Butterfly Wings Flapping

Small changes can make such a big difference.


As I mentioned in my last post, I am doing a fair bit of research into complex adaptive systems (CAS) and experimenting with shifting my philosophy and approach to be more in line with this way of being.

One of the core principles of complex adaptive systems is so-called butterfly effect.  This is the sensitive dependence on initial conditions in non-linear systems where a small change at one place can result in a major difference at a later time and place.  (See Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Butterfly_effect)

In plain English, this means that small actions can have outsize effects, and we may not be able to predict the precise outcome.

The term “butterfly effect” comes from the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in the rain forest in Brazil can lead to a tornado in Texas.  Not cause the tornado, but set off a chain of events that leads to it, or not.

Now that I’m training myself to look at my work in this way, I see butterfly wings flapping all over the place.

In the power of a good question, well timed in its delivery.

In the senior executive who chooses not to offer his idea of a “solution” to his team.

In the positioning of chairs in a meeting room so that different people are near to each other.

In the choice to speak the word “I” instead of “you”.

In the invitation of a new voice into the conversation.

Indeed, because organizations are complex places, it may be only these small actions that can be relied on to bring us closer to the results, productivity, culture, profits, changes, outcomes, improvements, or whatever we say we want.

What’s your experience telling you?