The Tangled Nature Model for organizational ecology

Rudy Arthur, Arwen Nicholson, Paolo Sibani, Michael Christensen

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The Tangled Nature Model—a biologically inspired model of evolutionary ecology—is described, simulated, and analyzed to show its applicability in organization science and organizational ecology. It serves as a conceptual framework for understanding the dynamics in populations of organizations. A salient dynamical feature of this model is the spontaneous generation of a symbiotic group of core organizations. This core, consisting of several dominating species, introduces a mesoscopic level between that of the individual and the whole system. Despite prolonged periods of stability, this core is disrupted at random by parasitic interactions causing sudden core rearrangements. The size distribution of the core organizations is log-normal as predicted by theory and supported by empirical findings. As a simple application of the model, we study the adaptation of organizations to changes in resource availability in terms of population size, population diversity, and ecological efficiency. We find evidence that a temporary reduction in resources forces a consolidation resulting in a sustained increase in overall efficiency, suggesting that such reductions can be applied strategically to drive incremental improvements.

Original languageEnglish
JournalComputational & Mathematical Organization Theory
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)1-31
Publication statusPublished - 1. Mar 2017


  • Co-evolution
  • Multi-level modeling
  • Organizational adaptation
  • Organizational ecology


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