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Using Systems Metaphors to Interpret the Edge of Chaos

Alvaro Carrizosa  María CarolinaOrtegón-Monroy  
【摘要】:正 Traditionally, and since the times of Newton, Bacon and Descartes, science has tried to explain the world through fixed laws, as is the case of the laws of morion, gravity and fluid dynamics, among many others. Consequently, cause and effect relations seem to have dominated the interpretations of natural phenomena. The basic assumption is that once the rules are known it is possible to predict the future and intervene in order to alter the behaviour of any system. This way of reasoning and understanding still predominates in- most sciences and evidently obeys to a paradigm: understand the laws, and you'll understand the universe: Newtonian determinism.Recently, the emergence of chaos theory has induced a change of perspective by unveiling new realities about the behaviour of complex systems. Its basic claim is that complex systems can display behaviour patterns of both stability and instability, but not in a predictable manner. Thus the laws governing this behaviour present a non-linear feedback nature, indicating limited possibilities for predictability and control, and defying accepted ways of working in science.Although it was only in the 70's when a few scientists, (among which there were mathematicians, physicists, biologists and chemists) in the United States and Europe began to investigate disorder, and only during the 80's when chaos became a movement re-shaping the scientific establishment, it is considered that: "20th century science will be remembered for three things: relativity, quantum mechanics and chaos", [1]Evidently, management science has also been struck by the new perspectives revealed by the chaos movement, where it has been extended to become the science of complexity. "Chaos and complexity theory invite us to explore the 95% of the organisational world that we have avoided because it is too dark, murky and intimidating. Or our theories or methods simply have not allowed us to see it..." [2|. However, it has been pointed out that these theories still need much grounding in this field.Nevertheless, serious attempts have been made to interpret today's organisational reality by using a series of concepts: attractors, emergence, phase transitions, fitness landscapes, etc., which compose the language of this theory, considered by some leading authors as a promising framework to understandthe dynamics of organisations, and by others, as just another metaphor to interpret organisational realities.Further elaboration on this theory by Staccy [3] and Peters [4], has tried to demonstrate that innovation and creativity, the keys to success in the global competitive markets of today, are deployed by organisations operating in a state of bounded instability, denominated as the edge of chaos.This paper will approach the characterisation of organisations operating at the edge of chaos, as presented by Stacey [5], in his book: Complexity and Creativity in Organisations, from a systemic perspective, making use of systems metaphors. The intention is to explore creatively on the complexities this author attributes to organisations operating in this state, and determine about possible new realities thus revealed.

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