Toward a complex adaptive system: The case of the Zhongguancun entrepreneurship ecosystem

Jin Han, Yi Ruan, Yanmin Wang, Haibo Zhou

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Viable entrepreneurship ecosystems (EEs), which provide sustainable competitive advantages to innovative regions, have become increasingly important for producing high-impact entrepreneurial firms. However, little is known about the complexity nature that viable EEs uncover under specific regional entrepreneurial contexts. By integrating the EE literature and complex adaptive system (CAS) theory, we conducted a case study on the Zhongguancun EE in China. We demonstrate six interrelated complexity properties of a viable EE: a large number of self-organized agents, nonlinear interactions, (in)sensitivity to initial conditions, adaptation to the environment, emergence of successful entrepreneurial firms, and coevolution. Moreover, the integration of these six complexity properties offers an overarching understanding of how the Zhongguancun EE maintained its viability over time. We contribute to the EE literature by developing a more nuanced complexity-based understanding of a viable EE and extend CAS theory at the ecosystem level by highlighting an EE's adaptive process to maintain its viability.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-550
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Business Research
Publication statusPublished - May 2021


  • Complex adaptive system (CAS) theory
  • Complexity properties
  • Entrepreneurship ecosystem (EE)
  • High impact entrepreneurship
  • The Zhongguancun EE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Marketing


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