Complexity, Policy Informatics, and Public Administration

Erik Johnston (Arizona State University), Qian Hu (University of Central Florida), and I have completed a paper for the Governance of Complex Systems: Challenges of Making Public Administration and Complexity Theory Work Workshop to be held in Rotterdam, Netherlands in June 2011.

How the Application of Complexity and Policy Informatics to Public Administration can Change the Questions we Ask and the Solutions we Discover


We argue for introducing complexity theory to public administration because it allows us to exploit new connections, to raise new questions, and to explore innovative approaches to governance and management. To support more regular, effective, and defensible use of complexity as a contribution to policy-making, public administration scholars must continue to build supporting evidence. In this paper, first, we reflect on why existing analysis frameworks create structural blind spots for understanding governance practice. Second, using examples from our own research and professional experience we demonstrate that a complexity approach allows new questions to be asked that directly connect to policy problems and facilitate decision making in a cost effective manner. Third, we explore a number of factors including practical strategies and ethical concerns that may encourage or preclude the use of a complexity framework and method in policy settings. And finally, this paper calls on public administration scholars to be thoughtfully aware of and ethically responsible for the consequences of the use of complexity methods in research and practice.

Johnston, E., Desouza, K.C., & Hu, Q. “How the Application of Complexity and Policy Informatics to Public Administration can Change the Questions we Ask and the Solutions we Discover,” A Paper for Governance of Complex Systems: Challenges of Making Public Administration and Complexity Theory Work, Rotterdam, Netherlands, June 23-25, 2011.

How Not to Silence the Resistance – Strategic Direction

My article with Nicholas D. Sweers II, Shh! It’s vive la re´sistance..., which was originally published in the Journal of Business Strategy, is featured in the current issue of Strategic Direction.

Moldova’s Internet Revolution accepted for Technology Forecasting and Social Change

Volodymyr V. Lysenko, my doctoral student, and I have a paper accepted for publication at Technology Forecasting and Social Change. This paper examines the role that information and communication technologies played in Moldova's Revolution.

Moldova’s Internet Revolution: Analyzing the Role of Technologies in Various Phases of the Confrontation

Abstract: In recent times we have witnessed the fundamental impacts that information and communication technologies (ICTs) have had on the outcomes of contentious political confrontations. In this paper, we analyze the role played by Internet-based and cellular ICTs in Moldova’s Revolution of April 2009. Specifically, we identify what, why, and how technologies were used during various phases of the uprising. Our findings show that: 1) the protesters organized their initial mobilization through social network services (SNS) and short message service (SMS); 2) Twitter was mostly used during later phases of the revolution – the active street protests and the subsequent information war -- for communication about the conflict both locally and globally; and 3) through skillful use of new Internet-based ICTs, it is possible to conduct a successful revolution without noticeable prior offline organization. Theoretical and practical implications for the study of ICTs in contentious political environments are also discussed.

 

Information Systems “Backsourcing”: A Framework for Knowledge Re-integration

Akshay Bhagwatwar (Indiana University), Ray Hackney (Brunel University) and I have authored a paper that appears in the current issue of Information Systems Management. The paper examines the knowledge re-integration challenges that organizations face as they try to take back previously outsourced IT operations.

Backsourcing is motivated by opportunities arising from changes in the business situation, redefinition of the character of outsourced service declining in quality or due to the discovery of flaws in the contract. The situation of backsourcing clearly has major implications for an organization in terms of monetary investments, IS infrastructure and changes in employee requirements during and after the process. The paper considers a detailed analysis of two case studies of backsourcing reported from JP Morgan Chase (USA) and Sainsbury (UK). A major contribution of the paper is to identify important strategies to be followed in backsourcing projects to ensure efficient knowledge re-integration.

Bhagwatwar, A., Hackney, R. & Desouza, K. C. (2011). Considerations for  Information Systems “Backsourcing”: A Framework for Knowledge Re-integration. Information Systems Management, 28(2), 165-173

To access the paper, please click here: LINK

Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework

Yuan Lin, my doctoral student, and I have a paper accepted for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management in San Antonio, Texas (August 12-16, 2011).

