Ilya Prigogine / Chaos / Organisations

Christoph J.W. Schmees cjws at
Thu Feb 1 00:45:17 PST 2001

Hi Artur,

At 01:29 1.2.2001 +0000, you wrote:
>At 01:41 01-02-2001 +0100, Christoph J.W. Schmees wrote:
>>In the first place there is no connection between choas theory (fractals,
>>Julia sets, bifurcation, you name it) and Prigogine's work
>What do you mean by "there are no connections"?. As Prigogine created
>chaos theory, there are obvious connections. Do you want to say
>that a lot of new fields diversified from that and have now no
>direct connections?

This is a common misconception.
Prigogine definitely did not invent chaos theory. He just used it as a tool
in the same way he probably has used algebra and all other mathematical
methods useful for him.
Chaos theory was invented and developed by others, the main actor probably
being Benoit Mandelbrot.


>>And, by the way: No real world system or organisation is in state of
>>equilibrium. You may have stationary states, where a sort of dynamic
>>balance is maintained. But more often you find the transitional state to be
>>the most common, the "normal" case. And yes, here chaos theory as well as
>>Prigogine's self-organisation *may* apply. Not guaranteed. Still it is
>>worth while to use analogies and give them a try.
>I am not so sure about that. First because applications of Chaos theory to
>management of organizations are recent and in many cases done by people
>that only a superficial understanding of the physical concepts envolved.
>Second, because the REAL conditions of Chaos theory are confused with
>"commonm sense" feeling of chaos we all have - that IS NOT the same

I agree that the use of the term "chaos" brings the risk of confusion whith
the common sense use of the same word. I mean the mathematical meaning. And
I don't say that Prigogine's ideas and/or chaos theory are *applicable* to
organisations. I say that it is worth while for me to *transfer* the
concepts behind those theories and try if they help in organisational
development. If not, just drop them. If they are useful they are useful as
models, as new and different ways to look at organisation and
organisational behaviour. Nothing more and nothing less.


>When some one says that "all organizations are at the edge of chaos"
>I would like them to know some real corporations or bureaucratid
>Public Administrations...

(...Aren't those burocacies a proof for the chaos theory?:-)
Well, don't let me be misunderstood: I don't claim that all organisations
are far from equilibrium or are chaotic. What I say is that the normal case
is not steady state but change. This indeed can happen near equilibrium,
which nonetheless is never reached. I strongly believe that this wonderful
sentence is true which I found in the ghost town of Bodie, California:

#######  Nothing Endures but Change  ########


To subscribe, unsubscribe, change your options,
view the archives of oslist at

To subscribe,
1.  Visit:
2.  Sign up -- provide an email address,
    and choose a login ID and password
3.  Click on "Subscribe" and follow the instructions

To unsubscribe, change your options,
view the archives of oslist at
1.  Visit:
2.  Sign in and Proceed

More information about the OSList mailing list