imagesWhat is ‘chaos theory’?  According to Wikipedia (and other sources) its a branch of mathematics that has application in such fields as meteorology, engineering, economics and biology.  Using a series of complex formulas it attempts to bring order from chaos, or rather help to understand what is happening in order to predict what is possibly going to happen.  It is a non-linear, relationship based model that illustrates how the multifaceted factors interact.   Sounds complex but in the upcoming sections we will simplify and provide guidance on its essential application.

I believe that those who have used, understood and applied the concept of Chaos Theory have not considered its possible implication on life as it exists today.  We live in a world of chaos whether it be personal or in business.  As I pondered the subject I could help reflect on my early involvement with fractals (  At the time a colleague of my, Bill Silver, was fervent about fractals as it related to software quality and testing.  Sound, appropriate and applicable its failed to take flight amongst companies who could have truly brought understanding and order to the particular situations.  Chaos theory is best illustrated as a fractal, a multi-branched illustration of the many elements surrounding a particular situation (which can be good or bad).  It is not the simple linear Ishikawa (Fishbone) diagram that is easy to understand, but forces a serial string of event line of thought.  Fractals consider the timeline but truly try to establish the lay of the land and how these various elements interplay.

Today (2013) we live by advise and parables, we use these to attempt a short cut to a particular outcome.  Two people having a disagreement over remuneration, a company and government in the throws of regulatory compliance, or a company attempting to gain a foothold in a market are driven by an environment of fractals but conceptually are a working example of chaos theory.  As humans we are driven by experiences, education and intuition.  Have we considered that when resolution or outcomes struggle to gain a positive direction that its possibly the chaos theory model is a bit larger than what we have extracted from those human virtues we hold as most important?

Let’s admit a few things,

  • the complexities of our world creates a much more complex degree of chaos,
  • understanding as much as possible about the chaos will help us to more accurately craft and implement a durable/working outcome,
  • history, axioms, experience and education are valuable but when applied in a random fashion they contribute to chaos,
  • there is no such thing as a commodity solution (eg. if this happens do this).  Few things in life are binary and there are always some factors that can and will occur at random and
  • chaos will always be with us.  We need to employ ways to minimize chaos effect, take chaotic situations and fully understand the interplay before solutioning and solution(s) are always the result of understanding and not a random choice of options.

The ‘Human’ Tendency

imagesWe often to rely upon on ourselves and our instincts.  These are legitimize through the use of collaboration with others who are also using their talents and instincts.  One could argue that there is nothing wrong with this but then lets look at the outcomes.  Do we go from one problem to another and do solutions work but later fail?  Are these excused away as simply a common occurrence taking place?  If chaos theory is the answer then in and of itself does it also have a limited life therefore is it any better?  To answer this question its a matter of understanding the concept of chaos theory in a simply way.  Chaos theory as was previously mentioned is a complex model (fractal) of interrelationships.  The more complete the model the better we are at understanding the issue(s) and their conflicts.  The sticky part is on how conflicts get resolved, and usually this entails both compromise as well as balance.  This is achieved through objective awareness.  I had a very interesting discussion with the United Nations over the peace process in the Middle East.  It seems we bounce from promise to doom with each passing press release.  Nothing really changes, the solutions become more and more complex and yet no attempt has been made to chart the chaos that exist.  Energized by passion, resentment and hatred simple mention the names like Israel, Palestine, settlement or even arbitrators (like the US) bring immediate negative reactions.  This condition immediate generates opposition to proposals and a legitimizing of our personal agendas.  The chaos model with all of its power to generate durable solution cannot reach those until the higher order chaos issues are resolved.  In this particular case hatred coming from both sides (… it takes two to tango).  For this reason we proposed a ‘blind’ arbitration system where the issues could be fleshed out with total anonymity.  An Israelite would not know that something was submitted from a Palestinian and vice versa.  It would remove identities and even the mere sight of each other.  It would provide a means to get the all of the issues on the table and these could then be brought forward into the chaos model to create an sterile understanding for peace solutions to be considered (but again in a totally blind fashion).  Some of you might wonder whether this is being considered by the U.N. and that I don’t know.  Maybe they are still thinking about it or possibly they have already written it off as unneeded since reliance on persons, skills, education and abilities are hardened favored items.  But ideas have a profound way of becoming possible when the level of pain and desperation reach a critical level (so time will tell).

Trickle Down Effect

imagesPeople and organizations operate from the top down.  Innovative thinking leads to Strategies that then lead to Tactics, and Tactics lead to operation delivery.  Innovative creativity is an unrestrained and open field of curiosity, reaction and free thinking.  Reality comes in to play when these free range thoughts are then considered to be strategically important.  Jumping forward means careful analytic examination whether it be predictions supported by analytic studies or possible a survey of some sort.  The question always becomes whether the studies and surveys are sound enough to give fair answers vs. justification?  Almost all of the ones we have seen over the last 40 odd  years have been more in favor of justification rather than to legitimize a move forward.  In fact most aren’t even scientifically sound enough to take any action at all.  Don’t get me wrong… there are exceptions to this.  I too have fallen prey, for the sake of expediency, to act on an idea only to realize that while the idea itself is sound the understanding of the full reasonable extent of chaos theory overlooked critical elements that reduce plausibility.  So as some would say… misery love company is true, but true in this case doesn’t mean that success was achieved.  There are also those who would say I didn’t do any chaos theory like thinking and I was lucky.  In this case the key word is ‘lucky’ and I guess if I had nothing to lose and everything to gain I think their choice to venture forward is extremely important.  But for most companies and organizations luck, while accepted graciously, is not what we should become totally reliant upon.

So Where From HERE????

imagesReaders and those that pass this on to others are most likely going to read, digest, take-in and utilize to varying degrees.  Its often so so easy to continue as is despite the keen interest of today being ‘change’.  We are stuck and our chaos continues to grow.  As a serial entrepreneur we are pursuing new ventures to guide the development of strategies, tactics and operational solutions.  An instrumental part of this is chaos solutions.  Some might view this as arbitrators but the usual arbitrators simply sit between two opposing parties and make a decision based on what they hear and know.  Seldom does arbitration dig deep into the chaos landscape to fully understand the landscape.  This is essential to stem the growth in the chaos we live in, the unproductive energy we exert (most managers say their job is dealing with problems/chaos) and the string of failed attempts in regaining control.  We see this all the time that people are replaced with new people who then lead to similar (or worse) outcomes.  Its not their are bad people, its not that a known is being replaced with an unknown.  It is a matter that we have failed to understand chaos and to enact a solution based on credible sound chaos fractal understanding.