A 3-year EPSRC-funded collaborative research project working with BT, Norwich Union Life and Rolls-Royce Marine, which started in September 2001.

AIM: To co-create, with our business partners an enabling environment to facilitate integration and the emergence of a new organisational form.

By identifying the social, cultural, technical (as well as political and economic) conditions that facilitate the emergence of new ways of organising and new organisational forms. The ICoSS Project is using the principles of complexity as the underpinning theoretical framework.

Funded under the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Science Research Council) Systems Integration Initiative programme, the ICOSS research project studied:

  • the integration of national, business, cultural, and technical systems in the emergent organisational forms;
  • the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in facilitating connectivity and the exchange of ‘knowledge’;
  • the tension between globalisation and local cultures and requirements.

The project has been awarded the highest EPSRC grant the LSE has received and the examining Panel rated it first in its list of project priorities.


  1. To identify and articulate the conditions that enable and inhibit the creation and sustainability of new organisational forms, able to co-evolve with a changing environment, thus reducing the need for constant restructuring.
  2. To co-create with our Business partners, company-specific frameworks of enabling infrastructures (cultural, social and technical conditions that facilitate ‘x’).
  3. To encapsulate the results in generic frameworks, analytic tools, diagrams and supporting computer-based models.
  4. To explore processes for the sharing of knowledge within the Business partners.
  5. To continue developing a theory of complex social systems, while testing it in practice.
  6. To build a comprehensive methodology based on the logic and the principles of complexity, using both qualitative and quantitative methods and tools.
  7. To contribute to a business language that allows line managers to use complexity concepts in practical contexts.


The project will use a combined approach based on collaborative action research involving ‘natural experiments’.

Natural experiments are new ways of working and relating being explored by the organisation itself. They are different from the dominant culture and ‘emergent’ in the sense that they are not pre-designed or imposed top-down, but are exploratory and bottom-up.

The methodology uses both conventional practice studies such as case studies, interviews and opinion surveys for evaluation, as well as exploring and developing new methods and tools, such as agent-based models, art and visual facilitation, conceptual architectures, and email exchange mapping (NetMap). It is also exploring how qualitative and quantitative methods complement each other. It is using the logic of complexity to underpin the entire methodology as well as the principles of complexity as an analytic tool.

By taking part in the collaborative action research process, business partners should expect benefits to accrue in a continuous stream throughout the life of the project, not just at the end.

The project will provide practitioners with a new conceptual framework, while testing and refining the theory in practice.

A multi-disciplinary group of International Expert Advisors from academia and business are contributing different perspectives, knowledge and expertise

Research Team

The Research Team is part of the Complexity Group, within the LSE’s Social Psychology Department. The Group has attracted research funding from: BT, Citigroup (New York), GlaxoWellcome UK, the Humberside TEC, Shell (International and Shell Internet Works), World Bank (Washington DC), Astra Zeneca, and the EPSRC on four research projects.

Project Director and Principal Investigator

Eve Mitleton-Kelly

Eve Mitleton-Kelly

Founder and Director of the Complexity Research Programme, LSE; Visiting Professor, Open University; Coordinator of Links with Industry & Government, in the European Network of Excellence called “Exystence” ;

Executive Co-ordinator and Director of SOL-UK (London), the London-based group of the global network Society for Organisational Learning.


Prof. Ian Angell

Professor of Information Systems, LSE

Prof. Frank Land

Visiting Professor of Information Management, LSE and Leeds Metropolitan University

Dr. Janis Kallinikos

Department of Information Systems, LSE;

Expert in organization theory, cognition and technology

Professor Gerard de Zeeuw

Professor at the University of Lincoln (area: research in business and law; since 1994); Professor Emeritus of the University of Amsterdam (area: complex social systems, in particular the mathematical modelling of innovation; since 1973)

Address: University of Lincoln, Brayford Pool, Faculty of Business and Law, Bridge House, Rm 3212. Private telephone: 01522 738257

Nationality: Dutch

Date of birth: March 11, 1936

Contribution to the project: Support to data analysis. General methodological information. Theories of interaction and complexity

Publishing activity: Co-editor (with Nolas, Garcia-Lorenzo and Sell-Trujillo) of a special issue of the World Futures Journal on Complexity and Innovation

Zeeuw, G. de (2004), Self-organisation as quality control in inquiry. Kybernetes, 33-9/10, p. 1411-1418

