An eye on Chaos & Determinism 

A colleague was telling a story that she was in the bank when she coincidently met an old time friend whom she hadn’t meet for more than 10 years, they had a quick catch up discussing their memories together, exchanged cell number after talking about their current jobs then they went in their different usual paths, soon after they reconnected when one of them working in a company in which they are looking to hire a digital marketing and she thinks that it will be a great opportunity for her childhood fellow, the other lady applied and she excelled in her interviews and got hired after couple of months from this call. 

If this lady decided not to go to the bank this day, or she went 5 minutes earlier or later so that she doesn’t get the chance to meet this old friend, she wouldn’t have the chance to casually chit chat and according to the series of events, subsequently she wouldn’t have changed her job and had such impact on her career. Thinking about this incident, I would see it as an interesting demonstration of the butterfly effect. 

The butterfly effect rests on the notion that the world is deeply interconnected, such that one small occurrence can influence a much larger complex system. The effect is named after a metaphor for chaos theory; it evokes the idea that a small butterfly flapping its wings could, hypothetically, cause a hurricane. Or maybe not, think about the mind-blowing fact that we don’t know, no one can predict whether a small act can lead to chaos or not! 

The butterfly is literally all about consequences. It describes how very small things can have great impacts, which means that we can’t just ignore the little things. Which is not how science used to operate back in the old days, it used to focus on the subjects under studying while ignoring small things that might cause bias, in other words, Science had used linear, deterministic models that assumed that it was easy to trace the path between a cause, A and an effect, B. 

Determinism entails that, in a situation in which a person makes a certain decision or performs a certain action, it is impossible that he or she could have made any other decision or performed any other action. In other words, it is never true that people could have decided or acted otherwise than they actually did. While it is an old philosophy, The person most closely associated with the establishment of determinism at the core of modern science is Isaac Newton.

 Newton’s laws are completely deterministic because they imply that anything that happens at any future time is determined by what happens now, and moreover that everything now was completely determined by what happened at any time in the past. Newton’s three laws were so successful that for several centuries after his discovery, the science of physics consisted largely of demonstrating how his laws could account for the observed motion of nearly any imaginable physical process.

In other simpler words, the classical question that your manager asks you if time goes back will you do something different? As per determinism, most likely you will not, you will do it again & again …

Are the concepts controversial! The butterfly effect does not mean that small things will necessarily lead to large consequences, but that they equally could or could not. Chaos cannot be predicted, who could have predicted the disastrous impact of COVID-19 on the global economy or predict the Ukrainian-Russian war and its impact on global supply chain! 

Back to our butterfly, let us think about such implication in business where simple actions yield large rewards, let us take enhancing consumer experience as an example 

  • Treating employees in the right way does more to increase business & reflects on how they care about consumers. Afterall, A leader is meant to look after the people who are looking after their consumers 
  • Understanding consumer touchpoints and journey pain points is an ongoing sensitive work, listen to your consumers feedback whether positive or negative- do not ignore the obvious 
  • Maintaining displays in retail environment, enhance shopability, focus on the kind of instore experience, that you are providing is a reflection of brand DNA, and it either attracts or repels consumers 
  • Treating vendors like true business enablers will reflect on the speed, quality & sometimes prices of the services provided 

Worth mentioning, big companies don’t fall from a single wrong uncalculated action, from what I witnessed it falls from prolonged mix of leaders’ egoism, cultural resistance & inadequate unaligned decisions with both staff & consumers expectations & market opportunities

From another angle & as illustrated in his 2015 book, Dr. Rajagopal writes about the butterfly in competitive markets. He explains how successful businesses like Apple and Nestlé often approach the competitive market by introducing small changes that result in a major effect on the market. For example, think about the fact that Apple often only introduces small technological upgrades between their iPhone models, but still, each time they release a new model, the devices are often flying off the shelf. Since it is difficult for businesses to accurately predict how they will fare in a competitive market, it is a better idea to focus on small, controllable details.

As per the butterfly effect, the sensitivity of a system to initial conditions demands everyone associated with the issue to focus on all touchpoints and think how the snowball will roll. Thinking about sustainability for example, it is a typical proof that every small thing that we do “as individuals or corporates” has a great impact on the future of our kids and certainly our planet, so small actions like using carton straw, recycling waste at home, giving used oils to specialized entities or bigger scale like  building factories that operate on solar energy & focus on zero carbon emission will certainly have a bigger impact, consequences will be massively different if we ignored the effect of our actions on climate! 

In nutshell, this is how I love to see it, every decision, every consideration, every action will create a ripple. So if you are OK with your decisions consequences… GO ON! don’t let anything stops you