The Tangled Nature Model for organizational ecology

  • Rudy Arthur
  • Arwen Nicholson
  • Paolo Sibani
  • Michael Christensen


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.


Organizational ecology Co-evolution Multi-level modeling Organizational adaptation 



Rudy Arthur is supported by CP3-Origins which is partially funded by the Danish National Research Foundation, grant number DNRF90. Michael Christensen acknowledges support from the COPE grant provided by the Danish Council for Independent Research, Social Science (FSE). The authors would like to thank Oliver Baumann, for the invitation to talk at the Theoretical Organization Models conference in Odense which inspired R. Arthur to start thinking about this model. We would like to thank Guido Fioretti for interesting and helpful discussions and references, and Olav Sorenson for constructive feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript. Finally, we appreciate the feedback and guidance we have received from the editor and the 3 anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rudy Arthur
    • 1
  • Arwen Nicholson
    • 2
  • Paolo Sibani
    • 2
  • Michael Christensen
    • 3
  1. 1.CP3-Origins and the Danish Institute for Advanced StudyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Physics, Chemistry and PharmacyUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark
  3. 3.Strategic Organization Design, Department of Marketing and ManagementUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

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