Knowledge is defined as the result of successful attempts to transfer expected effort in the future to effort spent in the present. The less effort remains to be spent in the future, the more knowledge is exhaustive and complete. It is shown that some efforts remain necessary in the future for accidental reasons, e.g. to correct mistakes, to estimate parameters, to act. Some efforts will also be required for fundamental reasons. They are needed to compensate as and when testing for exhaustiveness proves ineffective. It is argued that the need for such additional effort may be met by starting collectives as a form of pre-containment. Such collectives may include non-ordered experiences. They will maintain themselves by striving to serve as equivalents to knowledge. They help in two ways: they indicate what is needed to create which knowledge. The design of collectives serving as knowledge is linked to second order cybernetics.

Research Officers

Urooj Quezon Amjad

Urook Amjad

Nationality: American

Date of birth: 10 May 1975

Contribution to the project: Interviewed and analyzed various management levels_ dynamics in private and public organizations in the following key research areas:complexity, organizational change, political knowledge management, strategy, post-merger integration. Maintained strong relationships with contacts in these organizations to ensure the quality and dissemination of the research. During the project work, I independently contributed to project planning in the forms of methodological design, data gathering and analysis, and writing of academic papers as products of the project. As part of a four-person research team, and peripheries of associates, in our group and the university, I extensively coordinated my work with colleagues from various backgrounds (e.g. management, social psychology, economics, physics). One example of the inter-disciplinary collaboration is the ABM modelling questionnaire. Public presentation of our findings and work in progress were presented to both academic and business audiences, therefore tailoring the work to the needs of particular audiences.

Any qualifications gained as a result of the project: Attended Flash MX website design course at Hoxton Bibliotech, London, approximately from September 2003–January 2004.

Subsequent employment: Continuation of PhD at SOAS.

Time spent on project: 2 yrs and 3 mos. (31 May 2002 – 31 August 2004)

Sevasti-Melissa Nolas

Sevasti-Melissa Nolas

Sevasti-Melissa Nolas has been working with the Complexity Group, on the ICoSS project, since October 2002. Melissa’s background is in linguistics and social psychology. She does qualitative research in the areas of action research, new organizational forms and community development. She is interested in the use of multimedia technology for dissemination and group work. Melissa is doing her doctoral research in the Department of Social Psychology, LSE.

Contribution to the project: I supported the project in all aspects of the research process, from data collection & analysis to theory development and knowledge dissemination via conference presentations and journal publications, as well as relationship development with research partners and presentations at research seminars.

Aside from the general and expected support and contribution to the ICoSS project I was responsible for:

(a) proposing a feedback/evaluation dimension to the existing research design, and carrying out said evaluation. This evaluation was carried out with the research partner I had been working with and involved 14 semi-structured interviews with the group of managers who had participated in the collaborative action research with us. The evaluation was important for two reasons: firstly, it gave us a greater insight into the action research process from the point of view of the participating members and secondly, it allowed me to begin a theoretical exploration of some of the processes and implications involved in carrying out action research, processes and implications which often receive little, or no, attention (see Nolas (forthcoming-2005) ‘Learning as support for organizational innovation: possibilities and limitations’ in World Futures Journal: Special Issue on Complexity and Innovation).

(b) designing (with the contribution of my colleague Urooj Amjad) the questionnaire for the project’s Agent Based Modelling. I subsequently took responsibility for commissioning and overseeing the design of the online survey, the administration of the online survey and the collection of responses to be forwarded to the project’s Agent Based Modeller. This contribution was vital for providing the necessary information for building the ABM.

Any qualifications gained as a result of the project: no formal qualifications gained. During the second year of the project I registered on an MPhil/PhD programme in the Department of Social Psychology

Subsequent employment: Research Officer on a action research project in the Department of Social Psychology . Details


Time spent on project: 2 years (Oct, 1st 2002 - Aug, 31st 2004)

Administrative Co-ordinator

Slavica Savic

Slavica Savic

Has been working in the Complexity Group since 1998, running its seminars and workshops and coordinating the administration and logistics of the project.

Part of my contribution was to maintain strong relationships with contacts in Business and the LSE, to ensure the dissemination of the research findings. I have initiated and explored different ways of communicating and exchanging knowledge within the group and with our supporting community through websites, filming and workshops and seminars. I contributed to the project planning in various forms of team building, ensured and supported delivering of the objectives. I have initiated and chaired the monthly Plan Meetings where we regularly updated on the research outputs and objectives, developing the project’s network and team support. During the last two years worked as a part time Project Manager covering the administrative side of that role.

