In general, an emergent phenomenon occurs when a (high) number of simple (or complex) entities operate in an environment, forming more complex behaviors as a collective. Emergent behaviors occur due to intricate causal relations across different scales and feedback, known as interconnectivity. The emergent property itself may be either very predictable or unpredictable and unprecedented, and represent a new level of the system’s evolution. Emergent behavior is very hard to predict due to the immense number of interactions between components of a system, which increases exponentially with the number of components, thus potentially allowing for many different results to emerge.
Definition Emergent Strategy.
Emergent Strategy is the vision or process towards strategy formation in organizations that emphasizes the benefits of letting the strategy emerge as things gradually becoming apparent. Try before you commit. Strategy is viewed as an ongoing process of constant learning, experimentation and risk-taking. It is an adaptive, incremental and complex learning process in which the ends and means are intertwined and often specified simultaneously. It is the opposite of Deliberate Strategy.
The ends are rarely announced or recorded in a Formal Planning document, and when they are, they remain broad, general and non-quantifiable.
The means develop or evolve over time as the organization learns from environmental developments and interactions.
It does not mean that emergent strategists do nothing upfront and react completely ad-hoc to things as they evolve.
Opportunism. Organizations must retain the mental freedom to grab unpredictable opportunities as they emerge. See: Scenario Planning
Flexibility. Organizations must keep their options open, by not committing to early to actions and investments. See: Real Options, Strategic Agility, Dynamic Capabilities
Learning. Letting strategy emerge provides the environment to learn. See: Organizational Learning
Entrepreneurship. The best way to find out what will work is to let people try. This is conducive to an entrepreneurial spirit to emerge. See: Chaos Theory