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Evidence is mounting that principles of nature apply to our human dilemma. Read about the science as well as the thought-leaders who apply the science in order to improve our world of work.

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 Collective Behavior

Complex Systems is a new field of science studying how parts of a (natural) system give rise to the collective behaviors of the system. Concepts from this emerging science provide insight into the ways an organization survives and thrives in today's complex landscape. More information is available through many universities and institutions world-wide. One of my favorite sources is the New England Complex Systems Institute (


The central theory of Complex Systems is Chaos theory which describes motion and dynamics of non-orderly systems.

Orderly systems can be predicted and controlled by rigid structures but non-orderly (chaotic) systems are fluid and evolve in a way that appears to be smooth and ordered. The key issue, as well as the application for business, has to do with the degree of predictability. Chaos theory can be applied to businesses when their business environment is rapidly changing and long-term predictions are difficult. For more information, simply type "chaos theory" into your search engine.

 Attraction & Alignment

Don't you love the name? This concept is the center and foundation of Chaos Theory. The strange attractor describes a pattern of convergence; i.e., what the system gravitates to. Since most complex systems are unpredictable and yet patterned, it is called STRANGE. Since behavior of the systems tends to produce a pattern of convergence, it is said to be ATTRACTED to that shape. (source

The learning for leaders and organizations is that groups of individuals (organizations) can adapt to complex situations if they have a common attraction. In fact, it is their NATURAL tendency to do so. Finding the Strange Attractor in your organization creates:
  • Adaptability—clearer sense of changing priorities or pace
  • Alignment—Doing things simultaneously and in coherence
  • Success—thriving system
  • Sustainability—thriving system over time

 Great Thinkers

PETER SENGE, author of The Fifth Discipline, says that systems' thinking is the cornerstone of the learning organization. "Systems theory's ability to comprehend and address the whole, and to examine the interrelationship between the parts provides both the incentive and the means to integrate other disciplines." Mr. Senge argues that one of the key problems of management is that we apply simplistic frameworks to complex systems. We tend to focus on the parts rather than seeing the whole, and to fail to see organization as a dynamic process.

JIM COLLINS, author of Built to Last and Good to Great, builds a great case for the Strange Attractor as a principle guiding the actions and decisions of an organization. The guiding principle of an organization is a deep understanding of what the organization is passionate about and best at. This is their common attraction and core identity. It is their collective nature and capability that fuels the economic exchange with the world.

This core concept is not a goal, not a strategy, not an intention to be the best; It is a deep understanding of their collective being and what they can be best at.

Bar none, this is the best business description of a Strange Attractor I have ever read. The critical task is not to create identity, but to discover the identity that is deeply buried but already there.

GARY HAMMEL, world renowned strategist and author of Leading the Revolution Thriving in Turbulent Times, makes an interesting observation between organizations and markets, and uses the concept of "attraction" to clarify the difference.

"The 18 visionary companies identified by Collins in his 1994 best seller, Built to Last were companies that outperformed their peers between 1950 and 1990. However, since then, only 6 of the 18 have outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial average." He goes on to observe the differences between markets and organizations and the way they make economic decisions.

Markets attract resources whereas organizations allocate

In the Fast Company article, "SIZE is Not a Strategy", Hamel proposes forming an open market for ideas, capital, and talent within the company. Doing so begins to blend the natural concept of attraction with the mechanistic and traditional process of allocation.