Chaos Is Natural For Change and Emergence To Occur

Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC®) , Emergent Organizational Development® (EOD®) and Emergent Change® are under registered trademark, 2017. All writings are considered under copyright as per The Institute For Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change®, Patrick Trottier and Associates. Written permission is required.(The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. As of January 2019, the Convention has 177 contracting member countries).

© 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.

Traditionally ‘chaos’ is defined as ‘without patterns’.

As Margaret Wheatley writes in ‘Leadership and the New Science’, “A system is defined as chaotic when it becomes impossible to know where it will be next. There is no predictability; the system is never in the same place twice. But ‘chaos theory shows, if we look at such a system long enough and with the perspective of time, it always demonstrates its inherent orderliness.”

I content that ‘chaos’ is a label we give our perceptions when we cannot ‘see’ the influencing and emergent patterns within the system itself, and the influencing patterns within the contexts of its environments.

With the advancement of technological capabilities and ‘human display interfaces’, those pre-patterns, and influencing patterns become apparent. This has huge implications for people and organizations in strategy building, decision-making, actions, understanding the ebb and flow of ’emergent change’.


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 synapses are forming in the brain network to form new meaning.
New patterns of experiences are forming to emerge through
new ‘forms’ of thinking and doing.

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 re-actively in linear ’cause and effect / analytical’ thought processes – the ‘thinking process’ we have all learned based on 17th Century thinking.

Many say that we have ‘information overload’. Maybe it is not the amount of information, maybe it is how we display information for the human brain to better understand.

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 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.

A Pattern Display Interface, by Rachel Binx (with permission)

“As my first project at Stamen, this display was created to be part of a presentation for Airbnb’s CEO.
It represents Airbnb’s top 50 markets, with thickness of the lines corresponding to the relative volume of Airbnb stays between each city pair.” (Rachel Binx)

This simple example gives more relational information to our brain at a faster rate than 100 pages of numbers rated, sequenced and sectioned into columns of city names.


An example of experiencing what we call ‘chaos’ vs. an understanding of the ‘patterns’ of a situation:

Let us say that you are standing on the beach in North Carolina during a hurricane. All seems that everything is in the state or ‘chaos’ with the wind coming from all directions, things are flying trough the air, buildings are blowing away and you yourself are fighting the rain and winds coming at you.

Surely things seem to be in the state of chaos.

However, looking from a satellite viewpoint (see below), one can see the ‘patterns’ of the storm and from such the situation does not seem as chaotic as one is experiencing the hurricane from standing on the beach front.


How many words, numbers, pages would it take to describe the weather patterns displayed here? 5,000 words and numbers? 50 pages of raw data? How long to begin to understand all those words and numbers?

How long does it take to begin to understand the ‘patterns’ occurring in this gif?

Through such ‘pattern display interface’, the human brain can understand a lot of information in a few seconds.

Thus, maybe it is not ‘chaos’ itself that we are experiencing, but a lack of seeing and understanding the patterns of emergence as a whole system.

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 everything 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 everywhere 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.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s