In this chapter Mark Michaels provides a history of some of the evolution in thinking from The Chaos Network to the present applications of complexity science. He notes that management thinking has been influenced by many different flavors of complexity-type thinking and provides some pragmatic lessons.
There were precedents, but the effort to apply complexity theory to management received its big push from the publication of James Gleick’s book Chaos: Making a New Science. The release of the book was on a very strange day. On that same Monday, October 19, 1987, another book about chaos was also released, Tom Peters’s Thriving on Chaos. More importantly, it was also Black Monday, the day the stock market crashed. Peters’s book had little to do with chaos and complex systems thinking. In fact, when he was asked some years later whether “chaos theory” was applicable to management, his response on a number of occasions was no. But it was from the convergence of these three events that our current ability, or lack of ability, to use complexity theory in management is derived.
Peters’s book helped to generate the initial fad for chaos in organizations. However, because it conflicted with Gleick’s use of the term chaos