Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs

Learning under Uncertainty: Networks in Crisis Management

This paper examines the nature of learning in networks dealing with conditions of high uncertainty. It applies Koppenjan and Klijns (2004) framework for understanding network uncertainty to an extreme example: an inter-organizational crisis task force dealing with an exotic animal disease. The paper identifies the basic difficulties involved in learning under crisis conditions. The task force had to learn most of the elements taken for granted in more mature structural forms the nature of the structural framework in which it was working, how to adapt that framework, the role and actions appropriate for each individual, and how to deal with unanticipated problems. The network pursued this learning in a variety of ways. Most critically, the task force used standard operating procedures to provide a form of network memory, and a command and control structure to reduce institutional and strategic uncertainty.

Additional Info

  • Volume or issue no.: La Follette School Working Paper No. 2005-028 has been published in Public Administration Review 68(2): 350-361
  • Author(s): Donald P. Moynihan