The Third Annual Complexity in Business Conference

October 25th, 2011 by under complexity, General, Smith School. No Comments.

On October 14th, the Smith School of Business’ Center for Complexity in Business hosted the Third Annual Complexity in Business Conference in downtown Washington, DC.

The conference, which was an all-day event, featured presentations on numerous topics, all approaching various ways of applying complexity – that is, complex systems theory – to best business practices. There were too many panels for a single attendee to cover, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • The first keynote speaker, Dr. Felix Reed-Tsochas, discussed some research he had done at Oxford in tracking the growth in popularity of various Facebook applications.
  • Zakaria Babutsidze, Assistant Professor at the SKEMA Business School, detailed his theoretical model of the positive and negative interactions of paid advertising and word-of-mouth reactions on the box office performance of motion pictures.
  • David Earnest, Professor of Political Science at Old Dominion University, presented a simulation that modeled the streamlining process for firms as they increase the efficiency of supply chains. Interestingly enough, the model was based around a biology theorem regarding the effects of genetic interactions on the fitness of an organism.
  • Dilek Gunnec, a Ph.D. candidate here at the Smith School of Business, presented more social network research, and discussed the utility of social networks in developing optimal marketing strategies and increasing market share.
  • Finally, the second keynote speaker was Dr. Uri Wilensky, a professor at Northwestern University and designer of NetLogo, a software package for modeling complex systems. He discussed NetLogo’s potential as a learning tool not only in business environments, but also in the broader sense of making complexity a part of the general educational system. He made some rather compelling arguments for the system’s ability to increase peoples’ overall understanding of complex systems by overcoming what has been, until the advent of such computer modeling software, considered to be the biggest part of the learning curve – namely, advanced mathematics.

Unfortunately, due to a personal conflict, I was unable to attend the breakout sessions later in the afternoon, but I came away from the earlier panels with a new and much more in-depth outlook on how these theoretical models can influence best practices in business. The development of models that can accurately simulate the behavior of potentially chaotic forces, like consumers, has the potential to revolutionize the way we approach market forecasting.

More information about the Smith School’s Center for Complexity in Business can be located at their homepage,, or you can follow them on Twitter at @smithccb.

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