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Implications of complexity and chaos theories for organizations that learn

Peter A.C. Smith (President of The Leadership Alliance, Inc., Holland Landing, Ontario, Canada)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 1 December 2003



In 1996 Hubert Saint‐Onge and Smith published an article (“The evolutionary organization: avoiding a Titanic fate”, in The Learning Organization, Vol. 3 No. 4), based on their experience at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC). It was established at CIBC that change could be successfully facilitated through blended application of theory such as system dynamics, and the then emerging notions of “chaos and complexity”. The resulting enterprise was termed an evolutionary organization (EVO), and CIBC has continued since to re‐invent itself with great success. Although the all‐embracing nature of chaos and complexity was understood, in retrospect the impact of non‐rational people‐factors, e.g. emotion, trust, openness, spirituality were underestimated. Introduces the six papers included in this special issue, which illustrate how much more sophisticated chaos and complexity have become in the decade since Hubert Saint‐Onge and Smith first began to apply the notions at CIBC. However, although the papers in this issue present some evidence of managerial “take‐up” of chaos and complexity, whether “take‐off” will ever ensue is questionable. It is proposed that, just as in the 1990s, if there is one thing that more than any other stands in the way of exploration and adoption of these ideas, it is management mindsets.



Smith, P.A.C. (2003), "Implications of complexity and chaos theories for organizations that learn", The Learning Organization, Vol. 10 No. 6, pp. 321-324.




Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

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