Coevolving Innovations

… in Business Organizations and Information Technologies

Organizations and information systems: a trajectory through systems science

What are good foundations for understanding business, in an age of pervasive digital information? I’ve found systems science to be helpful, and ended up on a path where I’ve become deeply involved with the International Society for the Systems Sciences. The origins of this trajectory started at IBM in 1997 with the Seiad First-of-a-Kind project, leading to a 2-year assignment through the Advanced Business Institute.

In 1997, I had moved out of the IBM Consulting Group — the services unit that became IBM Business Innovation Services, and then IBM Business Consulting Services — into a Sales & Distribution unit (in the Boston area) called "Consumer-Driven Solutions". This business unit had the ambition to bridge the gap between clients in the retail and consumer products industry segments (as defined by IBM). In the confluence of changes at IBM, I led a proposal to lead a First-of-a-Kind project, that included customer-facing consultants from the Object Technology Practice of IBM Consulting Group1, scientists from the Watson Research Center2, and industry experts hired as consultants into the Consumer-Driven Solutions unit3.

The Seiad project essentially had three goals:

The time frame to do this was twelve months, but after five months, the project was wound down, due to some managerial accounting issues inside IBM.… Read more (in a new tab)

Why coevolving?

The question of the relationship between technology and human social systems can be seen as a matter of coevolution.  That is the genesis of this discussion of factors and implications involved in coevolving technologies and human social systems. 

Technological tools and organizational methods have been coevolving rapidly over the past two hundred years as the world’s population has grown from an estimated one billion people in 1800 to six billion people in 2000. Technological tools, ranging from steam engines to electricity, from automobiles to airplanes, from telephones to computers are all ways of helping people accomplish work. Organizational methods, ranging from factories to assembly lines, from M-organizations to franchises, from call centers to outsourcing are ways of organizing and managing people and other resources to accomplish work. The rapid coevolution of these technological and social innovations creates a number of challenges for businesses and other enterprises.

The world of business today is increasingly competitive and uncertain.  Managers are faced with decisions about outsourcing and cost cutting, business process integration and productivity, partnerships and investments for growth. These are issues at every level from departments to business units, from enterprises to industries, and from regional to global economic planners. 

These issues of complexity, competitiveness, and uncertainty can be elevated to an overarching concern for enterprise sustainability. An enterprise can be any human social system, including business, government, and a whole range of non-profit and NGO institutions. These institutions are what sustain human life, and in turn they depend on the interplay of human intervention in the natural environment for their sustanence.… Read more (in a new tab)

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