Open Journal of Political Science
2012. Vol.2, No.3, 27-31
Published Online October 2012 in SciRes (
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 27
An Ecosystem (ECO) Approach on Wisdom Societies and
Sociotechnical Systems
Antonio José Balloni1, Adalberto Mantovani Martiniano de Azevedo2,
Marco Antonio Silveira1
1Center for Information Technology Renat o A rcher (CTI), Campin a s , B razil
2Federal University o f A B C , Santo André, Brazi l
Received May 29th, 2012; revised July 10th, 2012; acce pt e d A u gu s t 1 3th, 2012
This paper explores the challenges and expresses some reflections on information and Knowledge/Wise
(KW) societies and Socio-technical Systems (SS) based on an Organizational Ecosystems (ECOs) ap-
proach. It considers the SS constituting KW societies as a set of heterogeneous and interactive actors and
presents considerations on the challenges faced by an organizational Ecosystem (ECO), challenges that
require organizations actions towards treatment of organizations as living beings inserted in ECOs, aim-
ing to leverage organizational synergism and collaborative efforts; information partnership and collabora-
tive relationships between ECOs members; a more fairly shared leadership, empowering bottom up proc-
esses on organizational ECOs decision making. It is presented a brief case regarding Brazil’s Public Re-
search and Development arrangement “National Institute of Science and Technology in Micro and Na-
no-electonic Systems” (NAMITEC), relating this initiative advances and problems in terms of multi-or-
ganizational cooperation and transference of technological knowledge to the productive sector and to so-
Keywords: Information Society; Knowledge Society; Wisdom Society; Socio-Technical Systems;
Organizational Ecosystems; Public Research; Development Arrangements
Introduction: From the Information and
Knowledge/Wisdom Societies to Socio-Technical
In the 21 century, Information and Communication Tech-
nologies (ICTs) are redefining businesses concepts and opera-
tions. Customer service, integration of business operations, and
strategies of product development, marketing and distribution
depend totally on ICT: thus, ICT and its costs are increasingly
making integral part of enterprise day-by-day and becoming
critical for its success. However, many enterprises still believe
that just the act of computerizing by spreading computers and
printers throughout departmental units, connecting them in a
network and installing applications systems, can fulfill the ex-
pected benefits: ICT technology without planning, management
and effective action from knowledge/wisdom workers and,
above all, without considering the Socio-technical Systems (SS)
which are inserted in an organizational ECO composed by mul-
tiple and heterogeneous actors, does not bring any meaningful
and sustainable contribution to the enterprise’s success (Balloni,
The information wave which follows the agricultural wave
and industrial wave in the 21st century triggers the rise of an
information society, in which the creation, distribution, diffu-
sion, use, integration and manipulation of information is the
more significant economic, political, and cultural activity. This
idea, society centered on information, is closely related to con-
cepts such as: post-industrial society, post-fordism, post-mod-
ern society, knowledge society, tele-matic society, information
revolution and network society.
The Knowledge Society (KS) is one in which knowledge
becomes a major creative force. Economic, social, cultural, and
all other human activities become dependent on a huge volume
of information and knowledge. The knowledge societies are not
a new occurrence: fishermen have long time ago shared the
intuitive knowledge of predicting the weather for their commu-
nity and his knowledge belonged as the social capital of that
community. The difference, today, is the huge amount of in-
formation regarding the needs of an organizational ECO ap-
proach: the creation of wealth through knowledge-driven un-
derstanding of economic activities.
With ICT technologies, ECO knowledge societies are not
constrained by geographic proximity, becoming de facto a net-
work connected by the Internet (Sörlin and Vessuri, 2007). This
phenomenon has been triggered by a combination of growth on
internet/data storage capacity and decline in its operational
costs (Willinger and Doyle, 2002; Chang, n.d.).
The Wisdom Society is a society whose citizens are able to
make good judgment and choices, based on the information
available. The ICT systems process cognitive units such as data,
information, concepts, knowledge, and wisdom, which support
human decision-making in societal activities (Targowski, 2003;
Targowski, 2011).
