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A Complex Adaptive System Approach on Logistics - Implications of adopting a complexity perspective

by Nilsson, Fredrik

Abstract (Summary)
The quest of developing the logistics discipline, with a more theoretical foundation, is something several authors have emphasized and called for. Today one could argue that most of the research on logistics has a strong connection to the positivistic paradigm where there is a great emphasis on prediction, rationality and control in the solutions produced. In order to challenge the common assumptions and develop the logistics discipline, the process of knowledge creation i.e. the epistemological considerations, are central. Since a paradigm consists of metatheoretical assumptions i.e. ontology and epistemology, the paradigmatic question is the key in order to change the frame of reference of the logistics discipline. The overall purpose of this licentiate thesis is to propose a paradigmatic view and a pragmatic approach based on the science of complexity that contribute to the further development of the logistics discipline. Two main methods have been used; one focusing on my main research method, which is my study of literature related to the field, and the other on the empirically oriented case studies that have been conducted The paradigmatic view proposed in this thesis is based on insights gained from the science of complexity. Assumptions made concerning how to approach and transfer knowledge attained from our perceived reality, drive the choices of methods when conducting research and have, of course, great influence on the results obtained and presented from any research process. Adopting a complexity perspective means taking a step away from the common positivistic influenced view, which dominates the logistics discipline, and approaching the phenomena of interest with a different set of assumptions and prerequisites in the research process. This set of assumptions is in line with the complex adaptive system (CAS) platform developed in the thesis. The CAS platform is the foundation for the proposed pragmatic approach. The first properties of the proposed platform i.e. the CAS feature covering internal properties, are of central importance in order to grasp fully the complexity of a studied system and to understand where it is derived from. The proposed pragmatic approach means vi taking into consideration the smallest elements of, and agents relevant to, the study being conducted. From this internal approach the mindset of the researcher or practitioner is of great importance in the event of what such an approach might reveal about the problem being studied. In order to capture emergent phenomena and identify self-organization on different levels of description, we need a perception of the context as being “gray”; that is not considering the context as something which is static or stable, nor as something totally disoriented and uncontrollable. The metaphorical description of a fitness landscape where coevolution and continuous changes caused by the actions performed by agents inside and outside the perceived system under study, could be beneficial in the research process. This is the case since too many reductions of various factors could result in “far-from-reality” based solutions. The fundamental aspects of the pragmatic approach are a bottom-up perspective, where the smallest elements relevant to a certain logistics problem are considered, the system built up from this and, of course, an alignment with the paradigmatic view based on the science of complexity.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:

School:Lunds universitet

School Location:Sweden

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:TECHNOLOGY; logistics; logistics systems; paradigm; epistemology; complex adaptive systems; complexity theory

ISBN:91-974611-7-2

Date of Publication:01/01/2003

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