historicity and circularity: they reproduce the beliefs and institutional practices of the societies in which they are embedded. Interacting with their environments, organizations do not confront independent, meaning-free entities but engage in processes whereby organizations create opportunities for understanding themselves, and, in so doing, they shape their links with other organizations in their own image. Individual as well as organizational action is never purely instrumental – it is highly performative. Organizational members are not presented with objective problems but they actively construct the problems they face through the application of the symbols, categories, labels and assumptions contained in the tools they use and the practices they draw upon. Change is not an epiphenomenon, but deeply involved in the generation of stability. Novelty is not an exception but immanent in the carrying out of routine action. Improvisation is not an optional extra but permeates rule-governed behavior. Situatedness matters. Materiality cannot be discounted. Time and irreversibility are generative of new forms. Unintended consequences cannot be ignored. Chance and contingencies are critical.

Unlike the Newtonian style, therefore, the ecological style seeks to embrace complexity rather than reduce it; it is sensitive to process, context and time; it makes links between abstract analysis and lived experience; is aware of the realityconstituting (as opposed to merely representational) role of language; accepts chance, feedback loops, and human agency as fundamental features of social life; acknowledges the social and bodily embeddedness of cognition; seeks to make connections between hitherto opposed notions, such as structure vs. agency, mind vs. body, individuality vs. sociality, organization vs. environment, ideas vs. objects, abstraction vs. materiality, mind vs. body, thinking vs. practice, substance vs. process, knowable vs. unknowable, explicit vs. tacit, rationality vs. politics, substantive vs. symbolic, formal knowledge vs. experiential knowledge, system vs. lifeworld.

The commanding vision of the ecological style is, to use Gregory Bateson's language, to establish a new unity between mind and nature, or, in Toulmin's terms, a new cosmopolis. Such an aspiration naturally places a high premium on interdisciplinarity, theoretical cross-fertilization, and conceptual connectivity. The interconnectedness of the phenomena we study needs to be reflected in disciplinary interconnectedness. Only complexity can cope with complexity.

In the Fourth Organization Studies Summer Workshop we aim at exploring further the implications of the ecological style of thinking about organizations and how it might be incorporated in organizational research. Topics and issues may indicatively include the following:

Modeling organizations as: complex adaptive systems, far-from-equilibrium systems • Connectionist images/models of organizations • Organizations as living systems • Understanding: path-dependencies; emergence; recursiveness; and embeddedness in organizational phenomena • Secondorder cybernetics, autopoiesis and cyber-semiotic perspectives in organization studies • How order is generated and sustained in social systems • Conceptualizing organizational complexity • How organizations cope with complexity – Understanding organizational change and strategy making in complex terms • Rethinking: rationality; cognition; and power in organizations in complex terms • Herbert Simon, complexity and organization design – Austrian economics, complexity and firms • Chaos & complexity science and organization studies: More than metaphor? • Self-organization in social systems • Routine and novelty in organizations • Ecological communication and organizations • Time, history and complex organizational behavior – Complex theorizing of complex organizations • Capturing complexity through appropriate research designs • The ecological style and post-rationalist philosophy • Phenomenology, pragmatism, process philosophy and complex thinking in organization studies • Complexity and practical reason: Enhancing practitioners' complex thinking • Complexity, ecological understanding and narratives – Complexity, language and aesthetics • Organization studies as a science of qualities.

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