Originally posted 14-Mar-24

Stan Garfield


The late Max Boisot (1943-2011) was a British architect and management consultant who was professor of Strategic Management at the ESADE business school in Barcelona. Max was known for his ideas about the information economy, the Information Space, social capital, and social learning theory.

For more about Max, see Profiles in Knowledge.


Selected ResearchGate Articles and Chapters

  1. Generating knowledge in a connected world: The case of the ATLAS experiment at CERN
  2. Connectivity, Extremes, and Adaptation: A Power-Law Perspective of Organizational Effectiveness — with Bill McKelvey
  3. Working the System: Toward a Theory of Cultural and Institutional Competence — with John Child and Gordon Redding
  4. Complexity Science: A Bridge between Modernist and Postmodernist Perspectives on Organizations? — with Bill McKelvey
  5. Explorations in Information Space: Knowledge, Actors, and Firms — with Ian C MacMillan and Kyeong Han
  6. Codification, Abstraction, and Firm Differences: A Cognitive Information‐based Perspective — with Ian C MacMillan and Kyeong Han
  7. Data, Information, and Knowledge: Have We Got It Right? — with Ian C MacMillan and Kyeong Han
  8. Organizational versus Market Knowledge: From Concrete Embodiment to Abstract Representation — with Ian C MacMillan and Kyeong Han
  9. The spatial dimension of knowledge flows: A simulation approach — with Agustí Canals and Ian C MacMillan
  10. Are There Any Competencies Out There? Identifying and Using Technical Competencies — with Dorothy Griffiths
  11. Speeding up strategic foresight in a dangerous and complex world: A complexity approach — with Bill McKelvey
  12. Evolution of knowledge management strategies in organizational populations: a simulation model — with Agustí Canals and Ian C MacMillan
  13. Knowledge management strategies and spatial structure of geographic industrial clusters: a simulation approach — with Agustí Canals and Ian C MacMillan
  14. Simulating I-Space (SIS): An Agent-based Approach to Modeling Knowledge Flows — with Ian C MacMillan
  15. Sim-I-Space: An Agent-Based Modelling Approach To Knowledge Management Processes — with Ian C MacMillan, Kyeong Han, and Si Hyung Eun
  16. Crossing Epistemological Boundaries: Managerial and Entrepreneurial Approaches to Knowledge Management — with Ian C MacMillan
  17. Exploring the information space: A strategic perspective on information systems
  18. Possession is nine tenths of the law: managing a firm’s knowledge base in a regime of weak appropriability — with Dorothy Griffiths
  19. Strategies for managing knowledge assets: A tale of two companies — with Dorothy Griffiths and Veronica Mole
  20. The Codification and Diffusion of Knowledge in the Transactional Strategy ff Firms