Technical, Socio-Technical and Organizational
Systems and Ecosystems
As it is widely known, the implementation of a new tech-
nology has been associated with problems often linked to resis-
tance by the work force and failure to achieve the expected
benefits (Balloni and Targowski, 2010). Tavistock Institute
researchers indicate these problems occur due to the need to fit
the technical system (such as an information system: software,
hardware, databases and telecommunications) and the social
system (peoples and procedures), which together made up an
organization (Business Strategies, Rules and Processes), that
influence and are influenced by a technical system of an infor-
mation system (Akbari and Land, s.d.; Warne and Hart, 1996;
Bostrom and Heinen, 1977).
The SCOT (Social Construction of Technology) approach
(Pinch e Bijker, 1989) shows that the construction (selection
and diffusion) of a socially accepted technological artifact is a
social phenomenon, which depends on negotiations between
stakeholders. This dependency & negotiations shapes the tech-
nology variation and the selection processes. Eventually this
leads to a consensual solution and to the customized adoption
of a technology to actors’ knowledge and interests.
The concepts of technological frame and inclusion by Bijker
(1989) allow a deeper understanding of the SCOT approach. A
technological frame consists in concepts and techniques used
by a stakeholders’ community aiming to solve specific prob-
lems, and contain the “rules of the game” for problem solving:
the definition of the problem, resolution methods and solutions
with satisfactory (acceptable) qualification. Thus, the techno-
logical frame is a combination of theories, tacit knowledge,
engineering practices, test and consumption behavior.
The concept of large technological systems by Hughes (1989)
defines social, political, economical and technical elements
involved in the development and diffusion of technologies.
Such systems are built by actors interested in advantages (mo-
netary, spiritual, scientific, etc.) arising from the system devel-
opment. These system builders set up complex technological
systems which, while socially constructed, influence the format
of society as its builders attempt to eliminate problems and
uncertainties which could be bad for the system. Therefore, the
technological system depends on its adaptation to the envi-
ronment and on the intentional creation of favorable conditions.
The system builder solves problems by actions in the social,
political and technical sphere s, trying to eliminate reverse salients,
(as the author refers to them), that are system components not
fitted to its expansion, such as technical problems and institu-
tional barriers.
An organizational system will be able to maximize perfor-
mance if the interdependency of these systems are explicitly
recognized and designed for their sustainability leading to a
balanced organizational ECO for a better economic perform-
ance of the organization.
Organizations performances are frequently the results of
combined actions performed by several independent organiza-
tions, as in the case of collaborative arrangements for Research
and Development. In such networked societies, the sociotech-
nical approach can be extended from the individual organiza-
tion to the collection of organizations dependent on each other,
defined here as an organizational ECO.
The approach of organizational ECOs (Kay, Regier, Boyle
and Francis, 1999; Iansiti and Levien, 2004; Balloni, Resende
and Targowski, 2012; Azevedo, Bueno, Balloni and Silveira,
2011) considers businesses networks as similar to biological
ECOs, characterized by a large number of loosely and interde-
pendent interconnected participants. The components of a bu-
siness network share their fate with each other. If the ECO is
healthy, individual species thrive (Iansiti and Levien, 2004).
By managing its organizational ECO, an organization is able
to acquire external competences and resources of other organi-
zations (been it data, information, concepts, knowledge or wis-
dom). This is especially important in cases where organizations
aim to reach costly and complex objectives, which require the
conjointly work of several organizations with different compe-
tences and resources, such as the research and development
arrangement described in Section 3. A brief view of what has
been called by (Balloni, Resende and Targowski, 2012) as “the
characteristics of the participatory organizational ECO” can be
used as a guide for balanced organizations that aim to benefit
from its ECO’s resources: 1) Open and lateral dissemination of
know-how; 2) Freedom to voice contrary opinions; 3) Frequent
face-to-face interaction; 4) Making tacit knowledge explicit; 5)
Formal and informal organizational support mechanisms to ma-
nage the organizational ECO (Balloni, Resende and Targow-
ski, 2012).
