I heard someone discussing chaos theory the other day. Uncertain as to exactly what they were describing, my natural curiosity took over and I did a little poking around so I could understand the term a little better. What I learned is a great place to start the week and the second half of the year.
I suspect that most of you aren’t mathematicians. In fact, I’m pretty sure most of you didn’t go on to study advanced math much beyond high school (I sure didn’t and even remembering what I did study makes my head hurt). As it turns out, chaos theory is a branch of fractal math that describes business pretty well:
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.
Doesn’t that sound like the business lives we lead? The nice part of it is that within chaos there is order. Patterns emerge over time. Business is a series of interconnected, complex systems. When there are that many moving, independent pieces, predicting how each one will behave, or even how they MIGHT behave, is impossible. We can’t spend our time focused solely on predicting those behaviors. Our time is better spent in understanding where patterns come from and what they are as order emerges.
I think the most important line in the quote above for us as businesspeople is the last – things that are impossible to predict or control. We need to live our business lives embracing that uncertainty and not getting outraged when some unpredictable event intervenes. We can’t know everything although we can try to be prepared for anything. We need to embrace the chaos of business and to look for patterns. Those who will win will be the ones that find them first. You?