'What is chaos, that we should be mindful of it?'
Chaos will always be a mystery. Perhaps the ultimate, allencompassing
mystery. To paraphrase Churchill's famous
remark, it is a paradox hidden inside a puzzle shrouded by
an enigma. It is visible proof of existence and uniqueness
In the Greco-Roman tradition philosophers used logic
and introspection to impose mental order on the universe.
Newton, Francis Bacon and the scientists of the Renaissance
chose a different path when attempting to find truth
and understanding nature. In the twentieth century Einstein,
Bohr and others (with quantum physics and mechanics)
changed the path again, making reality even more subtle
and complicated. Then, in the past twenty years, along came
chaos theory. This theory, and the ways that natural
processes move between order and disorder, brings us
closer to understanding the planetary orbits, the shape of
clouds, that phenomena never repeat themselves exactly,
and even the complexity of changing and learning
organisations. It is the insights and extensions of chaos
theory that could carry us technologically, philosophically,
socially and individually into the Age of Aquarius and
possibly through our own African Renaissance.
Most managers are naturally susceptible to wishful
thinking. They believe what they want to believe in spite of
obvious evidence to the contrary. They try to forcefully
manage and control to create balance and order in the
workplace. The time has arrived for South African business
leaders, managers and corporate communicators to buy into
the notion that a butterfly stirring the air in Johannesburg
can create a twister in New York!
This article describes chaos theory and examines how it
can be utilised to provide insights into managing and
communicating during times of change in chaotic