Individuals’ Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework

The boom of the network concept in organizational research has resulted in a growing interest in the interplay between organizational members’ knowledge transfer and their social network structure. This paper treats such interplay as a co-evolution process and lay out a theoretical framework, CO-evolution of Individuals and Networks (COIN), to facilitate its modeling. Using a simplified example, we identify the components of a co-evolution model that should be constructed based on substantive theories: cross-level causal mechanisms, network structural factors, individual heterogeneity and autonomy, the relationships among model assumption, inputs and outputs. COIN synthesizes theoretical or empirical evidence that can help construct these components from multiple disciplines (e.g., organizational research, statistics, physics, economics, and sociology). It decomposes the co-evolution process into key constructs and mechanisms and organizes existing theories around them. It also exposes gaps in related work which once filled can facilitate studies on network-behavior co-evolutio

Lin, Y.A., and Desouza, K.C. “Individuals’ Knowledge Transfer Behaviors and Social Networks: A Co-evolution Framework,” In Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management, San Antonio, TX (August 12-16, 2011).

Writing of a different style, fiction, or at least I hope so…Overcommitted

It is 8 AM and Sam Houston is on his way to his office in downtown Chicago. He drives from his house in Libertyville, a northern suburb of Chicago, then catches a train into the city. During his roughly seventy-five minute train ride, he has learned to balance his laptop, notebook and pencil, his blackberry, and his triple shot frappuccino coffee. He begins his trip by reviewing his agenda for the day, thinking through his upcoming meetings, his to-do list, and the projects under his supervision.

For some reason, today Sam finally comes to the realization that he is overcommitted.  He thinks to himself, "I need to cut things off my lists!" (Good for you, Sam!) As Sam tries to think of solutions, he cannot resist the temptation of going through the mail that came in during the night. Alas, he sees that both Susan and Charlie have asked him for ‘small’ favors that would require him to be part of two different teams- one exploring strategic priorities for the organization, the other making a decision on which vendor the organization should choose for its new social media platform re-design. Sam knows that he cannot turn these opportunities down; they are both critical to his career, not to mention that he does owe both Susan and Charlie favors for their help on one of his past efforts. Sam tries to think how he might organize his tasks and prioritize his ‘big ticket’ items. As he works on his list, he hears the soundtrack of ‘We are Champions’ by Queen playing, and he rushes to silence his ringtone by answering his blackberry. His wife is calling to remind him that he has three social events on his calendar in the next two days. Reluctantly, Sam acknowledges that he had promised to attend two school events for his children and visit his in-laws for a birthday celebration. Becoming frustrated at his increasing commitments, Sam has now forgotten what he was doing before the phone call and he is also reminded that he is only two stops from Union Station. He begins to pack his stuff up, takes a moment to enjoy his now cold caffeine drink, and takes a quick glance at the headlines from the Chicago Tribune. The train makes its entry into Union Station and Sam walks briskly to the exit where he hails a cab to take him to his offices in the Merchandise Mart. As he takes the elevator up and heads into his office, he makes a mental promise to himself, "No more commitments today. No matter what, I have to say no!" Sitting in his comfy leather chair and taking a moment to enjoy the view of Lake Michigan from his office window, he is interrupted by his assistant who tells him about an emergency meeting that is being called by the CEO. Sam realizes that today may not be the right day to say no…

Can you connect with the above scenario! Unfortunately, (and yes, I do mean unfortunately) may of us can. As much as we try, we never seem to manage our ever increasing commitments. We over-commit and continuously extend ourselves. Many of us  can do this for seemingly good reasons. We want to seem helpful or we do not want to allow opportunities to slip us by.  Other times, we may have underestimated the resource and time investment that the various commitments would require of us. Commitments do come due, and troubles build as the timelines draw near. We get irritable and annoyed with ourselves and the tasks at hand. As a result, the quality of our work suffers, both in terms of the output that we deliver and the process that we employ to arrive at the output. In the final analysis, we, as individuals, suffer. Our quality of life is impacted.

