Most of us are somewhat familiar with the term butterfly effect, which describes a situation where a small initial change in the state of a system alters the future state disproportionately.

The original example (which is where the name came from) describes the metaphorical event where a butterfly flapped its wings and caused a hurricane in a remote location weeks later. Of course, the butterfly didn’t “cause” the hurricane in the sense that it provided the energy for it to happen. No, it acted more like a switch, enabling the energy from the system to redirect and concentrate in the remote location.

This can happen on an individual and organizational level too. Has it ever happened to you that something you’ve read or heard created a major, lasting change? Maybe it changed the way how you see things, or motivated you to start a project?

Or maybe you talked to a friend, family member or a coworker, and you said something (perhaps even incidentally) that inspired a positive change in him or her? The theory that studies how these “emergent properties” of systems affect their states is called Complexity theory, and we’ll talk more about it in one of the following blog posts.