Our most pressing societal problems such as enhancing health care, developing alternate energy, revitalizing cities, and advancing the economy are complex innovation systems. Leveraging the enormous potential of sciences and technologies into better resolutions for these complex challenges requires a transformation in the social technologies we use to tap this potential.
The thesis of this book is that we can grapple with complex innovation systems only by taking advantage of emergence. This book creates a theoretical framework of three new social technologies for taking advantage of emergence in infrastructures of complex innovation systems. The central social technology is abduction, the logic of discovery, for figuring out solutions to complex problems. Abductive reasoning differs significantly from deductive confirmation and simple rationality. The book
details three abductive learning routines that enable innovators to grab up noisy and fragmented information, synthesize it into hypothesized configurations that capture the inherent ambiguity, evaluate these configurations by exploring consequences and contingencies, and reframe to accumulate the
learning. The second social technology divides the infrastructure into four distinct but entangled subsystems of interpersonal action: the project, knowledge system, strategic, and institutional subsystems. Each subsystem is a vast multi-organizational network that must address its distinct problem if the infrastructure overall is to productively innovate. The author shows how cycling through abductive learning routines overcomes problems in each subsystem that conventional approaches cannot
deal with. The third social technology is a new way of organizing based on heterarchy, not hierarchy, with roles and relations defined through heedful interrelating.