In their book Surfing the Edge of Chaos, Richard Pascale, Mark Milleman, and Linda Gioja explain that there are four cornerstone principles to chaos in nature that we can also observe in chaotic times in our lives and at work:
- Equilibrium is a precursor to death. “When a living system is in a state of equilibrium, it is less responsive to changes occurring around it,” they write. This state of equilibrium is highly dangerous, putting the system at risk of not adapting quickly enough.
- Innovation usually takes place on the edge of chaos. It’s when they face a threat or are excited by a new opportunity that living systems tend to come up with new ways of living through experimentation and mutation.
- Self-organization emerges naturally. As long as a system is sufficiently populated and properly interconnected, a new self-organization will emerge from chaos.
- Living systems cannot be directed towards a linear path. In dynamical systems, an attractor is defined as a set of states toward which a system tends to evolve. The direction is discovered rather than dictated by the living living system.
These principles are crucial to keep in mind when surfing the edge of chaos.