Normal Chaos - Defined

[Last amended: 8 Jan 18]


Our idea of what we mean by the term Normal Chaos has matured over the last year. We now use the term normal chaos to describe contexts and situations that are too complex for us, as humans, to truly understand the cause and effect relationships embedded within them. Normal chaos recognizes that such complex situations produce constant uncertainty, change and unexpected occurrences that negate our plans and reduce our ability to control the events around us. This  requires us to re-adjust  our plans constantly as they are unlikely to be enacted exactly in the way that we had originally envision. We would encourage management to recognize how much time they actually spend adapting to unexpected change.


We contrast normal chaos with what we see as the current predominant business paradigm that we call the perfect world paradigm. The basis of this paradigm is that if we produce perfect plans, recruit the right people, train them properly, supply them with the right resources and execute the plan flawlessly then the desired outcome will be delivered. Embedded within this construct is the desire to remove uncertainty and to control the world around us. We see this paradigm in operation across practice. We see it in the hope that regulation can be used to prevent some undesired outcome. We see it in the expectation that best practice can be roll out, as written in a standard, universally throughout a sector of business. We also see it in the way business management is taught and the way academic research tries to produce the perfect theory. Experience however shows us that there is no panacea and management is about adaptation and adjustment to an ever changing world. Most of all, management is about pragmatism based on a rich seem of knowledge and experience in order to cope with the uncertainty that confront them.


We see Normal Chaos as a way to make sense of the world around us; this is what is driving our research programme. We are now looking to see how the ideas formulated within chaos theory and the other studies of complexity can be used by managers to give themselves a fresh perspective on their work. We find that the ideas have great resonance with our previous work on organisational failure, crisis management and cyber security. The advantage of this approach is that it has provided a clearer way to structure and link our thought processes about management and business.


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Risk Governance Management Specialists