chapter  5
30 Pages

The edge of chaos: complexity theory and organizational change

Chaos and complexity theories, with their origins in physics, mathematical biology, meteorology, computer science and systems thinking have had a profound impact on recent discussions of organizational change, and their influence appears to be growing (Brown and Eisenhardt 1997; Chia 1998; Cilliers 1998; Tsoukas 1998; Anderson 1999; Carley and Hill 2001; Fitzgerald and Van Eijnatten 2002; Levinthal 2002; Smith 2003; Stacey 2003; Van Eijnatten and Putnik 2004; Houchin and Maclean 2005). The central idea of ‘complexity science’ is that natural systems are characterized by dynamism, non-linearity and unpredictability, rather than simply equilibrium, order and predictability. In this respect, chaos and order are simultaneous attributes of complex non-linear systems: for underlying chaos and randomness is an emergent or hidden order of orderly instability (Hayles 1991; Kauffman 1993; Flake 1998).