The science of complexity: An alternative perspective for strategic change processes



The two perspectives of strategy process most firmly established in the literature—strategic choice and ecology—assume the same about system dynamics: negative feedback processes driving successful systems (individual organizations or populations of organizations) toward predictable equilibrium states of adaptation to the environment. This paper proposes a third perspective, that of complex adaptive systems. The framework is provided by the modern science of complexity: the study of nonlinear and network feedback systems, incorporating theories of chaos, artificial life, self-organization and emergent order. Here system dynamics are characterized by positive and negative feedback as systems coevolve far from equilibrium, in a self-organizing manner, toward unpredictable long-term outcomes.