Organizational Chaos

Organizations are constantly chaotic by their very nature. A healthy organization functions with two sets of counteracting forces. On one hand there are forces of stability and order such as planning, structuring, and managing. On the other hand, there are forces of instability such as innovation, initiative, and experimentation. The need for stability is important because organizations need predictability in order to achieve its mission and objectives. However, it is just as important for the organizational entrepreneurship to evolve over time in order to survive in a highly competitive environment. Finding a healthy balance between stable and unstable forces is what Thietart and Forgues call “deterministic chaos.” It is the art of “managing to reduce cognitive dissonance between what managers are supposed to do and what they can really achieve” (Thietart, 1995).

               Chaos Theory is relatively new. Humanity’s understanding of how our world functions started with Newton’s theory of classical physics, followed by Einstein’s theory of space and time (theory of relativity), followed by quantum mechanics, and now chaos theory. Only now do we understand the predictability of chaotic actions where a tiny change (the “butterfly effect”) in a big system can effect everything.


Thietart, R. and Forgues, B. (1995). Chaos Theory and Organization, Organization Science, V. 6, N.1 January-February 1995).