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What is Requisite Variety

Handbook of Research on Socio-Technical Design and Social Networking Systems
The notion that a certain amount of diversity in viewpoints and perspectives is required for groups and organizations to address complex problems as they emerge.
Published in Chapter:
Enabling Remote Participation in Research
Jeremy Birnholtz (Cornell University, USA), Emilee J. Rader (University of Michigan, USA), Daniel B. Horn (Booz Allen Hamilton, USA), and Thomas Finholt (University of Michigan, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-264-0.ch039
This chapter uses the theoretical notion of common ground to explore remote participation in experimental research. On one hand, there is a desire to give remote participants the same views and capabilities that they would have as local participants. On the other, there are settings where experimental specimens and apparatus are large and difficult to effectively manipulate or view from a remote vantage point, and where multiple and diverse perspectives may be useful in decision making. In exploring these issues, the authors draw on two studies of researchers in the earthquake engineering community. The first, an interview study about attitudes toward teleparticipation, suggests that engineers are wary of remote participation because they fear the inability to adequately detect signs of potential failure. The second study, an observational study of researchers conducting an experiment in a centrifuge facility, illustrates that researchers adapt to the available information, and that diverse perspectives and information may be valuable in troubleshooting.
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More Results
Collective Intelligence
The cybernetic principle of requisite variety states that to cope with external perturbations that menace its normal functioning or even integrity, a system must possess an internal variety at least as great as the variety of the perturbations.
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Complex Organizations and Information Systems
Principle proposed by Ashby (1957) suggesting that the internal diversity of any self-regulating system, such as an organization, must match the variety and complexity of its environment if it is to deal with the challenges posed by that environment. Diversity of knowledge and skill can provide a resource for innovation and learning, at all levels of organizational management. If the systems that regulate do not have enough (or requisite) variety to match the complexity of the regulated, then regulation will fail. The system will be out of control. If an organization is complicated or complex, it is likely to have plenty of variety; if it is simple (e.g., purely hierarchical), the variety is usually low and the organization will struggle with the current complex environment.
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