An interdisciplinary study on novelty regulation to produce radical change

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This PhD thesis is an interdisciplinary investigation of how the creation of novelty can be regulated. Novelty is a general concept describing the evolutionary emergence of things that did not exist before, while integrating more specific ideas like adaptation, exaptation, creativity, invention and innovation. The controlled production of novelty must construct radically new things out of existing constraints, and thus overcome the conservation law that is inherent in most phenomena. A general solution to this paradox is proposed in the form of an abstract novelty model. It shows how novelty can bootstrap itself by means of a network of feedback loops interacting via a central workspace that mediates between system and environment. This abstract model is then mapped onto four more concrete models, showing how novelty emerges in four different domains: individual cognition, evolution of science and technology, strategic management of organizations, and management of socio-technological innovation. A meta-model then shows how these different applications can be mapped onto each other through a grid of conversion patterns. This suggests two methodologies for implementing the new insights: Carbureted Action Research, which proposes a development path for the phase transition that characterizes the emergence of a socio-technological ecosystem; and the Agile-Enterprise Innovation Planning architecture, which makes such radical innovation more manageable by stimulating the spinning-off of supporting ecosystems. To validate these methodologies, concrete applications in three domains are investigated: an experiment with project-based educational systems, a case study of an open-source software development ecosystem, and a design for an "Interversity", i.e. Internet-based university of the future. The resulting observations provide a proof of concept that the proposed novelty theory is applicable in practice.
Date of Award12 Feb 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel
SupervisorFrancis Heylighen (Promotor)

Cite this