Small enterprises as complex adaptive systems: a methodological question?

Fuller, Ted and Moran, Paul (2001) Small enterprises as complex adaptive systems: a methodological question? Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 13 (1). pp. 47-63. ISSN 0898-5626

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Complexity science constitutes an emerging post-positivist interdisciplinary field of investigation of dynamical systems in the natural and physical worlds. The central concept of complexity is that interactions between parts of open systems create novel, unpredictable patterns, and that while the history of the system is relevant in understanding its dynamic, the isolation of individual parts of the system (analysis) does not reveal the casual mechanisms in the system. It is suggested that complexity science can inform our methodologies for investigating the social sciences. The paper explores whether complexity science offers ways of theory building that can take account of pluralistic or interdisciplinary research in enterprise dynamics. The authors offer a model of six theorized ontological layers, derived from the canon of research literature within a small enterprise domain, with boundaries at each end. It is suggested that dynamical concepts of agency (adaption, evolution, fitness, interdependence) coupled with the theory of evolutionary autopoietic structures generate a plausible field for the study of enterprise dynamics. A focus on ontological and experimental adequacy is necessary to develop theory within this framework. An appropriate methodology involves iterations between experimental forms of scientific analysis and the grounding of emergent or evolving theories.

Keywords:Complexity, Complex adaptive systems methodology, Enterprise dynamics, Small business, Entrepreneurship, SMEs
Subjects:N Business and Administrative studies > N215 Organisational Development
G Mathematical and Computer Sciences > G530 Systems Analysis and Design
Divisions:Lincoln International Business School
ID Code:12903
Deposited On:08 Jan 2014 10:06

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