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Term Definition
Complex adaptive systems

CAS are special cases of complex systems which have the ability to ‘learn’ and change based on experience. Classic examples of CAS are as diverse as the stock market, the brain, or the immune system. Lately CAS approaches have been applied to social organizations and communities (Fuller & Morgan, 2000; McMillan, 2004; Stacey, 1996). Another property of adaptive systems is that they have many levels of organization. They have elements or agents which are seen as building blocks. What Holland means by that is that agents on one level become the elements of an agent on a higher level. For example an individual might group with others to build a project team or department etc. Adaptive systems are also constantly reconsidering and reorganizing themselves as they gain experience. “Succeeding generations of organisms will modify and rearrange their tissues throughout the process of evolution. The brain will continually strengthen or weaken myriad connections between its neurons as an individual learns from his or her encounters with the world. […] At some deep fundamental level, […] all these processes of learning, evolution, and adaptation are the same. And one of the fundamental mechanisms of adaptation in any given system is this revision and re-combination of building blocks(Waldrop, 1994, p. 146). (see Annex C for more detailed info)

Complex systemAllen defined a complex system as ‘any system that has within itself a capacity to respond to its environment in more than one way. This essentially means that it is not a mechanical system with a single trajectory, but has some internal possibilities of choice or response that it can bring into play’ (Allen, 2001, p. 150). Another characteristic of the system term used in this research is expressed by Watzlawick: “each part of a system […] is connected to all other parts, in such a manner that a change  in one entity causes a change in all entities and therewith of the whole system” (Watzlawick, Beavin, & Jackson, 2000, p. 119). (see Annex C for more detailed info)

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