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The Butterfly Effect

- By Dwaipayan, 24 August 2020 | 5 MIN READ


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The butterfly effect is the concept that minimal things can have non-linear impacts on a complex system. The concept of a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a typhoon.

We all know, one-act just like the butterfly flapping its wings cannot create a typhoon. Small events can, even so, serve as catalysts that act on starting conditions.

Lorenz’s findings were revolutionary, he began to use the butterfly analogy as he said butterfly has the potential to create tiny changes which, while not creating a typhoon, could alter its trajectory. A flapping wing represents the minuscule changes in air pressure, and these changes compound as a model progresses.

Take into consideration the recent Covid-19 pandemic. How it all started from ground zero, however, we do not know the exact reason behind the cause, but there are explanations that it might have been triggered from something “insignificant” in nature beyond our rationale.

John Gribbin writes in his cult-classic work Deep Simplicity, “some systems are very sensitive to their starting conditions, in order that a small difference within the initial ‘push’ you give them causes an enormous difference in where they find yourself.

General Stanley McChrystal writes in Team of Teams. The context “butterfly effect” is almost always distorted. It has become synonymous with “leverage”—the theory of a small thing that has a big impact, with the conclusion that, like a lever, it can be manipulated to the desired end. This misses the point of Lorenz’s insight! The fact is that small things in a complex system may have no effect or a massive one, and we really do not know which will turn out to be the case.

The Butterfly Effect in Business

Markets are chaotic systems and influenced by minuscule changes, makes it difficult to forecast. Periods of economic progress and decline spring up from nowhere. We sleep in an interconnected, or rather a hyper-connected society. Organizations and markets “behave” like networks. This triggers chaotic rather than linear behavior.

We witnessed powerful giants collapse as they fall behind the times. Small start-ups rise and take over industries. Take the example of Amazon in just a matter of time it has become a Dollar Billion company.

Businesses have two choices in this situation: build a timeless product or service, or race to keep up with change. Doc Martens has kept up the good work as it continues selling the classic 1460 boot, while bringing out new designs each season.

Incessant small changes are the most effective way to produce the metaphorical typhoon in businesses. Iterations keep consumers engaged while preserving brand identity. There is nothing to worry if small tweaks fail, the adverse effect is hopefully not too great. But if they succeed and compound, the rewards can be massive!

In networking, the Butterfly Effect works like this. A BNI member called Ivan to ask a favor. Doing the favor led him to a speaking engagement, which led him to meet Jack Canfield, which led him to join an organization, which led him to meet someone who invited him to Necker Island, which led him to meet Sir Richard Branson. When you meet someone, you never know who they know–and you never know who those people know. A small interaction can have big effects down the road . Never hesitate to make new connections. They can take you places you never imagined.

From these handful of examples, we know how fragile the world is, and how dire the effects of tiny events can set things to flare up.
We always believed that we can predict the future and exercise a degree of control over powerful systems such as the weather and the economy. Yet the butterfly effect shows that we cannot.

We are surrounded by systems that are chaotic, prone to sudden change. If we think that we can pinpoint every catalyst and control or predict consequences, we are only setting a grave for ourselves.

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