An Action-Oriented Perspective on Organization and Information Systems
Chapter 3: Complexity and the New Epistemological Foundations of Organization
3. Complexity and the new epistemological foundations of organization We need an organization theory because some phenomena are more conveniently described in terms of organizations and parts of organizations than in terms of the individual human beings who inhabit those parts (…) Employing a more aggregate level of discourse is not a declaration of philosophical anti-reductionism, but simply a recognition that most natural systems do have hierarchical structure, and that it is often possible to say a great deal about aggregate components without specifying the details of activity within these components. (Herbert Simon, 1997:230) INTRODUCTION In the last few decades, events have proven there has been a systematic mismatch between economic or organizational phenomena and the models, methods or systems designed to understand and handle such phenomena. Some examples. For the last 15 years or so the Word Bank has worked in Africa in accordance with a macroeconomic model and a set of policies aimed at diminishing poverty in that continent, through privatizations and the establishment of a free-market economy. However, evidence shows that instead of going down poverty is clearly on the increase. The systematic failures of computer-based information systems are another good example of the mismatch: at the Olympic Games in Atlanta, IBM and other major hardware and software vendors boasted of having conceived and designed a set of information systems to support the games heralded as the best ever. However, when the games began it soon became clear that although the technological artefacts might be ﬁrst-class, the...
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