If we go back 150 years in history we shall see that compete-
tive advantage was marked by the ownership of capital and
assets such as natural resources. Today, the more important
assets are those related to knowledge (Balloni, Bermejo, Holm
and Tonelli, 2012). From the mid 1990s on, the investment in
access to new ICT technologies evolved into a non-impeditive
factor in face of the vertiginous decrease on their prices. Today,
a great movement in the Industrial Revolution is towards ap-
preciation of the intellectual assets, treating key specialists of
an organization as a great competitive differential (Guevara and
Dib, 2000; Mutka et al., 2009).
According to the Organizational ECOs approach (Kay, Re-
gier, Boyle and Francis, 1999), complex systems are not ex-
plainable by linear relations of causality. These complex ECOs
are considered Self-Organizing Holarchic Open Systems (SOHO),
characterized by permanent interaction between their compo-
nents, flexible hierarchies, constant reconfiguration of one or-
ganizational state to the other and the promotion of constant
and adaptative learning.
The organiza tions are composed of complex orga nisms (people)
who need to be understood through the knowledge of nature of
their relations and within a determined context. It is the treat-
ment of the organization as a living being, through a systemic
view (think globally but act locally), which will enable the
emergence of phenomena that shall enable the whole to be
more than the sum of the parts of such being/organism (Balloni,
2010; Balloni and Targowski, 2010).
There is an opinion that organizations, known as relations’
networks, cannot be reduced and “systematized”. Also, the
focus on people is not enough, since it is necessary to connect
and contextualize them in the organization’s cause. So, con-
necting and contextualizing people in the organization’s cause
may lead to a concept of the differential. To achieve this stage
of organizational understanding, one must address the knowl-
edge of the dynamics of the system as whole (Balloni, Bermejo,
Holm and Tonelli, 2012). To achieve this stage of organiza-
tional understanding, one must address the knowledge of the
dynamics of the system as whole: a Balanced Organizational
For countries in development, such as Brazil, to transform
their condition, it is necessary, NOW, to advance their R&D
and local Collaborative ECO research efforts (Balloni and Tar-
gowski, 2010). This R&D and local collaborative ECO research
efforts must consider the principle of the Systemic View
(thinking globally but acting locally), and it may be accom-
plished by the integration among one of these interdependent
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
subjects: ecology, biology, communication, organizations, eco-
nomy, education, communities, technology, culture and the
human being (social-technical systems)—a balanced ECO ap-
Concerning Brazil (2010), inserted in the world-wide context,
the wide scale changes occurring in the environment business
has compelled the enterprises to radically modify their organ-
izational structures and productive processes—a redesign of an
old ecosystem. The main factors of these changes are the prod-
ucts’ globalization, the wide scale of electronic processes use,
the nature of the job (shifting from industry to the services sec-
tor) and the role of emergent markets as China, India and Brazil.
Therefore, for the Brazilian enterprise, now and in the future, to
maintain a sustainable position in the world-wide market, it is
vital apply the approaches proposed here, using resources of
Research and Development initiatives, such as the arrangement
described in Section 3.
But, a question remains to be answered: “will management of
IT, and the emergency of global partnerships, allow Brazilian
enterprises to compete more effectively in the global market-
place, or will they be undermined by greater global compete-
tion in their ‘home territory’?” Here it is important to remember
what Winston Churchill said (Balloni, 2010): “We shape our
buildings; thereafter they shape us.” Therefore, the collabora-
tive work space and socio-technical environment of tomorrow
are being shaped today in our own country! Finally, it is im-
portant to draw the attention to new ways of organizations aris-
ing in the past few years and which provoked a reorganization
of the social sectors. An important class of such new organiza-
tions is the so called Learning Community, promoting Educa-
tion and the Social Asset with the development of individual
qualities at people networks, dynamized by the electronic net-
works, leading possibly to new ways of acquaintance and rela-
tionship. Therefore, we must consider all technological possi-
bilities available to us in Brazil, but we do not have to invent
the wheel, but, rather to improve bearing.
Yet, according to Balloni (Balloni, Azevedo and Silveira,
2012), in this globalized world modern organizations need to
understand that governance is, and always has been, the tonic of
the management: there is an increasing importance of organiza-
tional ecosystems!
