Organizational Change Through Complex Adaptive Design

Conference: The Barcelona Conference on Education (BCE2022)
Title: Organizational Change Through Complex Adaptive Design
Stream: Educational Policy, Leadership, Management & Administration
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Joseph Kretovics, Western Michigan University, United States
Karika Parker, Western Michigan University, United States


Complex adaptive design (CAD) is a framework that serves as a critical tool in research and development for organizational change. Complex adaptive design integrates complex adaptive systems theory (Hazy and Uhl-Bien, 2013), adaptive leadership and design (Heifetz and Linsky, 2017) and design thinking (Wyatt and Brown, 2010) into a framework that enables the learning, creative, and adaptive capacity of organizations to emerge and promotes innovation in a context that is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Further, CAD helps explain how sustainable organizational change emerges and how leadership can facilitate change. The problems and issues that organizations encounter in the change process are often treated as simple or complicated problems that are technical in nature. These problems are neither simple nor complicated. Generally, they are problems that are complex, messy, and don’t have one correct answer. In approaching the problem as technical, organizations search for a quick fix rather than understanding and engaging the complex interrelationships that create the change process. Complex problems move beyond those algorithms to include nonlinearity, agency, self-organization, emergence, adaptation, and co-evolution. With complex problems, such as forecasting the weather, the solutions are ambiguous, uncertain and there are no correct answers. The constant interaction of multiple agents changes the current state, thus, creating new realities in which multiple futures can emerge. The façade of prediction and control are cast aside in favor of understanding that the current situation involves multiple agents with multiple histories, and is capable of self-organization and innovation.

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