Chaos Is Natural For Change and Emergence To Occur

© by Patrick A. Trottier


My assertion:

I contend that ‘chaos’ is natural for real change to take place
within the individual, the group and the organization.

When we talk about change here, we are talking about the following:

Three Basic Levels Of Change and Development

1. Incremental Change and Development – To improve effectiveness, efficiency and continuous improvement aligned to current critical success factors and strategic focus. (Stay the course, increase performance to achieve development and business results)

2. Transitional Change and Development – To change from one static form to another static organizational form. To enhance adaptability and alignment of the organization to changing environments, strategic directions and business goals.  (embeds 1.)

3. Emergent Transforming™ and Development – Cultural and organizational transforming within an evolving, emerging change paradigm. Designed to continually evolve and emerge the values, attitudes and beliefs (VABs) of your organization, as well as its structural designs, business and IT/IS systems, business processes, capabilities, competencies, decision- making paradigms and individual / group / organizational norms and behaviors to support your long term, emergent business strategies aligned to the rapid challenges, opportunities and complexities in your internal and external environments. (embeds 1., 2.)   (yes, a long sentence)

Chaos and Real Change –
Developing A Greater ‘Comfort Zone’ With Chaos

It is my belief and experience that a new ‘paradigm of continuous transforming’ is needed in the 21st Century.

‘Emergent Change®’, as per the EODC® Platform, is not the same as the old 20th Century approaches of:

  • Lewin’s change management model.
  • The McKinsey 7-S model.
  • Kotter’s theory.
  • Nudge theory.
  • ADKAR.
  • Bridges’ transition model.
  • Kübler-Ross’ change curve.
  • The Satir change management model
  • Transformation Models
  • Change Management Models
  • Agile
  • Continuous Improvement…

As such, I contend this new change paradigm to consider:

When one’s comfort zone (individual, group, organization) with ‘the unknown’ (chaos) is greater than (>) one’s comfort zone with ‘the known’, transformation occurs naturally.

Curiosity, exploration, imagination, shifts in mental and emotional frameworks, and thus perceptions and ‘mind sets’ open up, and evolutionary, novel patterns and forms continually emerge with one’s internal and external
environments.”                                                              (P. Trottier – sometime in the 1980s)

Also see:    The Simple Law of Emergent Transforming™

A Simple Chaotic  Exercise

Here is a very simple exercise to experience ‘chaos’, and to create a comfort zone with such – as long as your not ambidextrous.

Take your mouse and use your other than your normal hand to move it around to function on your computer. At first your cursor may be all over the place. It may feel unnatural. You will make mistakes. You may want to switch back to your regular hand. This impulse is natural based on one’s uncomfortableness. In order to make the adjustment, one needs to accept this degree of chaos as ‘normal’, and keep going until all those muscles and kinesthetic memories adjust.

The same with learning a new language. The same with switching from an automatic to a manual shift in a car. The same with learning to sail. The same with ‘shifting perspectives’ and ‘seeing’ something different. The same with organizational change.

The same exists with all new learning in encountering novel situations.
New patterns are forming to emerge through new ‘forms’ of thinking and doing.

Also see: ‘Rethinking Resistance’:

Naturalism and Self-Agency

Emergence, chaos, novel diversity and complexity are natural to our sense and motivation to explore, imagine, innovate, create, etc. 

This is partially based on the assumption that we, as humans, are born with a natural curiosity and comfort with the ‘unknown’.

Such is innate in us. Such is a big part of both our evolution and our survival.
The same with organizations IF we design them for ’emergent change’.

Self-Agency Starts When We Are Born – An Innate Human Quality.

“The question of agency and directedness in living systems has puzzled philosophers and scientists for centuries. What principles and mechanisms under-lie the emergence of agency?

Analysis and dynamical modeling of experiments on human infants suggest that the birth of agency is due to a eureka-like, pattern-forming phase transition in which the infant suddenly realizes it can make things happen in the world.”

The main mechanism involves interaction and feedback from the infant’s environment:

when the baby’s initially spontaneous movements cause the world to change, their perceived consequences have a sudden and sustained amplifying effect on the baby’s further actions. The baby discovers itself as a causal agent.

J.A. Scott Kelso, On the Self-Organizing Origins of Agency, 2016,



What is Self-Agency within the EODC® Platform?

“EODC®, purports that ‘Self- Agency’ is the capacity of individuals to act independently and collaboratively to make their own free choices within an ever expanding ‘sphere of influence’.

Self-Agency is the realization and manifestation that one can change oneself, manifest new relationships, and influence and make things happen in the world.” (Trottier, 1990s)

On ‘Self-Agency‘: (regarding ‘self-agency’ in individuals, groups, organizations)

we learn to inhibit and diminish this natural tendency toward self-agency
through our parenting practices, schools, media, institutions and work cultures, etc.

Our socialization, parental practices, our education, our work experiences, our institutionalization in general block this ‘naturalness’ as we learn to assimilate and accommodate social norms, perceptions and beliefs through our lives. In other words we hear a lot of ‘no’s. and ‘watch outs’, and ‘you can’t do that’,… and finally we drive that natural curiosity out of our natural ways of being.

Within organizations, the traditional structures (hierarchical), roles, status levels, power dynamics, communication dynamics, systems, processes, competencies, perspectives, how we ‘see’ organizations, etc., etc., actually INHIBIT our natural human nature to explore, to create, to innovate and to collaborate.

