Taking Advantage of Emergence: Productively Innovating in Complex Innovation Systems

ISBN : 9780198725299

Deborah Dougherty
176 Pages
135 x 216 mm
Pub date
Feb 2016
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Our most pressing societal problems such as enhancing health care, developing alternate energy, revitalizing cities, and advancing the economy are complex innovation systems. Leveraging the enormous potential of sciences and technologies into better resolutions for these complex challenges requires a transformation in the social technologies we use to tap this potential. The thesis of this book is that we can grapple with complex innovation systems only by taking advantage of emergence. This book creates a theoretical framework of three new social technologies for taking advantage of emergence in infrastructures of complex innovation systems. The central social technology is abduction, the logic of discovery, for figuring out solutions to complex problems. Abductive reasoning differs significantly from deductive confirmation and simple rationality. The book details three abductive learning routines that enable innovators to grab up noisy and fragmented information, synthesize it into hypothesized configurations that capture the inherent ambiguity, evaluate these configurations by exploring consequences and contingencies, and reframe to accumulate the learning. The second social technology divides the infrastructure into four distinct but entangled subsystems of interpersonal action: the project, knowledge system, strategic, and institutional subsystems. Each subsystem is a vast multi-organizational network that must address its distinct problem if the infrastructure overall is to productively innovate. The author shows how cycling through abductive learning routines overcomes problems in each subsystem that conventional approaches cannot deal with. The third social technology is a new way of organizing based on heterarchy, not hierarchy, with roles and relations defined through heedful interrelating.


1 It Takes an Infrastructure to Take Advantage of Emergence
2 1. Abductive Reasoning as the Foundation for Taking Advantage of Emergence
3 1. The Product Subsystem in the Infrastructure for Complex Innovation Systems: Navigating in the Labyrinth
4 1. The Knowledge Subsystem in the Infrastructure for Taking Advantage of Emergence: Designing the Strategic Path for Drug Discovery by Integrating Sciences and Technologies
5 1. The Strategic Management Subsystem in the Infrastructure for Taking Advantage of Emergence: Mustering the Staying Power to Persist and Learn
6 The Institutional Subsystem in the Infrastructure for Taking Advantage of Emergence: Creating the Collaborative Commons
7 1. Integrating Subsystems into an Infrastructure for Taking Advantage of Emergence

About the author: 

Deborah Dougherty earned her PhD from the Sloan School of Management, M.I.T., and taught at Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) and McGill University prior to joining Rutgers University. Her current research focuses on complex innovation challenges, science-based innovation, and organizing for innovation. She has published more than 60 journal articles, book chapters, and essays, with more in the pipeline. She was elected Chair of the Technology and Innovation Division of the Academy of Management, served as Senior Editor for Organization Science for 7 years, and served or is now serving on the editorial boards of six other major academic journals.

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