Subsequent employment: Research Officer at the London Multimedia Lab, Department of Social Psychology, LSE

Time spent on project: From March 2000 to December 2004.

Business Liaison Co-ordinator & Conceptual Architect

Kate Hopkinson

Director of Inner Skills, will help partners identify their conceptual architectures and develop their enabling infrastructures. Kate will also provide a strong link between the business and academic partners

Modelling Expert

Dr. Ugur Bilge

Developed the Organisational Forms Simulator, an agent based network simulation and visualisation tool for exploring informal social networks, and investigating patterns of connectivity within business organisations

NetMap Expert

Prof. John Galloway

Australia, maping Internet connectivity


Julian Burton

provides visual facilitation through art

Associate Researcher

Nazreen A. Subhan

Associate Researcher, Facilitator and Change Agent:

Nazreen has worked in association with the project throughout its existence, from 2000 to 2004. She has an independent practice as a Change Agent working with individual, group, organisational change along with large scale social change. Her company is Phoenix Associates.

Address: 30, Goodge Street, London W1T 2QH

Contact number: 020 7631 0446

Contribution to the project: Nazreen’s focus was primarily on the qualitative aspects of the research process including: data collection via semi-structured interviews and analysis; ongoing development of the methodology; facilitating Reflect-Back workshops along with other types of workshops for partners, ICoSS and Complexity Group/ Programme; representing ICoSS and the work of the Complexity Group/ Programme at a variety of events.

Visiting researchers

Eduardo Castellano

Visiting Researcher (JAN 2003 - SEPT 2003): . Superior Industrial Engineer from the University of Navarra (TECNUN), Spain; MSc in Complex Systems from the University of the Basque Country, Spain; MSc in Logistic from ICL, Spain; PhD Candidate in Supply Networks as Complex Systems from the University of the Basque Country, Spain. Researcher at IKERLAN Technological Research Centre at MCC (Industrial Organization and Production Systems Management 1998-2000; Intelligent Programming Technologies 2001-2002; Strategic Innovation Management 2003-2005), developing related research projects for the Basque Country, Spanish Science and Technology Ministry, and European Research Projects, and also consulting projects for MCC-Corporation industrial firms. Collaborator of the System Dynamics Area of the UNESCO Chair at the University Politecnica of Catalunya, Spain. Programme Committee Member in the International Agent Technology Conference HoloMAS 2003. Main expertise: System Thinking, Complexity, and Network Theory applied to the fields of Firms and Corporate Management (New Organizational Forms) and Modelling (Strategic Decision Support Learning Laboratories - system dynamics and agent-based-modelling).

Address: IKERLAN Technological Research Centre, Pº Arizmendiarrieta, Mondragón, Basque Country, Spain. Telephone: 00-34-943.712400 (ext. 341). Email:


Nationality: Spanish

Contribution to the project: Shell FSTO Case Analysis from the Perspective of the Complexity Sciences and the Exploration-Exploitation Cycle Framework. Prepare Shell FSTO company specific framework of enabling infrastructures as a flexible organisation able to co-evolve in sympathy with its changing environment in order to avoid constant future restructuring due to centralisation-decentralisation dynamics. Linking Complexity and New Organizational Forms & Networks.


ICoSS Project Presentations and Publications


Castellano, E. 2003. “Applying Complexity Principles and the Exploration vs. Exploitation Cycle Framework to the Analysis of FSTO Organizational Dilemmas”. LSE Complexity Research Programme Workshop, 18th June. London School of Economics (UK)

Castellano, E. 2003. New Organizational Forms and Networks Literature Review. LSE Complexity Research Programme Working Paper

Castellano, E. 2003. CONNECTIVITY. LSE Complexity Research Programme Workshop, 15th July. London School of Economics (UK)

Castellano, E. 2003. Linking SNA and ABM. LSE Complexity Research Programme Workshop, 3rd April. London School of Economics (UK)

Expected Publications for 2005…

“Applying Complexity Principles and the Exploration vs. Exploitation Cycle Framework to the Analysis of Centralisation-Decentralisation Organizational Dilemmas”

“Social Network Mapping, and Organizational Unbalanced Profiles, as Validation Tools to Predict Unexpected Behavioral Exaptations in Agent Based Models”

