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Managing In The Modular Age: Architectures, Networks, and Organizations by Richard N. Langlois, Arun Kumaraswamy, Raghu Garud

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INTRODUCTION: MANAGING IN THE MODULAR AGE: ARCHITECTURES, NETWORKS, AND ORGANIZATIONS

Raghu Garud, Arun Kumaraswamy and Richard N. Langlois

The world is full of complex systems. Nature provides an abundance of complex organisms and ecosystems, and humans have constructed complex mechanical, intellectual, organizational and social systems. But what exactly does it mean for a system to be complex? For Herbert Simon (in this volume), a complex system is "one made up of a large number of parts that have many interactions... [i]n such systems the whole is more than the sum of the parts in the weak but important pragmatic sense that, given the properties of the parts and the laws of their interaction, it is not a trivial matter to infer the properties of the whole." Complexity is thus a matter both of the sheer number of distinct parts the system comprises and of the nature of interactions among those parts.

Decomposability Principle

One way to manage complexity is to reduce the number of distinct elements in the system by grouping elements into – and therefore hiding the elements within – a smaller number of subsystems. This is the basic idea of decomposability that Simon offers both as a prescription for human designers and as a description of the systems we find ready-made in nature. To establish the importance of decomposability, Simon offered the parable of the watchmakers. Tempus and Hora both made watches from myriad parts, and both were interrupted frequently in their work. Tempus ...

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