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Agent-Based Models of Organizations

  • Myong-Hun Chang
  • Joseph E Harrington Jr

The agent-based approach views an organization as a collection of agents, interacting with one another in their pursuit of assigned tasks. The performance of an organization in this framework is determined by the formal and informal structures of interactions among agents, which define the lines of communication, allocation of information processing tasks, distribution of decision-making authorities, and the provision of incentives. This chapter provides a synthesis of various agent-based models of organizations and surveys some of the new insights that are being delivered. The ultimate goal is to introduce the agent-based approach to economists in a methodological manner and provide a broader and less idiosyncratic perspective to those who are already engaging in this line of work. The chapter is organized around the set of research questions that are common to this literature: (1) What are the determinants of organizational behavior and performance? (2) How does organizational structure influence performance? (3) How do the skills and traits of agents matter and how do they interact with structure? (4) How do the characteristics of the environment--including its stability, complexity, and competitiveness--influence the appropriate allocation of authority and information? (5) How is the behavior and performance influenced when an organization is coevolving with other organizations from which it can learn? (6) Can an organization evolve its way to a better structure?

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Paper provided by The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics in its series Economics Working Paper Archive with number 515.

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Date of creation: Sep 2004
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Handle: RePEc:jhu:papers:515
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  2. Stephen J. DeCanio & Catherine Dibble & Keyvan Amir-Atefi, 2000. "The Importance of Organizational Structure for the Adoption of Innovations," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(10), pages 1285-1299, October.
  3. Joseph E. Harrington, Jr. & Myong-Hun Chang, 2002. "Co-Evolution of Firms and Consumers and the Implications for Market Dominance," Computing in Economics and Finance 2002 234, Society for Computational Economics.
  4. Joseph E. Harrington & Jr., 1999. "Rigidity of Social Systems," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(1), pages 40-64, February.
  5. Qian, Yingyi, 1994. "Incentives and Loss of Control in an Optimal Hierarchy," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 527-44, July.
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  11. Eric Maskin & Yingyi Qian & Chenggang Xu, 1997. "Incentives, Information, and Organizational Form," Working Papers 97034, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
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  13. Radner, Roy, 1993. "The Organization of Decentralized Information Processing," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 61(5), pages 1109-46, September.
  14. John Duffy, 2004. "Agent-Based Models and Human Subject Experiments," Computational Economics 0412001, EconWPA.
  15. Janssen, Marco A. & Ostrom, Elinor, 2006. "Governing Social-Ecological Systems," Handbook of Computational Economics, in: Leigh Tesfatsion & Kenneth L. Judd (ed.), Handbook of Computational Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 30, pages 1465-1509 Elsevier.
  16. Brenner, Thomas, 2006. "Agent Learning Representation: Advice on Modelling Economic Learning," Handbook of Computational Economics, in: Leigh Tesfatsion & Kenneth L. Judd (ed.), Handbook of Computational Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 18, pages 895-947 Elsevier.
  17. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-95, December.
  18. Canice Prendergast, 1999. "The Provision of Incentives in Firms," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 7-63, March.
  19. Jan W. Rivkin & Nicolaj Siggelkow, 2003. "Balancing Search and Stability: Interdependencies Among Elements of Organizational Design," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(3), pages 290-311, March.
  20. Barr, Jason & Saraceno, Francesco, 2005. "Cournot competition, organization and learning," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 29(1-2), pages 277-295, January.
  21. DeCanio, Stephen J. & Watkins, William E., 1998. "Information processing and organizational structure," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 275-294, August.
  22. Kollman, Ken & Miller, John H & Page, Scott E, 2000. "Decentralization and the Search for Policy Solutions," Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(1), pages 102-28, April.
  23. Myong-Hun Chang & Joseph E. Harrington, 2000. "Centralization vs. Decentralization in a Multi-Unit Organization: A Computational Model of a Retail Chain as a Multi-Agent Adaptive System," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(11), pages 1427-1440, November.
  24. Van Zandt, Timothy, 1999. "Real-Time Decentralized Information Processing as a Model of Organizations with Boundedly Rational Agents," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(3), pages 633-58, July.
  25. MacKie-Mason, Jeffrey K. & Wellman, Michael P., 2006. "Automated Markets and Trading Agents," Handbook of Computational Economics, in: Leigh Tesfatsion & Kenneth L. Judd (ed.), Handbook of Computational Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 28, pages 1381-1431 Elsevier.
  26. Page, Scott E, 1996. "Two Measures of Difficulty," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 8(2), pages 321-46, August.
  27. Holmstrom, Bengt R. & Tirole, Jean, 1989. "The theory of the firm," Handbook of Industrial Organization, in: R. Schmalensee & R. Willig (ed.), Handbook of Industrial Organization, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 2, pages 61-133 Elsevier.
  28. Barr, Jason & Saraceno, Francesco, 2002. "A computational theory of the firm," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 345-361, November.
  29. Levinthal, Daniel & March, James G., 1981. "A model of adaptive organizational search," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 307-333, December.
  30. Myong-Hun Chang & Joseph E Harrington, 2000. "Organization of Innovation in a Multi-Unit Firm: Coordinating Adaptive Search on Multiple Rugged Landscapes," Economics Working Paper Archive 442, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  31. Harrington, Joseph E, Jr, 1998. "The Social Selection of Flexible and Rigid Agents," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 63-82, March.
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