Greek term (Χάος Kháos or cháos) that, in the mythical-religious discourse, came to mean the opposite of order and the unpredictable. According to the Greek cosmogonies, chaos is the state in which matter is found, before the existence of the world as we know it, and from which will emerge the organizing forces of the universe, of the cosmos (cosmos = order, for the Greeks).
We also understand chaos as the complexity (see the theory of complexity) of the supposed causality (see chance) in the relationship between phenomena or events without observing a linear trace that relates the cause to the effect, but rather, a complex calculation.
Each human society is committed to the company, never finished, to build a world with meaning. Living in a specific society means living together in this orderly world thanks to “nomos” (= justice, law, norms, customs). We live with the illusion of order, believing that foresight and planning are possible.
The theory of chaos is the popular name of the branch of mathematics, physics and other sciences (biology, meteorology, economics, among others) that deals with certain types of complex systems and dynamic systems very sensitive to variations in initial conditions. Small variations in these initial conditions can imply large differences in future behavior, making long-term prediction impossible.
The Theory of Chaos was founded in the sixties, with the work of Edward Lorenz. Its development began with Ilya Prigogine, winner of the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1977, who showed that complex structures could turn out to be the simplest.
Chaos and entropy
Entropy is the degree of disorder (chaos) that exists in nature itself, and constitutes the second principle of thermodynamics, which can be defined as the inherent disorder of a system. This principle tells us that at every moment, the universe that surrounds us becomes more disordered, deteriorates and takes an inexorable direction towards chaos.
According to Prigogine “The production of entropy always contains two dialectical elements: a creative element of disorder, but also a creative element of order, and the two are always linked.”
Caology and Disorder Theory
For the Caology (another name of the Theory of chaos) nothing is simple, order is hidden behind the disorder, the random is always in action, the unpredictable must be understood. Its applications are investigated in the most diverse and complex fields in physics, astronomy, meteorology, biology, physiology, medicine, economics, social sciences and humanities.
Georges Balandier in his book “The Disorder. The theory of chaos and social sciences“(1993) analyzes the disorder by emphasizing three aspects:
- Myths of origin: They are the expression of a primordial order taken out of the chaos in which rites and tradition “work” for order.
- The future of science: From a world defined by harmony to a world in motion freed from constant turbulence.
- Social knowledge: Society is no longer established in unity and permanence, but the increasing complexity increases the possibilities and order and disorder act together.
Order and disorder in the antiquity and the origin of religions
The ancient peoples believed that the forces of chaos and order were part of an unstable tension, a precarious harmony. The Egyptians conceived the primitive universe as a shapeless abyss called Nut; The Chinese held that a pure ray of light, ying, emerges from chaos and builds the sky, while the remaining heavy opacity, yang, shapes the Earth. For Christianity, the biblical universe begins without form and emptiness, until God creates or orders. In the myth, the forces of order and disorder are combined, in a game that tries to approach reality, describing it through signs, images and reflections of its perception of the world.
“In the beginning God created heaven and earth. The Earth was chaos and emptiness, and the darkness covered the abyss; and the spirit of God fluttered over the waters. ”
As in the Jewish and Christian tradition, in most cosmogonies the divine action supposes the progressive incorporation of the cosmos (order and harmony) to chase away chaos (confusion and darkness).
Chaos in organizations
Some scientists believe that the emerging global economy in the 21st century is forcing organizations to operate in a turbulent environment (Dolan et al., 2003).
Within organizations, chaos theory explains how rapid change situations, which require creative solutions, cannot be controlled by normal standards (Begbie et al, 2002).
The traditional management approach places emphasis on control, order and predictable events; Within this approach, noncontrollable events, disorder, uncertainty and chaos, have been considered adverse to the notion of organization, therefore they must be eliminated from the enterprise. Faced with this approach, authors such as Nonaka (1988) affirm that chaos and disorder are intrinsic to the organization and that the per-turbulence suffered by organizations, against which managers are fighting, is really an opportunity. of creation. That is, a chaotic organization will be in a state of permanent revolution, will welcome instability and create crisis as a means to transcend its limits (Mintzberg et al, 1998).
There is an order within the disorder, a meaning within the change and a purpose in the completeness of the change. Chaos provides the dynamics of change and facilitates the understanding and control of its complex processes. Although there may be random processes and complex, completely unpredictable changes beyond our control, control of chaos is within our control (Singh and Singh, 2002).
Chaos and aesthetics
García-Mergalejo affirms that according to the predominant postmodern aesthetic tendencies, disorder and chaos seek to violate the forms of perception of the senses, in short, they pursue the same thing that aesthetics seeks: to stimulate our senses.
For his part, Alvarado-Planás mentions that: “Our sense of beauty, and our aesthetic therefore, is inspired by the harmonious coexistence of order and disorder, as it exists in physical objects: in the clouds, in trees , in the mountains and in the snow crystals. The forms of all these things are dynamic processes that have been realized in physical forms, where immanent coexist, concrete combinations of order and disorder “.
VUCA is an acronym used to describe or reflect Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity of real conditions and situations.
The notion of VUCA was created by the U.S. Army War College to describe the world situation arising after the end of the Cold War. The term began to be widely used in the 90s. It has subsequently been used in the fields of business strategy applied to all types of organizations.
To counteract the VUCA and to take advantage of the opportunities created by this type of situation, an alternative VUCA * has been defined consisting of: Vision, Understanding, Clarity and Agility.
If you want to know more …
Dolan, S. L., García, S., Auerbach, A. (2003): Understanding and Managing Chaos in Organisations, International Journal of Management. V. 20, Issue 1.
Begbie, R. y Chudry, F. (2002) The Intranet Chaos Matrix: A conceptual framework for designing an effective knowledge management intranet, Journal of Database Marketing, Vol. 9 .N. 4.
Mintzberg, H. Et al. (1998) Strategy Safari: A Guided Tour through the Wilds of Strategic Management. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall [Versión en español: Safari a la estrategia. Barcelona: Granica, 1999.
Nonaka, I. (1988) Creating Organizational Order Out of Chaos: Self-Renewal in Japanese Firms. California Management Review. Vol. 30, núm. 3.
Singh, H. y Singh, A. (2002) Principles of Complexity and Chaos Theory in Project Execution: A New Approach to Management. Cost Engineering, Vol. 44 Issue 12, p23.
García-Melgarejo, MA, “El desorden y el caos visual como constante en el diseño gráfico y su enseñanza: ¿culpa de la tecnología?”, Revista del Centro de Investigación, México, 8(29):39-46, 2008.
Alvarado-Planás, J, La Estética del Caos. Revista Nueva Acrópolis, Malaga, España, No. 207.
Prigogine, I. (1997) ¿Tan solo una ilusión? Una exploración del caos al orden. 4ª edición, Tusquets Editores, España, 1997.
Ficapal-Cusí, P. (2017) Dirigir persones per transformar les organitzacions en temps d’incertesa. Oikonomics. Editorial Núm. 8. (Nov. 2017).