How the Butterfly Effect Can Propel Your Forward

How does the Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect apply to our lives?

Can implementing these principles improve personal and organizational performance?

Most people have heard of Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings over the Atlantic can cause hurricanes in Florida. A huge, dynamic system, like the weather, is influenced by innumerable tiny factors. These are practically impossible to predict and may seem innocuous at the time, but they can have severe repercussions.

The Butterfly Effect: Ripples and Consequences

The Butterfly Effect can influence human interaction together, and it is built around the idea that any action you take starts a reaction that will reverberate and grow, having an impact further down the line. Whenever you make a choice in life, try to think about the potential repercussions, because every action you take will have a consequence.

To give an example of the Butterfly Effect in action, imagine a manager who is having a stressful, busy day. She takes her anger out on one of her supervisors, shouting at him and making him feel very uncomfortable. This places him in a bad mood and he proceeds to be very abrupt with his staff, and they become tense and on edge, becoming less pleasant to customers.

The manager’s stress cascaded down the chain, increasing in intensity and in the number of people it affected at each stage, potentially costing the company money and increasing the chance that disillusioned staff will leave the company or even worse, become less productive and negatively influence others around them.

Use the Butterfly Effect as a Force for Positive Change

Luckily, the idea of the cascade Butterfly Effect can also be used to your advantage. Imagine that the above manager kept her stress to herself and instead praised her supervisor for working well under pressure. He will pass this goodwill onto his staff and they, in turn, will interact with customers much better. This principle lies at the core of harnessing the Butterfly Effect to improve productivity.

Although we often have to think on our feet and have to react to situations quickly, there is always time to think about the consequences of our actions. Most organizations are built around a hierarchy, and clear vision, drive and simple kindness at the top will soon filter down throughout the organization. While we are all governed by emotion, an effective manager is cool and calm under pressure, aware that any they action they take can have serious repercussions.

The Butterfly Effect can also be used on a personal level, as a way to organize and, most importantly, plan ahead. Small changes to a business plan or an operational procedure can have far-reaching effects that may not be apparent immediately but reap dividends in the long term. In a business environment where “short-termism” dominates far too often, thinking ahead and making the small decisions for the future is a great way to get ahead.

The term “butterfly effect” is attributed to Edward Norton Lorenz, a mathematician and meteorologist who was one of the first proponents of Chaos Theory.
More information about the Butterfly Effect:


Putting the Butterfly Effect in Practice

…continued in the Ebook

Buy Rights to Reprint this Article

Do you want to use this article in your company newsletter or use it for a staff development meeting? You can purchase rights to print this article (one time use only in your newsletter or meeting hand-out) for only $20. Contact us to request use of this article...