A prominent UCLA professor of complexity science, Bill McKelvey, gave an engaging keynote speech Friday to open Sauder’s second annual Research Symposium on Complexity and IT.

The conference is a leading forum for academics and practitioners engaged in studying the complicated nature of IT decision making and related management solutions; discussion topics ranged from global supply chains to complexity theory to customer reward programs.

McKelvey is known for writing a book considered the definitive treatment of organizational taxonomy and evolutionary theory, and has mentored more dissertation award-winning doctoral students than any other business school professor in the U.S.

He spoke to the packed room about how researchers conceptually simplify economies, social systems and firms structures to test models and theories, in spite of the complexities of the real world. He discussed the challenges involved in determining where the “sweet spot” between simplification and realism lies.

The conference, taking place July 25 and 26 in Sauder’s Henry Angus Building, was led by Ning Nan, assistant professor in Sauder’s Management Information Systems Division, and featured presenters from across North America, Europe and Australia.