Edited by Matthias Ruth and Brynhildur Davidsdottir
Chapter 8: Learning and Evolution in Industrial Ecosystems: An Introduction
Peter M. Allen The problem of learning, innovation and the evolution of industrial ecosystems goes beyond the ‘dynamic’. Instead of thinking about a particular dynamical system – with corresponding equations capturing the flows of materials and value between different nodes – the issue of learning and of evolution considers the structural evolution of any such system from one ‘dynamical system’ (set of equations) to another. It asks not only how the stocks and flows of a traditional system dynamics change over time, but how new flows, new variables and emergent properties may appear over time. As Schumpeter correctly stated in 1938: ‘the problem that is usually being visualized is how capitalism administers existing structures, whereas the relevant problem is how it creates them and destroys them.’ This correctly captures the idea that what really matters over time is the flow of creative, innovative initiatives and responses into and out of the system. In other words it is the dialogue of the apparent variables which typify system structure at any particular time with the non-average deviations and novelties around these. When deviance is suppressed by the system, the structure is stable; when deviance is amplified, instability, structural change and transformation occur. In considering the longer-term evolution of an industrial ecosystem, therefore, instead of just calibrating what is present at a given time, we must also attempt to explore what could possibly happen, and the possible frameworks within which such explorations could be considered. In a series of papers (Allen and McGlade 1987; Allen...
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