A question: What type of  ‘culture and structures’ do traditional / current organizations
create? What do people ‘experience’ day-to-day in their work world(s)? What is the impact to performance, as well as to people’s lives?

As Gary Hamel asked at the 2018 Drucker Forum:

  • “How did we become so inured to the inhumanity of our hierarchically structured organizations?”
  • “How is it OK that a scant 13% of employees around the world are emotionally engaged in their work?”
  • “How is it OK that 70% of jobs in the US require little or no originality — according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics?”
  • “How is it OK that only 12% of employees in Europe say they’re always consulted before objectives are set for their work?”
  • “How is it OK that the average first level employee in a large organization is buried under 8 or more layers of management?”
  • “How it OK that 50% of employees say they’ve had to change jobs to escape an incompetent or autocratic boss?”
  • “How is it OK that in a global survey, 79% of respondents from large companies said new ideas get greeted with skepticism or hostility?”
  • “How is it OK that in the same survey, 76% of respondents said political behaviors highly influence who gets ahead?”

Understanding Chaos

With ‘chaos’ we seem to see such as a negative element of change.
We try to control and ‘manage’ chaos and change. What we are really doing is inhibiting ‘change’ itself… a self-inhibiting construct.

How many times have I witnessed an organization, a leader, experience ‘chaos’
in a change initiative and perceive such as ‘something is wrong’ and immediately revert back to the ‘safety of the former status quo’.

Traditionally, most do not ‘see’ chaos as part of the natural flow
and process of change itself


“Chaos’ simply occurs when we do not understand the ‘influencing patterns’
in our internal and external environments that are shaping our worlds.

What we do not understand in ‘complexity’, we simply label as ‘chaos’.”
                                                                                          Patrick Trottier, sometime in the 1970s


One of the many reasons for this, is that we still generally have this inclination to think and problem-solve reactively in linear ’cause and effect / analytical’ thought processes – the ‘thinking process’ we have all learned based on 17th Cetury thinking.

Such is much different than ‘seeing’ pattern display information’ (see gif below) which illustrates where patterns are headed to, as well as what pattern influencers and determinates begin to form new norms and continuous emerging ‘forms’ of information.

Pattern display information can also illustrate how ‘on track’, or how much ‘off base’ we are moving toward desired relevant results and, what to do about such. Do we stay the course, or influence the relative ‘influencing patterns’ that are shaping our situations and environments.

Note: this is not science fiction anymore with the advent of novel AI capabilities.

source                                                                                                                                               (With permission)

A Simple Diagram Of Emergent Change®


So what about ‘the natural flow of emergence’ – how does that come about? Such is a simple, but is also a complex human conversion. From attractors to trends, to influencing patterns, to novel forms, to determinates, to continuous emerging forms… and so on.

Complexity and Chaos As A Natural Process

In complexity, chaos will be experienced – this is natural and tells you that change is really occurring and new forms of competencies, perceptions, systems, processes, designs, norms, values, leadership, teams, etc., etc. are emerging.

At the same time our ‘comfort zone’ with complexity, chaos and the emergence of novel forms in regards to the elements mentioned above manifest ‘a new scope of a comfort zone’ with the emergent change process, and learning new patterns over time, just like mastering the ability to fly a plane.

‘New patterns’ can be thoughts, feelings, perceptions, skills, ways of living, ways of ‘seeing’ things, new priorities, strategies, designs in organizations, houses, bridges…well, everything that takes on novel ‘forms’.

In people and organizations, as well as everthing else,
new patterns can lead to increased performance, or inhibit performance.

As an example, if we design and build a novel type of bridge and the wind causes it to shake outside of the expected parameters of the design, then its purpose based on its true ‘form’ is to flutter.

The first Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened to traffic on July 1, 1940. Its main span collapsed into the Tacoma Narrows four months later on November 7, 1940, at 11:00 a.m. (Pacific time) as a result of aeroelastic flutter caused by a 42 mph (68 km/h) wind. The bridge collapse had lasting effects on science and engineering.


galloping gearny bridge

Thus, its real ‘form’ created its purpose – to produce an aeroelastic flutter (chaos), and then to collapse. Its pseudo, or planned purpose, was to be stable in high winds.

Someone’s, or something’s, real purpose lives in reality from its ‘form’, while a proposed or ‘would like’ purpose lives in theory (reality vs. theory).

As to organizations, we design organizations based on theory, we seldom understand how the design, in reality, produces a ‘form’ which can
actually inhibit ‘performance’, or enhance performance.

A Core EODC® Tenet: ‘From Chaos to Purpose’;



Yes, the bird forming above has a purpose. Well, many purposes from dropping plant seeds everwhere for new plant growth, to attracting new mates, to even delighting people with its color and call. What is its purpose to you?

Some additional concepts on ‘Chaos’. CHAOS THEORY


Critical to EODC® and organizational, individual and group transforming, one key foundation  has to do with developing a greater ‘comfort zone’ with shifting one’s ‘cognitive and emotional frameworks’.

“How we ‘see’ things is what we will create.”

When this competency of creating a ‘comfort zone’ with seeing things differently is manifested throughout an organization, novel organizational forms and a comfort with emergent change is established, and change becomes… well, normal.

Thank you for your time in reading this.
I hope you got something out of this simple write-up.


About Patrick A. Trottier

I am a 30 plus year applied Organizational Development practitioner having honed my craft in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Presently living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., I am currently developing the next evolution of O.D. termed; 'Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC)®, and focusing on Emergent OD®, Emergent Change® and the development of Emergent Organizations® within my professional practice.
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