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Complexity theories and organizational change

Burnes B (2005) Complexity theories and organizational change. International Journal of Management Reviews, 7 (2), pp. 73-90.

Complexity theory or, more appropriately, theories, serves as an umbrella term for a number of theories, ideas and research programmes that are derived from scientific disciplines such as meteorology, biology, physics, chemistry and mathematics. Complexity theories are increasingly being seen by academics and practitioners as a way of understanding and changing organizations. The aim of this paper is to review the nature of complexity theories and their importance and implications for organizations and organizational change. It begins by showing how perspectives on organizational change have altered over the last 20 years. This is followed by an examination of complexity theories and their implications for organizational change. The paper concludes by arguing that, even in the natural sciences, the complexity approach is not fully developed or unchallenged, and that, as yet, organization theorists do not appear to have moved beyond the stage of using it as metaphor rather than as a mathematical way of analysing and managing organizations.

complexity theories; organizational change; chaos; self-organization; order-generating rules

International Journal of Management Reviews: Volume 7, Issue 2

Author(s)Burnes, Bernard
Publication date30/06/2005
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