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Table 1 Distinctive properties of complex systems (adapted from references [9, 10, 14])

From: Understanding contexts: how explanatory theories can help

Property Descriptor
Prominent properties
 Self-organization The coming together of individual agents in the absence of central control to form new organizational programs and structures
 Non-linear behaviors Large inputs result in small changes in output and vice versa
 Co-evolution Organizational behaviors change in response to environmental changes
 Emergent properties Qualitatively new phenomena, including structures, capabilities, and behaviors, that arise unpredictably from the interaction of independent agents
Subtle properties
 Boundaries Internal and external boundaries between domains and decision-making levels are often “fuzzy”
 Rules Many actions are guided in practice by internalized rules that are informal and not consciously recognized
 Subsystems Small subsystems are commonly embedded within larger, more complex systems
 Tensions Internal tensions among agents and groups are inherent, i.e., they cannot be eliminated but can be managed