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Organizations as Universal Computing Machines: Rule systems, computational equivalence, and organizational complexity
Volume: 10, Issue 1
Organizations can be—and, have been—modeled as rule-based systems. On a reductive view, the resulting models depict organizations as cellular automata (CA) that carry out computations whose inputs are the initial and boundary conditions of a lattice of elements co-evolving according to deterministic interaction rules and whose outputs are the final states of the CA lattice. We use such models to refine the notion of the complexity of an organizational phenomenon and entertain the notion of an organization as a universal computer that can support a wide variety of CA to suggest ways in which CA-derived insights can inform organizational analysis. We examine the informational and computational properties of CA rules and the implications of the trade-off between their informational and computational complexity to the problem of ‘organizational design’ and show how the discovery of operational rules could proceed in the context of an empirical framework.