If you have strategies, decision-tools, or process frameworks that you use to manage your commitments, both in terms of identifying how to decide what commitments to take on and how you manage your ongoing commitments, please share them with me... and with Sam!

P.S. My wonderful students of IMT 580 the last year brought me a fiction book. I enjoyed reading it. So, here is my first attempt at writing what I hope is fiction (based on reality, of course!)…Stay tuned for the entire book, if I ever manage to stay focused on my current commitments!

Co-Evolution of Organizational Network and Individual Behavior: An Agent-Based Model of Interpersonal Knowledge Transfer – International Conference on Information Systems

Yuan Lin, my doctoral student, and I have a paper accepted at the Thirty First International Conference on Information Systems. The paper describes our ongoing efforts to develop robust models for studying the dynamics of knowledge transfer within organizations.

AbstractThis study focuses on the co-evolution of informal organizational structures and individual knowledge transfer behavior within organizations. Our research methodology distinguishes us from other similar studies. We use agent-based modeling and dynamic social network analysis, which allow for a dynamic perspective and a bottom-up approach. We study the emergent network structures and behavioral patterns, as well as their micro-level foundations. We also examine the exogenous factors influencing the emergent process. We ran simulation experiments on our model and found some interesting findings. For example, it is observed that knowledgeable individuals are not well connected in the network, and our model suggests that being fully involved in knowledge transfer might undermine individuals’ knowledge advantage over time. Another observation is that when there is high knowledge diversity in the system, informal organizational structure tends to form a network of good reachability; that is, any two individuals are connected via a few intermediates.

Lin, Y.A, and Desouza, K.C. “Co-Evolution of Organizational Network and Individual Behavior: An Agent-Based Model of Interpersonal Knowledge Transfer,” In Proceedings of the Thirty First International Conference on Information Systems, St. Louis, Missouri (December 12-15, 2010).

Role of Internet-based Information Flows and Technologies in Electoral Revolutions

My paper with Volodymyr Lysenko on the role of Internet-based information flows and technologies in electoral revolutions is now available on First Monday.

Internet–based information and communication technologies (ICTs) and the information flows they support have played an important role in the advancement of society. In this paper we investigate the role of Internet–based ICTs in electoral revolutions. Employing a case study approach, we examine the part played by ICTs during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2000–2004). Roles and activities of the dissenters, as well as their associates, the incumbent authorities and their allies are analyzed with regard to Internet–based technologies during the electoral revolution in Ukraine. The case of the Orange Revolution is particularly salient, as even though only one to two percent of the Ukrainian population had access to the Internet, this was sufficient to mobilize the citizens towards an eventually successful revolution. This paper lays the groundwork for further investigations into use of ICTs by political dissenters.

Lysenko, V.V. and Desouza, K.C. “Role of Internet-based Information Flows and Technologies in Electoral Revolutions: The Case of Ukraine’s Orange Revolution,” First Monday, 15 (9), 2010, Available Online at: [LINK]

Role of Internet-based Information Flows and Technologies in Electoral Revolutions: Ukraine’s Orange Revolution

Volodymyr V. Lysenko and I have co-authored a paper that examines the role played by Internet-based information flows and technologies in electoral revolutions. Recent events have drawn attention to the use of Internet-based information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the political process. For instance, ICTs played an important role during attempts at electoral revolutions in Moldova in April 2009 and Iran in June 2009. Employing a case study approach, we examine the part played by ICTs during the Orange Revolution in Ukraine (2000-2004). Roles and activities of the dissenters, as well as their associates, the incumbent authorities and their allies are analyzed with regard to Internet-based technologies during the electoral revolution in Ukraine. The case of the Orange Revolution is particularly salient, as even though only 1-2 percent of the Ukrainian population had access to the Internet, this was sufficient to mobilize the citizens towards an eventually successful revolution. This paper lays the groundwork for further investigations into use of ICTs by political dissenters. The paper will appear in a forthcoming issue of First Monday.