Developing smart and safe organizations: An evolutionary approach

Nadezhda Gotcheva, Germaine Watts, Pia Oedewald

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Purpose: This paper proposes an evolutionary approach to developing smart and safe organizations based on an alignment of two frameworks, an integrated safety culture model and an intelligent organizational systems model. It argues that diversity of propensities, defined as innate tendencies in individuals or groups to behave in particular ways shapes the potential for growth and evolution of organizations. It highlights the critical role of human systems and leadership in maintaining coherence and dealing with the challenges of increased complexity as organizations evolve.

    Design/methodology/approach: The paper aligns the Intelligent Organizational Systems (IOS) evolutionary model and the Design for Integrated Safety Culture (DISC) model to describe evolutionary development of safety practice in organizations. The result is an ‘evolution matrix’, that reveal the links between safety performance and organizational evolution.

    Findings: Development of an organization's capacity for safety consciousness through diversification of propensities and different cohering leadership capabilities gives organizations a new way of improving safety.

    Practical implications: The evolution matrix can be used by leaders to systematically assess and enhance system capacity for addressing safety challenges.

    Originality/value: The paper represents the first attempt at exploring the conscious development of safety‐critical organizations from an evolutionary perspective. It advances understanding of how organizations can evolve safely within ever‐changing environments.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)83-97
    JournalInternational Journal of Organizational Analysis
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2013
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • organization
    • evolution
    • leadership
    • propensities
    • safety
    • safety-critical organizations
    • continual improvement
    • organizational performance


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