Chaos Theory

Chaos theory is orginally a field of study in mathematics, with applications in several disciplines including physics, engineering, economics, biology, and philosophy. However chaos theory is also an important phenemenon in management science or more specifically in organisational development.


The most popular effect of chaos theory is named as Butterfly Effect and claims that a butterfly flapping its wings in one side of the world can cause a hurricane in the other side.


Many researchers worked on chaos theory and participated in the development of current findings. However Henry Poincare and Edward Norton Lorenz are the pioneers of chaos theory.


Henry Poincare published his work on particular case of three body problem (which is he problem of finding the general solution to the motion of more than two orbiting bodies in the solar system) in 1890 and described Chaos Theory and the sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Edwards Norton was a meteorologist and introduced the strange attractor notion and coined the the term butterfly effect in 1961.


Vector Study Approach
Vector Study, assesses individuals in an organization as  vectors with measurable direction and magnitude. If there is accord among the vectors (individuals) of an organization we can address it as an healthy organization. However if there is no harmony and all vectors have various directions and irregular magnitudes we can call it as chaos. Vector Study, shortly, proposes the alignment of vectors for the treatment of chaos. This vectoral approach for individuals is also valid for organisations. Just like individuals organisations may also be expressed as vectors with certain direction and magnitude. Irregularity among organisations in an industry for example may cause chaos at macro level.


Chaos theory, as well as in social sciences, studies; the behavior of dynamical systems that are highly sensitive to initial conditions, an effect which is popularly referred to as the butterfly effect. Small differences in initial conditions yield widely diverging outcomes for such dynamical systems, rendering long-term prediction impossible in general. This happens even though these systems are deterministic, meaning that their future behavior is fully determined by their initial conditions, with no random elements involved. In other words, the deterministic nature of these systems does not make them predictable. This behavior is known as chaos.


Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on. These phenomena are often described by fractal mathematics, which captures the infinite complexity of nature. Many natural objects exhibit fractal properties, including landscapes, clouds, trees, organs, rivers etc, and many of the systems in which we live exhibit complex, chaotic behavior. Recognizing the chaotic, fractal nature of our world can give us new insight, power, and wisdom. For example, by understanding the complex, chaotic dynamics of the atmosphere, a balloon pilot can “steer” a balloon to a desired location. By understanding that our ecosystems, our social systems, and our economic systems are interconnected, we can hope to avoid actions which may end up being detrimental to our long-term well-being.


Chaos theory in organizational development refers to a subset of chaos theory which incorporates principles of quantum mechanics and presents them in a complex systems environment. To the observer the systems seem to be in chaos. Organizational Development of a business system is the management of that apparent chaos.


The introduction of chaos theory brings the principles of quantum physics to the pragmatic world. These complex systems have a rather random appearance and, until recently, have been labeled and discarded as chaotic and unintelligible. With the advent of computer systems and powerful processors, it has become easier to map chaotic behavior and find interesting underpinnings of order. The newly discovered underlying order to chaos sparked new interest and inspired more research in the field of chaos theory.


The recent focus of most of the research on chaos theory is primarily rooted in these underlying patterns found in an otherwise chaotic environment, more specifically, concepts such as self-organization, bifurcation, and self-similarity.


Principles of Chaos

    The Butterfly Effect: This effect grants the power to cause a hurricane in China to a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico. It may take a very long time, but the connection is real. If the butterfly had not flapped its wings at just the right point in space/time, the hurricane would not have happened. A more rigorous way to express this is that small changes in the initial conditions lead to drastic changes in the results. Our lives are an ongoing demonstration of this principle. Who knows what the long-term effects of teaching millions of kids about chaos and fractals will be?


    Unpredictability: Because we can never know all the initial conditions of a complex system in sufficient (i.e. perfect) detail, we cannot hope to predict the ultimate fate of a complex system. Even slight errors in measuring the state of a system will be amplified dramatically, rendering any prediction useless. Since it is impossible to measure the effects of all the butterflies (etc) in the World, accurate long-range weather prediction will always remain impossible.


    Order / Disorder Chaos is not simply disorder. Chaos explores the transitions between order and disorder, which often occur in surprising ways.


    Mixing: Turbulence ensures that two adjacent points in a complex system will eventually end up in very different positions after some time has elapsed. Examples: Two neighboring water molecules may end up in different parts of the ocean or even in different oceans. A group of helium balloons that launch together will eventually land in drastically different places. Mixing is thorough because turbulence occurs at all scales. It is also nonlinear: fluids cannot be unmixed.


    Feedback: Systems often become chaotic when there is feedback present. A good example is the behavior of the stock market. As the value of a stock rises or falls, people are inclined to buy or sell that stock. This in turn further affects the price of the stock, causing it to rise or fall chaotically.


    Fractals: A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos. Geometrically, they exist in between our familiar dimensions. Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals. For instance: trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, etc.