About the Complexity Research Programme

The Complexity Group at the London School of Economics has been working since 1995 on the theory of complex social systems and its application to practical problems with several business partners. They include BT, Citibank (New York), GlaxoSmithKline, the Humberside TEC (Training & Enterprise Council), Legal & General, Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (Basque Country), Norwich Union, Rolls-Royce (Aerospace & Marine), Shell (International and Shell Internet Works), the World Bank (Washington DC), AstraZeneca and several companies in the Aerospace industry. Our business partners take an active role in research projects and help fund the Complexity Research Programme.

Our academic network includes the following disciplines: anthropology, biology, economics, information systems, mathematics, physics, psychology, sociology and philosophy. The Group has strong links with the Santa Fe Institute, NECSI and PLEXUS in the USA and with several universities and research institutions world-wide. The Group Director, Eve Mitleton-Kelly, is also Coordinator of Links with Industry and Government for the new European Network of Excellence Exystence, funded by the EU, which started in April 2002. She is also a Director of the Complexity Society, a UK-based Network of Networks on complex systems.

1. The Complexity Research Programme includes four completed (a - c) research projects funded by the EPSRC (Engineering & Physical Science Research Council). The four projects are studying:

(a & b) The relationship between information systems development and the changing business process. Legacy Systems Project.

(c) The initial product definition stage in the Aerospace industry, focusing on trust, creativity and risk in inter-organisational relationships. The Aerospace Project was a joint effort with Warwick Manufacturing Group and Cranfield Ecotechnology Centre. The business partners included BAE Systems, DERA, GEC/Marconi, HS Marston, Hunting Engineering, Lucas, Rolls-Royce and Smith Industries.

(d) The conditions (social, cultural, technical, political and economic) that will facilitate the emergence of a new organisational form or new ways of organising. The ICoSS Project applied the principles of complexity to co-create with our business partners, company-specific frameworks, to help them co-evolve with a constantly changing environment.

The ICoSS Project is the largest EPSRC award given to the LSE and was given the highest priority by the examining Panel. The industrial partners are BT, Norwich Union Life and Rolls-Royce Marine. NU and RRM have both undergone mergers and are focussing on integration and the creation of a new organisational form, while BT is exploring the interface between different lines of business.

2. Seminars, colloquia, workshops, conferences on strategy, complexity and organisational learning: a full list is available on the events page.

. The seminar series, for the business community, started in 1992 and has attained a high reputation for inviting academic and business speakers whose work is state-of-the-art.

3. Eve Mitleton-Kelly is the Coordinator for Links with Industry and Government of the new EU-funded Network of Excellence (NoE) on Complex Systems, known as Exystence, which started in April 2002. The NoE includes most academics in Europe working on complex systems and was founded by 21 European academic institutions. As from January 2003, the LSE Complexity Group will organise and host seminars and colloquia at the LSE and coordinate seminars in Brussels, Paris, Rome and Bonn, on behalf of Exystence.


4. LSE Complexity Network meets on a regular basis to discuss the application of complexity. It is open to both business and academic members. The difference between the Network and the Seminars is that the former is made up of a group of members which meets regularly on an informal basis, while the seminars do not require membership and could have a different set of participants each time and are more formal with outside speakers. The Network may have a main speaker from within the group or may be a facilitated discussion on complexity-related topics.

5. Links with other research institutions: The Complexity Group has strong links with the Santa Fe Institute, NECSI and PLEXUS in the USA and with several universities and research institutions world-wide. Eve Mitleton-Kelly is also a Director of the new Complexity Society, which is a network of networks in the UK. The Group has links with most networks on complexity in the UK.

6. Short, exploratory or consultancy projects: these are short projects either on a consultancy basis with individual business partners or on an exploratory basis to develop future joint projects. Current work includes (a) a small project with ATOC (Association of Train Operating Companies) to provide a report on strategy; (b) an evaluation report for a Charity working with the disabled; (c) discussions on future joint projects with the Devon and Cornwall NHS; and (d) discussions on possible joint projects with Mondragon Cooperative Corporation in the Basque Country, with Cairo University, with the University of Sydney, and others.

7. Preparation for a major EC-funded proposal called “Co-Evolving Organisations within a Knowledge Ecology” to be submitted under the 6th Framework, looking at new organisational forms for the 21st Century. The Co-Evolve project will study non-traditional ways of organising and will use complexity theory. The lead coordinators will be the LSE Complexity Group, the Fraunhoffer Institute (Stuttgart) and Mondragon Cooperative Corporation (Basque Country). Other partners include BT, Scandia and UCL. The proposal is under preparation and both academic and business partners are now being invited to join.

8. A book Edited by Eve Mitleton-Kelly with 14 international authors has been published by Elsevier in 2003 “Complex Systems and Evolutionary Perspectives of Organisations: The Application of Complexity Theory to Organisations”. EMK has written the Introduction and Chapter 2 “Ten Principles of Complexity & Enabling Infrastructures”.