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Leading large: emergent learning and adaptation in complex social networks

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  • James K. Hazy

Abstract

The mechanism by which adaptation in large organisations emerges from localised bottom-up processes remains largely unexplored. This paper describes the emergence of a learning algorithm in organisations which crosses levels of analysis. It posits that what is essentially a neural network arises naturally in organisations with individuals as nodes, interactions as edges, and influence relationships among them performing a function that is analogous to synaptic weights. This network structure enables organisations to adapt through a process of influence process structural learning that is analogous to back propagation learning in traditional neural networks. The model describes leadership within top management as expressing the organisation's response to environmental stimuli about which top managers have little direct knowledge. Leadership acts to change influence relationships among managers by altering their relative status and reputations. The theory implies that influence relationships exhibit a power-law distribution, a potential marker of emergent collective agency.

Suggested Citation

  • James K. Hazy, 2012. "Leading large: emergent learning and adaptation in complex social networks," International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 2(1/2), pages 52-73.
  • Handle: RePEc:ids:ijclma:v:2:y:2012:i:1/2:p:52-73
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Nicolaj Siggelkow & Jan W. Rivkin, 2005. "Speed and Search: Designing Organizations for Turbulence and Complexity," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 16(2), pages 101-122, April.
    2. Jeffrey Goldstein & James K. Hazy & Benyamin B. Lichtenstein, 2010. "Complexity and the Nexus of Leadership," Palgrave Macmillan Books, Palgrave Macmillan, number 978-0-230-10771-7, March.
    3. James K. Hazy, 2011. "Parsing the 'influential increment' in the language of complexity: uncovering the systemic mechanisms of leadership influence," International Journal of Complexity in Leadership and Management, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 1(2), pages 164-191.
    4. Allan P. O. Williams, 2006. "Leadership in Change," Palgrave Macmillan Books, in: The Rise of Cass Business School, chapter 15, pages 200-220, Palgrave Macmillan.
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    Cited by:

    1. Daniel Solow & Joseph G. Szmerekovsky, 2014. "Setting leadership goals and getting those goals accomplished: insights from a mathematical model," Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, Springer, vol. 20(1), pages 36-51, March.

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