Phenomenological turbulence and innovation in knowledge systems

Greg Hearn*, David Rooney, Thomas Mandeville

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Most considerations of knowledge management focus on corporations and, until recently, considered knowledge to be objective, stable, and asocial. In this paper we wish to move the focus away from corporations, and examine knowledge and national innovation systems. We argue that the knowledge systems in which innovation takes place are phenomenologically turbulent, a state not made explicit in the change, innovation and socio-economic studies of knowledge literature, and that this omission poses a serious limitation to the successful analysis of innovation and knowledge systems. To address this lack we suggest that three evolutionary processes must be considered: self-referencing, self-transformation and self-organisation. These processes, acting simultaneously, enable system cohesion, radical innovation and adaptation. More specifically, we argue that in knowledge-based economies the high levels of phenomenological turbulence drives these processes. Finally, we spell out important policy principles that derive from these processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-246
Number of pages16
JournalPrometheus (United Kingdom)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2003
Externally publishedYes


  • Complexity theory
  • Knowledge management
  • Knowledge systems
  • Public policy
  • Self-organisation
  • Self-referencing
  • Self-transformation


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