Applying an Organizational Uncertainty Principle: Semantic Web-Based Metrics

Applying an Organizational Uncertainty Principle: Semantic Web-Based Metrics

Joseph Wood (LTC, US Army, USA), Hui-Lien Tung (Paine College, USA), Tina Marshall-Bradley (Paine College, USA), Donald A. Sofge (Naval Research Laboratory, USA), James Grayson (Augusta State University, USA), Margo Bergman (Northwest Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D), USA) and W.F. Lawless (Paine College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-650-1.ch024
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The theory of bistable perceptions in the interaction indicates the existence of an uncertainty principle with effects amplified at the organizational level. Traditional theory of the interaction, organizational theory, and the justification for an organizational uncertainty principle are reviewed. The organizational uncertainty principle predicts counterintuitive effects that can be exploited with the Semantic Web to formulate a set of metrics for organizational performance. As a preliminary test of the principle, metrics derived from it are applied to two case studies, both works in progress, with the first as an ongoing large system-wide application of web-based metrics for organizational performance and the second as a case study of a small college where web-based metrics are being considered and constructed. In preparation for the possibility of machine-based real-time metrics afforded by the Semantic Web, the results demonstrate a successful theory and application in the field of an uncertainty principle for organizations.
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Overview. No theory of organizations is widely accepted today (Pfeffer & Fing, 2005). In this chapter, we provide a brief discussion of the problems with traditional organizational theory and, focusing on fundamentals, a classical (quantum) alternative model that accounts for predictions from traditional theory and at the same time its supposedly spurious but ultimately disconfirming findings. With its focus on the individual, traditional theory, also known as methodological individualism, encompasses social learning theory (SLT) and game theory. SLT includes classical or Pavlovian conditioning, operant or Skinnerian reinforcement, and modeling (for a revised version and summary, see Bandura, 1989). In contrast to SLT, game theory focuses on the interaction between two or more individuals (Von Neuman & Morgenstern, 1953), but like SLT, it is static; an attempt to make game theory dynamic employs repeated presentations of static game matrices. But the need for the classical (quantum) alternative is inherently based on the fundamental questions raised by the traditional focus on the individual.

In addition to theory, we review field data and the application of the organizational uncertainty principle in the form of performance metrics to two case studies, one of an ongoing, long-term nature and the other incipient. Both case studies are web-based. We include a review of the future semantic web and its implications for the two case studies. Finally, we discuss future prospects with the semantic web for theory, tests and computational models of the organizational uncertainty principle, and a path forward for the two case studies.

From the perspective of the Semantic web, our objectives are to review traditional social learning and game theory for organizations and the alternative organizational uncertainty principle. Our objective for the organizational uncertainty principle is to justify its formulation based on evidence and to review two case studies that use metrics to exploit the organizational uncertainty principle. Our final objective is to provide a path forward with automatic machine-based data generating real-time online metrics for future research with the semantic web.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group: The Semantic Web includes a Health Care and Life Sciences Interest Group (HCLSIG, 2008) to establish interoperable data standards for “connected knowledge” to improve collaboration across the health care and life sciences. The goal for HCLSIG is to reduce medical errors, increase physician efficiency and advance patient care and satisfaction. It includes document annotation and rule processing (with XML formats, OWL ontologies and SWRL rule processors).

Bistability: Bistability occurs when one data set produces two mutually exclusive interpretations that cannot be held in awareness simultaneously (Cacioppo et al., 1996). Bohr (1955) concluded that multiple interpretations support the existence of different cultures. Further, given the importance of feedback to social dynamics (Lawless et al., 2007), rapid shifts between bistable perceptions increase uncertainty in the non-observed perception which not only underwrites social problems between different groups, but also supports the existence of an uncertainty principle.

Semantic Web: The Semantic Web is an on-going project to extend the World Wide Web (WWW) to permit humans and machines to collaborate efficiently. As envisioned by Berners-Lee (2007), inventor of WWW (and web languages URI, HTTP, and HTML), the future Web should evolve into a universal exchange for data, information and knowledge. Without a universal standard for machine access, HTML data is difficult to use on a large scale. The Semantic Web solves this problem with an efficient global mesh for information access by humans and machines.

Social Learning Theory: SLT is a term coined by Bandura (1977) that includes the three different schools of ideas that accounted for learning by organisms, but with a primary focus on humans. These three schools were classical conditioning (Pavlovian associations), operant conditioning (Skinnerian rewards and punishments), and modeling, Bandura’s own school of thought.

Organizational Uncertainty Principle: The organizational uncertainty principle acts as a tradeoff in attention directed at reducing the uncertainty in one factor, such as a worldview, with the result that the uncertainty in a second interdependent factor is increased inversely. It is based on Bohr’s (1955) famous notion that the uncertainty principle at the atomic level applied to social situations is captured by human action and observation. That is, the more focused individuals are on acting out a series of steps, the less observant they become of their action. Applied to societies, action-observation uncertainty couples that open the path to multiple interpretations of the same social behavior lie at the root of different cultures.

Organizations: Organizations are social collectives performing a function that often cannot be done by an individual alone. Organizations do this by assigning interdependent roles to individuals, which requires coordinating the output of individuals, but also amplifies the capabilities of the individual working alone (Ambrose, 2001).

Game Theory: Game theory was invented in the 1940’s by Von Neuman & Morgenstern (1953). It is a one-shot game, or repeated games, played by 2 or more agents. In its most basic form, the game configuration presents two choices for payoffs to each player. Payoffs are interdependent. The values in the configuration of choices offered to participants are arbitrary and normative.

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