Innovation in Complex Adaptive Systems
Licentiate thesis, 2014
Our society is increasingly beset by a range of interrelated crises - with the financial crisis, the energy crisis, and the global warming crisis as leading examples - forming a "meta-crisis" with its roots in processes deeply entrenched in society (Lane et al., 2011), and emanating from large-scale complex adaptive systems so strongly interlinked that they are hard to even define and delimit. This has made our lack of understanding of such systems simultaneously more obvious and threatening, an issue further amplified by empirical developments brought about by new information and communication technology. In response to this, a substrate of semi-congruent critiques and new ideas - the former generally more articulated than the latter - are emerging in a number of major disciplines facing similar challenges, but still without the theoretical foundation needed to align and direct this substrate across disciplinary boundaries. The first part of the thesis attempts to develop such an abstraction by departing from the nature of the large-scale complex systems, concluding that the theoretical crises are founded in common difficulties in approaching the complexity of the systems under study, and attempts to provide an understanding of the challenges related to these kind of complex systems: it may be uncontroversial to suggest that the systems are complex, but it remains unclear exactly what this entails. Based on this understanding, the second part aims to show how a synthesis approach to this type of systems could look by bringing together a number of different research strands facing challenges emanating from such systems, with the goal of forming an integrated, empirically grounded and complexity-informed perspective on change in large-scale complex systems.
Niche Construction Theory