Organization of Complexity Seminars






Development of a Complexity Research Programme at Mondragón (MCC), named as the Mondragón Complexity Node





www.ikerlan.es (MCC: www.mcc.es)


www.mik.es (MCC: www.mcc.es)

Complexity Node (C-Node) Goal: “This C-Node works from an action research approach. Therefore, from the academic towards practical perspective, we study how complexity, system thinking and network theory help us to understand, design and manage the dynamic organizational structures, the intra-inter organizational network relationships and their enabling frameworks. And, on the other hand, the C-Node uses these experiences as case studies, from a practical towards academic perspective, in order to extend these theories due to the feedback from real organizational practices.”

Projects Launched:


TITTLE: Computational Lab for the Design and Development of Complex Supply Networks

FUNDED BY: Spanish R&D National Council

DURATION: 2004-2007

PARTNERS: CIGIP-UPV, IKERLAN, London School of Economics, Universidad de Barcelona, IIIA-CSIC

(In process of evaluation…)

TITTLE: Innovative co-evolutionary framework for SMEs to facilitate continuous restructuring

FUNDED BY: European Social Fund - Call VP/2003/021: Innovative Approaches to the Management of Change

DURATION: 2005-2007

PARTNERS: AiZabala, MIK, IKERLAN, London School of Economics, ESTIA, Chambers of Commerce (SP: Navarra, Cantabria, Alava. FR: Baione. Czech Republic)

Ruben Bauer

D.Sc. (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, 2005)

Nationality: Brazilian

Date of birth: 24 July 1962

Contribution to the project: Paper “Organizations, Knowledge, Complexity” (submitted for publication). Authors: BAUER, Ruben, VALLE, Rogerio, MITLETON-KELLY, Eve. Abstract: In a recursive progression, this article pursues three themes: the ways in which external and internal complexities are addressed in organizations; the different kinds of knowledge and their relevance to organizations; and the validity of applying, in organizations, concepts originating in what is called complexity theory. It then outlines how to go beyond traditional organization theories, which are directed to resolving or reducing complexity, on an approach that both welcomes and benefits from it.

Any qualifications gained as a result of the project: The case study of my D.Sc. thesis was one of the ICoSS business partners, thus the project had been a crucial source for my doctorate program.

Subsequent employment: Ministry of Public Administration and Planning, Brazilian Government.

Time spent on project: From April, 1st 2003 to June, 30st 2004)

Contact details:

International Team of Advisors


  • John L. Casti: Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico and IIASA in Vienna. Executive Editor of the Journal “Complexity”. He will advise on modelling and simulation.
  • Chris Clegg: Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield, will advise on organisational psychology and human factors.
  • Raul Espejo: Prof. of Information Systems, Lincoln School of Management. Has been awarded an EPSRC grant for a network on ‘Systems and the Information Society’. The network and ICOSS address complementary issues and will benefit from a strong link.
  • Rachel Harrison: Prof. of Computer Science, University of Reading. Will advise on e-collaboration.
  • Bill McKelvey: Prof. of Strategic Organizing at the Anderson School at UCLA, USA. He will advise on socio-technical systems design and on the application of complexity theory and emergent structure, and computational agent-based adaptive-learning models.
  • Luciano Pietronero: Prof. of Solid State Physics, Department of Physics, University of Rome “La Sapienza” and Director of the INFM Unit, which consists of 200 theoretical and experimental scientists in the area of Condensed Matter. He is a member of the European Network TMR on Fractal Structures and Self-Organisation. He will advise on developments in complex systems in physics and the other natural sciences.
  • Alan Wilson: Geographer and Vice-Chancellor, Leeds University. There are many industrial situations in which mathematical modelling is a critical component of optimal developments. Prof. Wilson has articulated this task in his recent book (‘Complex spatial systems: the modelling foundations of urban and regional analysis’ 2000) and will contribute by helping to connect this toolkit to complexity theory.

