Structured chaos - Innovation or confusion?

Anniina Iida Maaria Heikkilä

Studenteropgave: Basisprojekt


This internship project studied the challenges that Alterna as a complex, adaptive social
enterprise encounters in developing country context, when trying to foster innovation
through a chaotic, experimental and flexible organizational structure. The Complexity
Leadership Theory (CLT) was applied as a conceptual framework to allow comparison and
critique. Social constructionism was chosen as the philosophy of science to frame the study
to focus on different socially constructed realities.
It was found that the used organizational structure is deeply tied in the internal and external
environment of the organization: its’ pace of change, degree of interactions with the
external environment, complex structure, and need to innovate. Social enterprises were
found to often fit in this category, also in the case of Alterna. The main motivation to take
responsibility and leadership roles in Alterna was found to be the strong relation to the
mission of the organization, which could be argued to be a specific characteristic of social
Contradicting understandings of the terms ‘innovation’ and ‘chaos’ were found. Innovation
was found to be either related to a product, process or business model. Overall the
efficiency of Alterna to produce innovative outcomes through its ‘chaotic’ structure could
be questioned. The ‘chaos’ was experienced especially troubling by the fellows and interns,
which was not necessarily understood by the top-management.
Most challenges were related to communication problems. Consequences were lack of big
picture, lack of understanding of mission and objectives, doing work twice, low efficiency,
misunderstandings and delivering outcomes that were not what was expected. These
challenges could be rooted to some of the enabling functions of complex adaptive systems,
such as giving autonomy and trying to avoid management interference to problem-solving.
Standardization and structuring of procedures were suggested several times as possible
directions of development.
As a result of significant variance in perceived realities, the project suggests to study the
challenges from different perspectives. The project found important critique to CLT as an
enabler of innovation and creativity, taking into account the challenges that adopting an
adaptive, chaotic and complex structure implies. It drew a connection to the specific
leadership qualities necessary to be able to successfully lead a complex organization.

UddannelserSocialt Entreprenørskab og Management, (Bachelor/kandidatuddannelse) Kandidat
Udgivelsesdato20 dec. 2016
VejledereRoger Spears