Complexity and Adaptivity in Supply Networks: Building Supply Network Theory Using a Complex Adaptive Systems Perspective*


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    We sincerely thank Professors Thomas Choi (Arizona State University), David Dilts (Vanderbilt University), and Kevin Dooley (Arizona State University) for their help, guidance, and support.

Corresponding author.


Supply networks are composed of large numbers of firms from multiple interrelated industries. Such networks are subject to shifting strategies and objectives within a dynamic environment. In recent years, when faced with a dynamic environment, several disciplines have adopted the Complex Adaptive System (CAS) perspective to gain insights into important issues within their domains of study. Research investigations in the field of supply networks have also begun examining the merits of complexity theory and the CAS perspective. In this article, we bring the applicability of complexity theory and CAS into sharper focus, highlighting its potential for integrating existing supply chain management (SCM) research into a structured body of knowledge while also providing a framework for generating, validating, and refining new theories relevant to real-world supply networks. We suggest several potential research questions to emphasize how a CAS perspective can help in enriching the SCM discipline. We propose that the SCM research community adopt such a dynamic and systems-level orientation that brings to the fore the adaptivity of firms and the complexity of their interrelations that are often inherent in supply networks.