Business Advisors:

  • Marcus Speh Birkenkrahe: a physicist and the Knowledge Manager for Shell International, Marcus has been involved with the project for over a year and participated in the ICoSS pilot study in Shell Treasury Operations. He will bring a deep understanding of complexity and its application in business.
  • Arie de Geus: ex-Shell and author of the ‘Living Company’. Formerly Head of Planning at Royal Dutch/Shell and a founder of the Society for Organisational Learning (SOL), is well known for his ability to put over novel concepts to top business and government leaders and will contribute in this capacity.
  • Gerard Fairtlough: founder and ex-CEO of Celltech, and author of ‘Creative Compartments’. Has been working with the LSE Complexity Group to develop the ‘Complexity Game’, which provides experiential learning of some complexity principles. He has long experience of business and of putting research findings to practical use and will contribute by advising on the development of business games, on the application of complexity and on the methodology.
  • Peter Fryer: was Chief Executive of Humberside Training and Enterprise Council (TEC). Peter has based the management, leadership and organisational principles of the TEC on the application of complexity. He will lead the project’s initiative on disseminating the findings to the Small Business Service, and to the media, particularly TV. The TEC has been a member of the LSE Complexity Programme since its inception and a case study is being written on the development of the TEC as a ‘complex evolving system’.
  • Frances Storr: organisational psychologist with the TEC. She has been a key player in the profound culture change that has been happening at Humberside TEC and in translating complexity theory into practical approaches.

Peter Fryer and Frances Storr will both work with the collaborators to apply the lessons learned at the TEC on the application of the principles of complexity.


Has a preparation stage and 3 phases.

Is using the principles of complexity to offer a new perspective on the creation and sustainability of new organisational forms, able to co-evolve with a changing environment, thus reducing the need for constant restructuring.

Is a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, approaches and tools,

Some have been developed and tested in Complexity Group projects, others are being adapted from existing methods and others are being designed and developed for the project using the ‘logic’ of complexity.

Phase 1 output: Identification, together our Business Partners, of the conditions that will facilitate an enabling environment.

Phase 2: Experimenting with enabling framework.

All partners will be supported by the Research team, Advisors and the other Business Partners.

Monthly telephone conferences and regular meetings will monitor progress and identify any problems.

A second set of interviews will focus on the implications and consequences of experimentation/ implementation.

Phase 3 (in parallel with Phase 2) will document the outputs and focus on dissemination and exploitation.

The teams will be supported throughout the 3-year project by:

  • in-company and inter-organisational meetings
  • workshops
  • Guidance & Advisory Group (GAG)
  • Dissemination & Exploitation Group
  • International team of Advisors


  1. Generic frameworks of social, cultural, technical (as well as political and economic) conditions, which enable the emergence of new organisational forms or new ways of organising.
  2. Company-specific frameworks of enabling infrastructures based on the pilots.
  3. A methodology for identifying and analysing these conditions, to include:
    • characteristics of success, and process and outcome measures
    • criteria of ‘fitness’ for the pilot
  4. A well documented process of experimentation/implementation.
  5. A communications plan for dissemination to the rest of the organisation.
  6. Management handbook, to include 1-5 above and a lexicon of terms.
  7. Diagnostic tools that enable any organisation to identify: a. the appropriateness and relevance of the ICOSS methodology to a given organisational challenge b. the ‘maturity’ or readiness of the different parts of the organisation and its extended enterprise c. where, when and how best to introduce the methodology – criteria for choosing pilots
  8. An Executive Summary of the above
  9. Educational tools including computer simulation models to experiment in a safe (i.e.simulated) environment.
  10. A web-enabled knowledge-base, which could be imported into company intranets, introducing complexity thinking, summarising the research findings, and offering recommendations, implications, diagnostic tests.
  11. Educational and promotional material for dissemination to the wider community
  12. A language, concepts and a way of thinking more in tune with the new economy.


  1. AnIntegratedMethodology.pdf
  2. approachandmethods.pdf
  3. Ch2final.pdf
  4. Co_EvolutionaryIntegration.pdf
  5. ComplexityandInfoSystems.pdf
  6. ConnectivityReportUB.pdf
  7. Contents (revised) single sp.pdf
  8. Designing_NewOrg .pdf
  9. ISProfasaHermit.pdf
  10. ITLegacySystems.pdf
  11. OrganisComplexity.pdf
  12. Self-organisation_as_qualit_DRAFT[1].pdf
  13. ShellTreasurywithMarcusSpeh2.pdf
  14. theorderoftechnology.pdf
  15. World_Futures_article1.pdf


  • Interviewees: 1.5 hours
  • Core team: 5-10 days to attend workshops, presentations, etc. This will depend on individual commitment and time.


To gain some understanding of complexity and its application, partners are invited to attend the Complexity Seminars

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