There's beauty in chaos

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear, of the unpredictable. Expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with some approach to try to predict phenomena, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control. e.g. weather, the stock market, company culture.

Competitive Strategy and Competitive Intelligence are disciplines that can be confused as being constantly trying to predict next steps, therefore considered a traditional science. Like a Chess Master trying to predict the next moves of his opponent, in order to prevent him from gaining an advantage.

But how do we try to predict, when there is chaos? Simple answer, we can’t, but we can look for beauty (i.e. patterns) in chaos.

Let’s take a look at fractal mathematics, which captures the infinite complexity of nature. Recognizing the chaotic, fractal nature of our world can give us new insights and wisdom, from a different perspective. For example, by understanding the complex and chaotic dynamics of the atmosphere and winds, a skipper can navigate her sailboat to practically any desired location. By understanding that our companies and workplaces have a chaotic nature, we can hope to avoid actions which may end up being detrimental to our long-term well-being.

Basic principles and concepts of chaos theory

Bottomless wonders spring from simple rules repeated without end – Benoit Mandelbröt

Another model: VUCA

Cited in Army War College documents extant as far back as 1987,  VUCA is part of the USAWC curriculum and learning environment.

The original curriculum by the US Army War College was and is about leadership, not CI. However, chapter 2 introduces the concept of VUCA to describe the environment where a leader will find him or herself.

VUCA: stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity.

The VUCA model allows to characterize situations and events that occur in the environment that we operate, whether introduced by a competitor action or not.

All 4 elements are inter-related by two factors: (1) How much do I know about the situation, and (2) how well can I predict the results. Again, no exact science.


The way to leverage the VUCA model is by developing panoramic awareness, considering all 4 situations, in a 360 degree way. That sounds easier to do than it really is.

We live in a world where chaos exist. Beauty in fractals is a testament that even in chaos, complex yet identifiable patterns exists and once identified we’re golden. Look for the patterns, adjust accordingly, and accept that sometimes the traditional scientific method is not the ideal approach to gain insights from the opponent.

Happy thriving in chaos!

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