Cynefin Co. Guest Blog Posts

  1. Starbucks and Complexity: As a frequent consumer of its products, I have often pondered the Starbucks phenomenon. A ‘Tall’ tea at Starbucks cost one pound sterling and 45 pence. To get your tall tea, you may have to stand in line for anything between ten and fifteen minutes waiting to be served — often longer at airports.
  2. On the value of irresponsibility: You have a public self and a private self. The public self is what you hold yourself out to be and are willing to take responsibility for; the private self, on the other hand, you may be able to do little about.
  3. Confidence Tricks: Pragmatists like Charles Peirce and William James define knowledge to be beliefs that had cash value — i.e., that you would be willing to act upon. Last week, accountholders in Britain’s fifth largest mortgage lender, Northern Rock, brought to light a perverse way of looking at the Peirce-James definition of knowledge by acting on beliefs that had no-cash value, thus triggering the first bank run in Britain since 1866.
  4. Algorithms: According to an article in The Economist (“Business by numbers”), algorithms have become the instruction manuals for a host of routine consumer transactions. Amazon, for example, uses algorithms to help the company recommend further purchases “in the neighborhood” of your new purchase.
  5. Profiting from neural congestion: Some years back, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London introduced congestion charging for road vehicles wanting to occupy Central London’s road network during working hours. This makes sense since the supply of Central London roads is inherently limited and the demand for central London roads keeps increasing.
  6. The Unprincipled Principle of Least Effort: In 1949 George Zipf, a Harvard linguistics professor, published Human Behavior and the Principle of Least Effort: An Introduction to Human Ecology. What became known as Zipf’s law inversely relates the ‘size’ of an occurrence of an event to its ‘rank’.
  7. Knowledge for its own sake? I have been helping to prepare a workshop that will be held at CERN just outside Geneva. CERN, you will recall, is where the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a particle accelerator that is 27-kilometer in circumference, is being built in order to test for the existence of a tiny and elusive particle.
  8. How Real is the Real Thing? I often drop in at the Gran Sitges Hotel for a drink. The hotel is conveniently located at the foot of the hill on which my house is located. Three days ago, I went into the bar and asked for Diet Coke. I was told that there was none and was offered Diet Pepsi instead.
  9. How to make rows more creative: I often write papers with my friend Bill McKelvey, professor of strategic organizing at UCLA. It works like this. He flies into Barcelona and stays with my wife and me for a few days. He admires the view of the sea from my terrace and we go for frequent walks.
  10. Codifying sheep in your sleep: I have always been interested in the nature of codification, the process in which phenomena are assigned to socially agreed upon categories. Codification is typically presented as a quintessentially soporific activity. Under the tyranny of codification, the habitual insomniac, instead of just counting the sheep jumping over fences to get herself to sleep, is required to classify them as they jump.
  11. What is maturity, anyway? My 19-year-old son tells me that I am immature. At his age, my eldest daughter — now 38 — said the same thing. That was nineteen years ago. I have had nineteen years to mature and now appear to have passed up the opportunity.
  12. When is a queue not a queue? The other day I found myself being reprimanded — ever so nicely — for queue jumping. I was heading for a specialized department in a London hospital. At the entrance to the building five people were standing around in no particular spatial configuration and clearly de-coupled from each other.
  13. On being what I am not: I am a novice blogger. Dave Snowden invited me to blog for a couple of weeks on this website and I decided that I would try it out for fun. However, I feel a bit like a country cousin from Iowa gate crashing a New York fancy dress party.

The I-Space: a framework for analyzing the evolution of social computing with Benita Cox


Advances in the design of computer architectures and networks have led to new ways of representing, creating, manipulating and distributing knowledge. This paper takes a sociotechnical view of computing and considers the impact of computer architectures which are based on connectionist principles and the growth in computer networks on the representation of the learning process and strategies for dealing with complexity. It calls for a new economic view of knowledge and intellectual property rights more appropriate for the analysis of information flows in networks. Finally, the Information Space (I-Space) is presented as a framework for the analysis and evaluation of information flows.

Section snippets

A theory of information flows

The Information Space, or I-Space, is a conceptual model that relates data structuring to data sharing among a population of data processors. It has to date only been applied in situations where data processing agents have been individual human beings or organizations and institutions made up of these.

Institutional mappings

If we equate serial and connectionist architectures with transactional structures, where might we locate them in the I-Space? One feature that distinguishes serial and connectionist processes is the extent to which computational activity is under central control. It can be argued that serial processes require central coordination and are therefore likely to be located to the left along the diffusion dimension of the I-Space. Connectionist processes, by contrast, can be decentralized.

The microelectronic revolution in the I-Space

To be viable, a political economy of information requires an integrated theory of information production and exchange. Serial and connectionist models of computation might plausibly be viewed as alternative accounts of information production and exchange. The I-Space provides a conceptual framework that brings them together in a single unified representation and hence contributes to the kind of theory building that is needed.


What are the implications of the foregoing for the emerging disciplines of knowledge management? Knowledge is not data, nor is it information. It is a dispositional state that is modified by the receipt of information. In the language of neural networks, it is a given node’s predisposition to fire. New information, by modifying connection strengths, modifies that predisposition. Information, however, has to be extracted from data.




Stan Garfield

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/