Organizational adaptability and robustness in dynamic environments

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Thought this would be a good place to add any thoughts/ ideas between meetings and also to perhaps place any interesting points from the literature that you have found so everyone is up to speed but doesn't neccesarily have to read everything! Richard.

People Involved

Cathy Spence
Steve Hall
Richard Streeter
Jiang Wu
Bradley Jones
Shawn Barr

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Ideas/ Brainstorming

A lot depends on getting hold of the model from Josh.

  1. Add a cost for changing hierachical structures
  2. Investigate which 'genome' is a) most agile and b) most robust. Are a and b the same?
  3. Look at case studies - model exploration using civilization examples
  4. Model improvement - Incorporate more sophisticated dynamic environments - possibly some sort of feedback mechanism (based on models of resource use and growth?) and/or more 'realistic' fixed environments
  5. Can we incorporate 'network' structure?

Learn: How process to generate structure and environment affects viability and performance. What is the tradeoff between surviving in the long term and making as much money as possible in the near term.


Adaptability - see wikipedia

Robustness - also wikipedia

This is the definition which i think is useful (cut and paste from wikipedia):

Ecological resilence: When a system can reorganize, that is shift from one stability domain to another, a more relevant measure of ecosystem dynamics is ecological resilience. It is a measure of the amount of change or disruption that is required to transform a system from being maintained by one set of mutually reinforcing processes and structures to a different set of processes and structures. The second definition emphasizes conditions far from any steady-states, where instabilities can flip a system into another regime of behavior - i.e. to another stability domain. In this case resilience is measured by the magnitude of disturbance that can be absorbed before the system changes its structure by changing the variables and processes that control behavior. This type of resilience has been defined as ecological resilience.

There is also the 'engineering' definition of resilience: concentrates on stability near an equilibrium steady-state, where resistance to disturbance and speed of return to the equilibrium are used to measure the property.

Certainly when considering past societies the first definition is more interesting and useful, but perhaps harder to model? Perhaps we could consider which organizational 'genome' has the largest 'stability domain' as an approach to understanding robustness?

Adaptive Capacity could be a key concept to consider here.

This article has a good definition I think [ Resilience Adaptability and Transformability in Social– ecological Systems]

Organizational Agility - power to the edge wikipedia

Agile enterprise--from the viewpoint of complex adaptive system -see Agile enterprise -Jiang

For the purposes of computer modeling, (given the many differing definitions of agility and robustness) it may be helpful to restrict the definitions as follows:

    Agility: involves the ability of the system to exploit profitably opportunities
in a volatile marketplace, and is dependent on the variables presented by that
marketplace.  This would relate to the attackers/opportunity flux in Josh's model.
    Robustness:  involves the ability of the system to survive variations in
structural/internal parameters without disrupting its behavior.  This would relate
to loss of nodes in the company, cost of loss and cost/delay in replacing the
nodes.  This does have an effect on the agility as a secondary consideration. (Brad)

Resources/ Literature

This is Josh's presentation on Growing Adaptive Organizations

This book is about agile organzation, how to manage information network in the organzation from the viewpoint of complex adaptive system.(THE AGILE ORGANIZATION) -Jiang

Dynamic Organizations: Achieving Marketplace And Organizational Agility With People

Information exchange and the robustness of organizational networks


The Science of Self Organization and Adaptability

Limits of prediction in modeling social systems


Recommended by Josh:

Societal robustness and dynamic environments - the long term view

O'Suliven (2008) - 'The Collapse of Civilizations: what palaeoenvironmental reconstruction cannot tell us, but antrhopology can'

This article I think is excellent and suggests a number of interesting points. Especially consider that he suggests that minimizing hierarchy can maximize long-term sustainability.

Scheffer and Westley (2007) The Evolutionary Basis of Rigidity

Good points to note from this article are the concept of the 'efficiency trap' which may limit adaptive capacity

Diamond (2005) Collapse - A useful synthesis but pretty simplistic. Interesting comparison between so called top-down success and bottom up success.

Panarchy is a concept that is becoming widely used in my area - I have the 'Panarchy' book and it has a chapter entitled The Devil in the Dynamics: Adaptive Management on the front lines - I will report back when I have read it.

Walker et al (2004) [ Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability in Social ecological Systems]

Janssen et al (2003) Sunk Cost effects and Vulnerability to collapse in Ancient Societies - we could perhaps apply some of the ideas/ formulas here for resources/population equilibria and how this varies when there is investment in structures (organizational structure?). There is also a resource use function we could utlise to incorporate feedback for the environment.

see also [ Overexploitation of Renewable Resources by Ancient Societies and the Role of Sunk-Cost Effects]

I will try and dig out some case studies from human settlement in the North Atlantic and also in the pacific where a lot of work has been done. I also will try and find some information on the surplus cost of maintaining a complex hierarchical structure in past societies - there are some leads in the O'Suliven article to follow.