Complexity is not Chaos

When we face a complex problem or work in a complex environment, we could sometimes be intimidated by what we usually refer to as ‘chaos’. These two situations could be confused. Even though complex situations are in principle nonlinear, ambiguous and can have unexpected consequences, they are not at all chaotic.

When we confuse the two situations we tend to either give up on working with the complexity of our given situation or we might go back to a default reaction of slicing up the big picture into more ‘manageable’ and ‘simple’ components of the problem and by that loose the dynamic and systemic perspective.

There are two key characteristics of complex problems or contexts which can help us differentiate our situation from a chaotic one and help us deal with them without confusion or intimidation.

grandpa pig
Tap on the picture to see the difference between complexity and chaos

For once, a complex problem and situations have their own internal systemic structure of feedback loops, which means that although their various parts might not be visibly linked with simple cause and effect relations, still, the complex system operates with internal logic, although mostly confusing and many times unpredictable.

Secondly, based on this internal logic complex systems will stabilize and balance themselves to create emerging order which displays recurring patterns and some resistance to change.

These two key features of complex problems and contexts are key to help us start engaging with them and not discharge them as uncontrolled chaos.

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