So, based on these lines above, this is why we pointed to
Namitec case, described in th e next section.
The INCT/NAMITEC Initiative
Networked organizations are critical in high technologies
sectors such as microelectronics. Saxenian (1990) explains the
resumption of competitiveness of Silicon Valley companies in
the 1980’ s not by isolated co mpanies’ actions, neither by Govern -
ment promotion. The author considers that the revival has been
promoted by collaborative networks between specialized produ-
cers and a collective learning process.
In Brazil, the microelectronic industry is still an incipient one,
reflected on its deficit trade balance: in 2009, the country has
imported an amount equivalent to $3.2 billions in semicon-
ductor components; in the same year the exports reached only
$57 million (Swart, 2010). This has created a macroeconomic
problem. As an example, the total of microelectronics compo-
nents imports in 2009 represented 9% of Brazil’s commercial
deficit in that year (Bampi, 2009). Due to the ubiquitous char-
acter of microelectronics components (that are increasingly
present in every product and service of modern life), the natural
tendency of this deficit is to increase, unless Brazil develops an
indigenous microelectronics industry.
This fragility, in addition to the microelectronic industry’s
strategic and economic relevance, guarantied its inclusion in the
public politics agenda. These policies are directed towards the
formation of human resources, creation of integrated circuit
project companies, such as CEITEC1, and setting up the regu-
latory mark.
The National Institute of Science Technology in Micro and
Nanoelectonic Systems (INCT/NAMITEC), created in 2008, is
a publicly funded initiative that aims to develop a network of ap-
plied research in the field of microelectronics in Brazil (Azevedo,
Bueno, Balloni and Silveira, 2011). NAMITEC counts on educa-
tional and research institutes in the fields of physics, chemistry,
computer science and electric/electronic engineering (137 resear-
chers of 27 departments in 23 institutions in 13 Brazilian states).
NAMITEC is managed by eight coordination areas, being five
“hard” technological ones and three administrative.
One of NAMITE’s administrative instances, the coordination
for Knowledge Transfer to the Productive Sector, aims to de-
velop strategies and actions aiming to enhance the transfers of
technologies developed within NAMITEC activities, including
direct contact with the companies and arrangement of meetings
with business associations. Cooperation arrangements have
been firmed with twenty eight public and private companies on
the microelectronics business. However, the results of these
cooperations are unclear, and most of NAMITECS researchers
do not collaborate with any productive sector institution.
The interactions with the companies may be considered pe-
ripheral, since these are not institutions that directly and for-
mally integrate the NAMITEC network. Despite the fact that the
five technical areas of INCT/NAMITEC are integrated logic ally in
a productive chain (from raw materials to final products), each
institution develops interactions with the companies in an isolated
manner (Azevedo, Bueno, Balloni and Silveira, 2011).
These characteristics indicate that in NAMITEC, the network
emphasis is posed on the scientific pole (production of knowl-
edge) and the technological pole (application of knowledge). It
lacks, however, an active participation of the market pole, in-
cluding the companies and users that materialize the innovation.
In order for NAMITEC to promote innovative activities, it is
necessary that the private companies assume a bigger role in
this network. Furthermore, joint and coordinated action by the
Government and the Education and Research Institutions are
required so that the several organizations that are a part of the
1CEITEC is a Brazilian company focused on the development and pro-
duction of application-specific standard products (ASSPs) for the RFID,
wireless communications a nd digital multimedia market segments.
According to the Brazilian (Jornal da Ciência, 2011), the CEITEC Pro-
ect started in 2001 and was inaugurated in 2010. It has not yet contributed
in a significant way to solve the Brazilian external dependence in microelec-
tronics. Neither the policies designed for attracting foreign investments in a
chip factory has attenuated this macroeconomic problem (Swart, 2010; Aze-
vedo, Bueno, Balloni and Silvei ra, 2011).
Yet, in according to the Brazilian (2011) CEITEC should start producing
Integrated Circuits (IC) by 2012, and that prediction has been confirmed by
JC (Jornal da Ciencia, 2012): the RFID Chip used for tracking cattle has
orn. The CEITEC company’s design center, located in Porto Alegre, will
develop chips that perform a strategic role in Brazil’s microelectronics
industry. The company’s adjoining factory, now in the final stages of as-
sembly and certification, is the first and only facility of its kind in Latin
America to produce chips. CEITEC S.A. has a mission to place Brazil
among the world leaders in advanced microelectronics (CIETEC NEWS,
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 29
Brazilian microelectronic sector’s organizational ECO2 acquire
a beneficent convergence to the generation of useful innova-
tions for the society as a whole. In order to help to overcome
the difficulties of creating a microelectronic ECO in Brazil,
NAMITEC’s Coordination for Knowledge Transfer to the Pro-
ductive Sector established a set of objectives, which unfold into
macro-functions with the goal of beaconing management ac-
tivities of technologic transfer in the NAMITEC network. In
essence, these macro functions have as a final purpose to act on
the ECO that the public and private institutions of NAMITEC
are inserted, creating attractors to stimulate cooperation.
With these efforts, the goal is to induce the diverse actors in
the ECO to develop collective and interactive learning in order
to circulate the knowledge that has the potential of generating
technologic innovations that strengthen the Brazilian micro-
electronic industry. The organizational ECOs concept adopted
does not consider the technologic transfer activity a unilateral
relation, in which knowledge flows from the Educational and
Research Institution to the productive sector. Change to a de-
sirable state depends on collective learning processes, high-
lighting the continuous organizational learning of all the com-
ponents of the ECO: Network managers, researchers, demand-
ing companies of NAMITEC’s technologies and government
Perspectives & Conclusion
The ideas presented in this paper consider that our world is
fundamentally a socio-technical world, characterized by human
and technological interactions, mediated by human organiza-
tions as that behave as organizational ECOs where interactions
drastically affect people relationships in space and time.
Therefore, if we consider that the core knowledge is embo-
died in people’s heads (tacit knowledge end their abilities to
utilize them generate new knowledge, we cannot speak about
knowledge/wise society without taking into account these in-
The interaction and alignment between the diverse compo-
nents of SS suggests that we should consider these systems as
organizational ECOs, complex systems composed by hetero-
geneous and self-organizing actors, where adaptive learning
allow them to deal with constant change. This represents a
change from an “anticipatory” management scheme to an “ada-
ptive” and “participatory” management scheme, with open and
lateral dissemination of know-how, communication mechanisms
and face to face interactions.
However, management opposition persists, because even
tough SS and organizational ECOs by nature enables collabora-
tive decision-making and shared leadership, management top-
down oriented has been reluctant to give up power and author-
The central corner stone of a technocratic bureaucracy is that
decision-making is top-down and implementation is bottom up.
Amazingly, many postmodern organizational leaders still be-
lieve information is best kept in the minds of senior manage-
ment who have been trained how to use it, make decisions, and
implement policy. In this mechanistic model, managers pretend
to know and employees pretend to cooperate.
Even though the idea of inter-organizational arrangements is
not a new one3, we consider that an ecosystems view of or-
ganizations formed by multiple stakeholders can innovatively
contribute not only to theoretical and academic discussions. It
also can provide practical management practices, as proposed
in a quite comprehensive way by (Kay, Regier, Boyle and Fran-
cis, 1999). In this sense, this paper relates the experience by the
authors of implementing ecosystemic practices in a real in-
ter-organizati onal arrangement, the INCT-NAMITEC.
Considering the ecosystemic approach two weaknesses can
be pointed out in NAMITEC’S network described in Section 3:
firstly, the lack of open and lateral dissemination of know-how,
due to the poor communication mechanisms between research-
ers and interested companies. Secondly, face to face interaction
is not as frequent as it should be: NAMITEC’s researchers only
discuss collectively network issues in Namitec workshops that
occur twice a year. It is worth to mention that private companies do
not attend or are invited to these workshops.
Thanks for Professor Dr. Andrew S. Targowski from Western
Michigan Universit, Department of Business Information Sys-
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