Using Simulation to Study, Design and Invent Organizations


  • Raymond Elliot Levitt Stanford University



simulation, agent-based, organization design, research methods


Over the past 50 years, computational modeling and simulation have had enormous impact on the advancement of knowledge in fields such as physics, chemistry, and subsequently, biology. After simulation models had been validated in these fields, they were rapidly adopted as powerful new tools to enhance and extend engineering practice. Might social science and management practice be following a similar trajectory? This article argues that progressively validated, calibrated, and refined computational simulation models of organizations are rapidly evolving into: (a) powerful new kinds of organizational analysis tools to support organization design by predicting the performance of specific organizational configurations for a given task and environment; (b) flexible new kinds of organizational theorem provers for validating extant organization theory and developing new theory; and (c) organizational test benches that can be used to explore the efficacy of hypothetical organizational configurations that can address the unprecedented demands of new and emerging work processes in the presence of high levels of uncertainty and ambiguity.

Author Biography

Raymond Elliot Levitt, Stanford University

Dr. Raymond Levitt is the Kumagai Professor of Engineering in the Dept. of Civil & Environmental Engineering at Stanford University, and serves as coordinator of Stanford's graduate programs in Construction Engineering and Management and Sustainable Design and Construction. He founded and directs Stanford’s Collaboratory for Research on Global Projects, which conducts research and outreach on organization and governance structures for delivering more sustainable global building and infrastructure projects.  He is a Senior Fellow of the Woods Institute for the Environment, heading up Woods' Sustainable Built Environment initiative. He completed his BS in Civil Engineering at the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, and his MS and PhD at Stanford University. From 1975-1980, Dr. Levitt served on the faculty of MIT's Department of Civil Engineering, joining the faculty of Stanford in 1980.   Dr. Levitt’s teaching and research focus on organization and governance of large, complex projects and project-based companies and on innovation and entrepreneurship in the construction industry. He has consulted for multiple Fortune 500 projects, programs and companies, and has been a co-founder and director of three software companies related to engineering and management of construction projects. In 2008 he was appointed a Commissioner of California's Public Infrastructure Advisory Commission, to develop guidelines and policies for channeling private investment and expertise into California’s aging and underfunded transportation infrastructure.




How to Cite

Levitt, R. E. (2012). Using Simulation to Study, Design and Invent Organizations. Journal of Organization Design, 1(3), 58–63.



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