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Archive for January 2012

What’s the difference between complexity and chaos?

What’s the difference between complexity and chaos?

Complex systems, under certain conditions, can perform in regular, predictable ways and, under other conditions, exhibit behaviour in which predictability is lost. Small differences in the initial starting conditions lead to large differences in outcomes. Complexity theorists like to explore the activity of complex systems at the edge of chaos, where systems exist on the cusp of too much and too little order. Such systems act as wholes but are nevertheless far from equilibrium and capable of undergoing rapid and radical transformations in order to adjust to changes in their environment. To say again, such systems are self-organising (autopoietic) and can develop new structures without any external cause or motive.

Chaos theorists, somewhat by contrast, look for patterns of order in chaotic systems. Chaos in these terms refers to behaviour which, though it has certain regularities, defies prediction. Forecasting the weather is hard, yet the Thames (hardly ever) freezes and Auckland is not monsoonal. Chaos is about bounded instability, the unpredictability of specific behaviour within a predictable general structure.

Is your business complex, chaotic or both?

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