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Four types of emergence: a typology of complexity and its implications for a science of management


  • Benyamin B. Lichtenstein
  • Bill McKelvey


Complexity science has the potential to explain emergence; unfortunately most management applications of complexity rarely define emergence. We develop a typology that defines four increasingly demanding definitions of emergence, and use this typology to organise a review of the complexity literature, focusing on computational models that have been utilised by management scholars. We generate propositions addressing the value of emergence and complexity for integrating theory and practise in the field. Self-organisation and emergence offer methods for integrating a variety of management frameworks, allowing researchers to draw together some of the disparate threads of management theory and practise. An expansion of 'emergence' processes in organisations fosters adaptive bottom-up innovation and change.

Suggested Citation

  • Benyamin B. Lichtenstein & Bill McKelvey, 2011. "Four types of emergence: a typology of complexity and its implications for a science of management," International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 1(4), pages 339-378.
  • Handle: RePEc:ids:ijclma:v:1:y:2011:i:4:p:339-378

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    Cited by:

    1. Podobnik, Boris & Christopher Crawford, G. & Lichtenstein, Benyamin & Lipic, Tomislav & Wild, Dorian & Zhang, Xin & Stanley, H. Eugene, 2020. "The new wealth of nations: How STEM fields generate the prosperity and inequality of individuals, companies, and countries," Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, Elsevier, vol. 141(C).
    2. Selden, Paul D. & Fletcher, Denise E., 2015. "The entrepreneurial journey as an emergent hierarchical system of artifact-creating processes," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 30(4), pages 603-615.


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