Traditionally, management has viewed the organization as a very mechanistic, linear system characterized by a simple and predictable cause and effect. However, complexity theory brings to management an organic, nonlinear, and holistic way of viewing organizational systems. Within the business context in general and the electronic commerce model in specific, the selfproducing and self-organizing nature of the organization combined with the interaction between the autonomous agents of the system, produces emerging patterns and an intrinsic order that flies in the face of the traditional problem-solving techniques. The application of the autopoietic and complexity theories to the virtual systems that exist within the electronic commerce model can assist business management in understanding the nature of the unpredictable, dynamic forces continuously driving forward the dynamics of these New Economy systems. The focus of this research will center on:
· identifying the interactive nature of complexity theory within the electronic commerce model;
· understanding the virtual society of the electronic commerce model as being functionally differentiated into autonomous autopoietic subsystems, or “meaning worlds” (Teubner & Willke, 1997), which can influence each other only indirectly;
· accepting that functional differentiation, complexity theory, and autopoiesis mean it is no longer possible to direct and control these virtual social systems to move along the traditionally predetermined paths through interventions from external systems, such as external entities, business alliances, internal customers, or external customers;
· appreciating the creative dynamism unleashed through complexity theory and the autopoietic processes in which the new hyper-extended communication acts to produce new artificial structures within the electronic commerce model that have dynamics of their own and can self-reproduce and self-regulate through autopoiesis;
· being aware that these social autopoietics do not give primacy either to the individual or the collective within the virtual social system, but to the emergent new hyper-extended communication system which results from discourses involving the dynamic systemic structures and real people.
Hypothesized outcomes of this research also include a better understanding of the emergent behavior of the systems within the electronic commerce model. The application of the autopoietic and complexity theories to these virtual systems can be positively related to organizational success that comes from the networked combinations of freely acting agents. Competitive advantages can be maximized and organizational missions can be achieved though an understanding and application of complexity and autopoietic theories.
Nelson, Anne and Nelson, William H. M. III, "Recognizing the Importance of an Understanding of Autopoietic and Complexity Theories Within the Electronic Commerce Model for Competitive Advantage" (2001). ICEB 2001 Proceedings (Hong Kong, SAR China). 47.