How does the Butterfly Effect also know as the Chaos Theory apply to our lives?
Can implementing these principles improve personal and organizational performance?
Most people have heard of Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings over the Atlantic can cause hurricanes in Florida. A huge, dynamic system, like the weather, is influenced by innumerable tiny factors. These are practically impossible to predict and may seem innocuous at the time, but they can have severe repercussions.
The Butterfly Effect: Ripples and Consequences
The Butterfly Effect can influence human interaction together, and it is built around the idea that any action you take starts a reaction that will reverberate and grow, having an impact further down the line. Whenever you make a choice in life, try to think about the potential repercussions, because every action you take will have a consequence.
To give an example of the Butterfly Effect in action, imagine a manager who is having a stressful, busy day. She takes her anger out on one of her supervisors; shouting at him and making him feel very uncomfortable. This places him in a bad mood and he proceeds to be very abrupt with his staff, and they become tense and on edge, becoming less pleasant to customers.
The manager’s stress cascaded down the chain, increasing in intensity and in the number of people it affected at each stage, potentially costing the company money and increasing the chance that disillusioned staff will leave the company or even worse, become less productive and negatively influence others around them.
Use the Butterfly Effect as a Force for Positive Change
Luckily, the idea of the cascade Butterfly Effect can also be used to your advantage. Imagine that the above manager kept her stress to herself and instead praised her supervisor for working well under pressure. He will pass this goodwill onto his staff and they, in turn, will interact with customers much better. This principle lies at the core of harnessing the Butterfly Effect to improve productivity.
Although we often have to think on our feet and have to react to situations quickly, there is always time to think about the consequences of our actions. Most organizations are built around a hierarchy, and clear vision, drive and simple kindness at the top will soon filter down throughout the organization. While we are all governed by emotion, an effective manager is cool and calm under pressure, aware that any they action they take can have serious repercussions.
The Butterfly Effect can also be used on a personal level, as a way to organize and, most importantly, plan ahead. Small changes to a business plan or an operational procedure can have far-reaching effects that may not be apparent immediately but reap dividends in the long term. In a business environment where “short-termism” dominates far too often, thinking ahead and making the small decisions for the future is a great way to get ahead.
Putting the Butterfly Effect in Practice
1. Small Actions, Big Gains: Concentrate on the small actions that can create long-term effects. For example, taking a few minutes in a morning to brief staff on what is expected for the day gives them a clear goal and direction. This will greatly improve efficiency and cut down on wasted time. – A Daily Morning Huddle is practiced in top MNC like IBM (International Business Machine) and also in local business school like JBS (Jamiyah Business School).
Be open to change, and make a list of actions you will commit to take on a daily basis that will lead to long term positive results.
For example, list the areas of your life in which you want to make a change, then commit to one action or change in each area:
A) Worklife and career
B) Relationship and family
E) Recreational / vacation
2. Long Term Goals: When you are clear about your vision, and mission, values, and goals, your actions and decisions will be clear. With the Butterfly Effect, you may not always see results immediately and the reaping the rewards of your actions can take months or even years.
As an example, most businesses have staff training procedures in place, but the time that is supposed to be devoted to it always seems to be disappear when you are busy. When you have a mission to create the best organization with well-trained staff, finding a few minutes a day for training can have huge long-term repercussions: Infused with confidence, your staff will perform better and, perhaps, a previously overlooked member of staff might show that they have what it takes to become a great supervisor or manager. Using the Butterfly Effect is all about long-term investment.
3. Invisible Effects: In some cases, you may not even see the results at all.
For example, imagine that you revitalize your health and safety procedures and invest in better protective equipment. If you hadn’t upgraded, an employee could have had an easily avoidable accident and sued you. This costs the business time and money, causes you stress, and potentially ends up with you having to cut costs in other areas, lowering production. Making a small investment now, can prevent a future bad consequence.
4. The Butterfly Effect & Relationships: Consider that each interaction with another person will have longer term implications. You can also apply the Butterfly Effect outside work, improving your family life and also your work life.
For instance, ensuring that you devote a few hours for spending with the family strengthens relationships and also helps you to unwind and relax. Failing to do this can result in stress-related illness or relationship difficulties, with the associated devastation to your family life and to your career. Behave and interact in a way that results in the best long term effects.
5. No Guarantee of Success: Looked at individually, not every small change you make to your working practices will ultimately bear fruit. Sometimes, the effects are invisible, or the change might not have the impact you imagined. However, looking holistically, you will notice that all of these small changes added together have a positive effect, overall, and using the Butterfly Effect will change work practices and increase productivity, gradually and organically.
The Butterfly Effect: Organic Growth
The Butterfly Effect is not a quick fix and they will not improve productivity overnight. However, this principle provides a good framework for long-term success, gradually improving all aspects of your business and strengthening every single level. Identifying and committing to small changes you can make does not require a lot of time or resources, so it is a very low-risk strategy to implement and adapt.
Whether you work for a company or you are self-employed, harnessing the potential of the Butterfly Effect is a good route to success. Just making a few small changes can help you to build stronger foundations for the future.
The term “butterfly effect” is attributed to Edward Norton Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist who was one of the first proponents of Chaos Theory.A dynamical system displays sensitive dependence on initial conditions if points arbitrarily close together separate over time at an exponential rate. The definition is not topological, but essentially metrical.
If M is the state space for the map ft, then ft displays sensitive dependence to initial conditions if for any x in M and any δ>0, there are y in M, with 0 < d(x,y) < δ such that
- d(fτ(x),fτ(y)) > exp(aτ)d(x,y).
The definition does not require that all points from a neighborhood separate from the base point x, but it requires one positive Lyapunov exponent.
More information about the Butterfly Effect: