Introduction: Systems evolving in business, products and processes, and infomation systems and services
The sustance of this post:
This post is intended to bring together some interesting resources, on four related topics: consilience and systems thinking, business ecosystems, co-evolutionary modularity, and ecological computing.
The systems perspective continues to revolutionize academic fields from mathematics and computer science, to biology and medicine, to law, social policy and international relations. I reference Edward Wilson’s book, Consilience, which suggests why the perspective is so important.
The systems perspective has made a quiet but profound change in business strategy making over the past decade, having become the dominant paradigm for most large-scale businesses, and increasingly used by small businesses as well.
The acceleration of product and service innovation, and the sourcing of elements of products and services from an increasing web of suppliers, has made the co-evolution of modules a center of competitive activity. This sort of competition–or rather coopetiion–started during the American revolution with the manufacture of rifles with interchangeable parts, has been profoundly important in the computer industry, and now permeates every form of business. In a reference that I site below, Baldwin and Clark of Harvard Business School introduce a general theory of modularity that brings this competition to a new level of self-awareness.
Perhaps most interesting, in the information and communication technology sphere, the emerging ecosystems of fast-evolving, interdependent web services are a dramatic expression of systems effects that are vastly expanding participation and innovation across the web.
The process of this post:
This post is intended to be a kind of play-within-a-play. The construction of the post uses screen-scraping of HTML from Amazon.com pages, to make a rough-and-ready pull-based integration of data from multiple web services on one page–just in blog software.
The result, I believe, is a useful reference page–one I will point friends and colleagues to–that I constructed in less than a morning, and now stands as a permanent resource on the web–available to be “pulled” searched and sorted, clustered and displayed by anyone on the world who is connected to the web.
With all of our justified excitement about AJAX, it is nice to remember that the integration of very very useful data from multiple servers and services can be hacked together with PERL and, even more accessible, with HTML in blog software, as here. Oh yea, another benefit that comes from doing this in HTML is that Google and Yahoo index the page…
This process is how the semantic ecology of today’s internet expands, differentiates, and integrates..A simple feature like Amazon’s, added to already-indexed content, instantly doubles, triples or more the semantic mass of the web–the biomass equivalent in semantic space–and does so in an organized, clustered-hierarchy manner. This is an almost perfect analogue of development in biological ecosystems.
1. Consilience and Systems Thinking
There are many ways to enter the world of systems thinking. Authors write variously of “consilience” and “complex adaptive systems.” The following comprehensive introduction, by Edward Wilson of Harvard, is a favorite of mine
2. Business Ecosystems
Strategy-making by focusing on business ecosystems is the dominant paradigm in high technology businesses, as well as in other businesses that have been found to favor networked systems, ranging from retail to transportation. The following were written as foundation sources and texts for the approach.
3. Co-evolutionary Modularity
If one thinks about businesses from the standpoint of products and processes, one rapidly comes up with modularity as an entry point into strategy-making and business ecosystems. The first of these books is highly theoretical, and is intended to introduce biological thinking about modules. The second of these books, by two leading thinkers at Harvard Business School, analyses modulary and co-evolution in products and processes.
Modularity : Understanding the Development and Evolution of Natural Complex Systems (Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology) (Hardcover)
by Werner Callebaut (Editor), Diego Rasskin-Gutman (Editor)
The contributors debate and compare the uses of modularity, discussing the different disciplinary contexts of “modular thinking” in general (including hierarchical organization, near-decomposability, quasi-independence, and recursion) or of more specialized concepts (including character complex, gene family, encapsulation, and mosaic evolution); what modules are, why and how they develop and evolve, and the implication for the research agenda in the disciplines involved; and how to bring about useful cross-disciplinary knowledge transfer on the topic. The book includes a foreword by the late Herbert A. Simon addressing the role of near-decomposability in understanding complex systems.
About the Author
Werner Callebaut is Scientific Manager of the Konrad Lorenz Institute for Evolution and Cognition Research, Vienna, and Professor of Philosophy at Limburg University, Belgium. Diego Rasskin-Gutman is Research Associate at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Honorary Professor in the Department of Biology, Universidad Aut