The application of chaos theory to the management of change in organizations:
A theory of humility: Metaphor or reality? [Elaine Scott, ISSS 1998 Paper
Session, July 22/98]
These notes are a rough transcription,
prepared as each individual presenter and/or commentator spoke at the ISSS
1998 conference. Gaps and errors have likely occurred. For more accurate
citations, please consult the original presenters. These notes have been
contributed to the ISSS by David Ing, of the IBM Advanced Business Institute
(firstname.lastname@example.org).[Paper session, July 22/98, 2:20 p.m.]
Elaine Scott, first year Ph.D. student at City University Business School,
Interested in chaos theory, first needs to figure out if chaos theory
Mechanistic thinking leads to failure, then often change in management.
Stacey claims that changes in business performance may be unstable not
only due to the environment, but possibly the structure, which produces
Theory of humility:
Previous uses of metaphor:
Appreciate that it's not within out power to control everything (i.e. the
The Simpler Way, Margaret Wheatley
Find something that works, not optimal.
Is chaos theory a metaphor, or real?
May need to maintain instability to continually be creative.
Without instability, trapped repeating same behaviour
Aristotle's definition of metaphor.
Morgan (1983) definition
The ontology of metaphor: how it's used greatly defines it.
Realist ontology: there is an objective reality, and metaphor's value is
in how well it can explain the reality.
Subjectivists: social reality, which is constructed, and then open to interpretation.
Ecological process focuses on evolutionary perspective, Darwinism.
Supposes the subjectivist view: multiple realities.
Other metaphors include playing games, organisms.
Survival depends on adaptation.
Chaos as natural system, applied to organizations.
Oberman (1996) presumes only as a metaphor.
Johnson (1995) applied metaphor to metaphor: attractors, with marble as
Conclusion: both metaphorical and literal.
Positivist search for knowledge and regularities, avoid metaphors.
Interpretists and relativists claim search for multiple truths.
Morgan says that absolute metaphors or organizations are unrealistic.
Know of any companies who are using this?
Want to do a case study, are considering British Airways and Virgin.
Leadership idea of creating space: allowing the shadow organization to
Allows vision for self-organization (e.g. hot-desking)
(Mike Jackson is doubtful on this)
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