Complexity and Organizational

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Complexity and Organizational Communication: A Quest for Common Ground:

Complexity and Organizational Communication: A Quest for Common Ground Human Resource Development Review 2016 , Vol. 15(2) 182–207 By Petro Poutanen, Kalle Siira, and Pekka Aula Shakeel Nouman, CMS NO: 401941 ABID ALI CMS: 401973

This Article…:

This Article… A rticle explores this research Using a meta-paradigmatic framework T o untangle and clarify: T he different paradigmatic assumptions in the field of organizational communication. Research has adopted the complexity science perspective . Research reveals five research clusters: Clusters differ from each other In their understanding of what complexity is. In how they define communication.


Objectives T o identify and untangle the different schools of complexity. E xplain them in relation to their paradigmatic assumptions. B y specifying the different paradigmatic assumptions, T o investigate the complexity-based research conducted in the area of organizational communication and Assess its relationship with these schools of complexity . T o explore how the researchers conducting these studies understand The key concept of communication.


Aims To clarify the paradigmatic assumptions in the field of organizational communication research that has adopted the complexity science perspective. Contributing to the theoretical underpinnings of the complexity-based research in the organizational communication field. To help establish a context for the discussion on communication phenomena from the complexity science perspective . T o make the various perspectives visible, to inform the researchers A bout the ways of applying complexity theory within certain paradigmatic contexts


Tasks Finding common ground and point the way towards a future research agenda in complexity-based research in the areas of organizational communication and human resource development (HRD ). F inding out what are the most central complexity-based research perspectives in organizational communication research and H ow they are linked with established research paradigms in organizational sciences Discuss the implications and possibilities that Complexity perspective can offer for HRD in practice.

Questions to Ask:

Questions to Ask T he five clusters of complexity-based research Identified in the literature on organizational communication: A gent-based models and network analysis, N etwork of texts, Meaning and interpretation, N arratives and language, and L iving activity. Discuss the consequences A dopting a complexity science perspective for conducting research in the area of organizational communication and HRD.

Complexity Theory:

Complexity Theory D ivisions that organizational scholars applying complexity theory O bjectivist and I nterpretivist. The objectivist approach tends toward: P ositivism or Post-Positivism D raws heavily from the traditional natural scientific epistemology. The interpretivist approach tends toward: Post-Modernism or Post-structuralism and A dopts a meaning-based ontology and epistemology. The two approaches propose seemingly different fundamental assumptions About the nature of complex systems (ontology) The knowledge about complex systems (epistemology) T he ways to study those systems (methodology )

Approaches to Complexity in Organizational Research:

Approaches to Complexity in Organizational Research Objectivist Interpretivist What is complexity? Complexity is an objective property of real-world complex systems Complexity is a subjective interpretation or a difficulty of representing reality How we come to know about complex phenomena? Through rigorous empirical experiments and simulations By providing rich interpretative accounts What are the appropriate methods? Mathematical modeling, Fitness landscape, Agent-based simulations, Qualitative methods Qualitative methods, Action research, Language-based approaches Strategies to deal with A “restrictive strategy” aims at formulating appropriate “objective” explanations of complex phenomena A “generalization strategy” tries to provide multiple and divergent explanations of the phenomenon at hand Research aim Discover universal or contingent causal laws Provide contextual, interpretive narratives; descriptions; and Qualitative explanations

Perspectives on Complexity in the Field of Organizational Communication: Five Clusters (C1-C5).:

Perspectives on Complexity in the Field of Organizational Communication: Five Clusters (C1-C5). Paradigmatic Assumptions Cluster Relationship with Communication Research foci Objectivist C1: Agent-based models and network analysis Networks of communication And information diffusion Deduction of hypotheses; data and model-driven theory building C2: Network of texts Language or text as a symbolic representation; semantic linkages Analysis of large quantities of text; identification of essential content and words Interpretivist C3: Meaning and interpretation Negotiation and exchange of Meaning Theory development; Conceptualization of communication C4: Narratives and language Narratives; discourse Contextualized and emergent discourse; complexity of conversation; argument as a chaotic system C5: Living activity Relational action; Collective sense making; Complex responsive processes Relational uniqueness and emergent change; embodied/situational sense making; organization–communication relationship

The Objectivist Work: 1st Cluster :

The Objectivist Work: 1 st Cluster Within the objectivist work, there are two identifiable strands: 1 st Cluster: Agent-based models and network analysis 2 nd Cluster: Network of texts. 1 st Cluster: Agent-based models and network analysis. Representing the first cluster A gent-based models are rooted in theories that typically acknowledge the dynamic nature of human interaction and organizing . used three equations to articulate the underlying logic linking the variables of C oordinated activity, S hared interpretations , and E nvironmental resources.

The Objectivist Work: 2nd Cluster :

The Objectivist Work: 2 nd Cluster 2 nd Cluster: Network of texts. Representing the second cluster Includes the research aimed at capturing the dynamics of complex social collectives by examining organizational communication as a network of texts . D efine CRA as “A flexible means of representing the content of large sets of messages, and assist in their analysis ” The benefit of CRA is Its ability to operate simultaneously across different scales of aggregation and to utilize the actual words that people speak and write .


Continue... Proposed as a novel approach to theorizing discourse: High Resolution, Broadband Discourse Analysis (HBDA), CRA as an appropriate tool for collecting and analyzing texts. Existing research methods are: Ethnographies, Conversation analyses, Questionnaires, and Computational models

The Interpretivist Work: 3rd Cluster:

The Interpretivist Work: 3 rd Cluster The interpretivist work comprises three identifiable clusters: 3 rd Cluster: Meaning and interpretation, 4 th Cluster: Narratives and language, and 5 th Cluster: Living activity 3 rd Cluster: Meaning and interpretation The third cluster is rooted in social constructionist premises A pplied chaos theory concepts to model and understand organizational communication. His perspective based on the premises of constructivism. Conceptualizes communication as two opposing forces that can be used as an effective tool to attain favorable outcomes for organizations by upholding tension and continuous struggle within the organizations Apply content analysis techniques in analyzing the responses of the organizations (tweets, articles, documents, news releases).

The Interpretivist Work: 4th Cluster:

The Interpretivist Work: 4 th Cluster 4 th Cluster: Narratives and language F ourth C luster departs from the meaning-centered work by explicitly stressing the importance of narratives, language, and discourse in constituting organizations. This cluster contains macro-approach micro-approach Theorizing from the macro-perspective claim A narrative approach provides “a way to make concrete the concept of complexity science for organization studies” The micro-approaches within this cluster refer T o literature focusing on the language-in-action approach

The Interpretivist Work: 5th Cluster:

The Interpretivist Work: 5 th Cluster 5 th Cluster: Living activity F inal cluster differs from the previous two interpretivist clusters by A rguing for the importance of focusing on the present, L iving activity to understand the dynamic processes of human interaction . organizations as networks of communicating agents or text and utilizes computational modeling and sophisticated mathematical analyses to capture the complexities of organizing. This approach stresses the importance of adding precision and rigor to the study of organizational communication as a dynamic process the need for techniques and methodologies that are capable of handling large quantities of communication

Critical Reflection and Implications:

Critical Reflection and Implications Critical Reflections on Complexity-Based Research An overt use of metaphors, L ack of reflexivity, and L ack of empirical evidence . Implications of Complexity to the Practice and Theory of HRD O ffers a fresh framework to rethink the basic assumptions and tenets of traditional HRD O ffers a variety of conceptual and methodological tools C ommunication scholars of complexity pay close attention to the micro level interactions and processes T o achieve long-term effectiveness and I mproved performance in organizations. the complexity scholars interested in studying “human interaction dynamics”

Suggestion for Further Research:

Suggestion for Further Research Agenda for Complexity-Based Research T hree suggestions for how complexity-based research and research programs can be better equipped. 1. First suggestion relates W ays of finding common ground through the methodological design. 2. S econd suggestion relates W ays of finding common ground through a shared meta-theoretical lense . 3. Third suggestion relates W ays of finding common ground through the development of novel research practices in complexity-based studies.


Conclusion D iscussed the relationship between C omplexity theory and the organizational communication research. The boundaries between the different clusters are not definitive; C lusters interact in many ways and share some similarities D iffer from each other in their research objectives, F ocus on text and speech in both paradigms and the focus on organizations as networks. Two major views of communication T ransmission views I nterpretative views C ommunication either as the transmission of messages or as a meaning-based process of C oordinating and O rganizing actions

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