A Study of Normal Chaos: A New Research Paradigm

18 Pages Posted: 29 Aug 2017

See all articles by Mike Lauder

Mike Lauder

Cranfield University - School of Management

Hugo Marynissen

Antwerp Management School

Timothy Summers

Arizona State University

Date Written: September 8, 2017


There is wide recognition that the world we live in is complex. This can be seen in the many academic papers within the field of social science, which explore a plethora of issues that this complexity throws up. The aim of this paper is to offer a new paradigm for this research. This paper offers the ‘normal chaos’ paradigm as a basic premise for research into the management of complex processes.

The idea of normal chaos emerged from research in the ways society learns from public inquiries. It demonstrates that those conducting inquires have a clear view of how the world works. While not stated explicitly, their views come across very clearly within the comments they make and the recommendations they offer. This worldview has been labelled the ‘perfect world’ paradigm.

The construct of normal chaos at first provided an alternative lens through which to theorise about resilient ways of organising and managing stressful situations. Subsequently it has been seen to have much wider application. Normal chaos offers a direct challenge to work based on the premise that increasing control and coordination provides the way to manage complex situations. The new proposition suggests that control and coordination mechanisms are limited and that the pursuit of ‘more of the same’ soon reaches a point of diminishing returns. The construct suggests that we cope rather than control such situations. The aim of this paper is to outline this premise. From a methodological perspective, the purpose of this paper is to offer an initial catalytic framework that stimulates thinking about these complex situations. It will first explain what is meant by the paradigms labelled ‘perfect world’ and ‘normal chaos’. It will explain the literature that has been used to shape our thinking. And finally, it will describe the studies that have already taken place and the next steps in the research.

Keywords: normal chaos, perfect world, complex processes, crisis management

Suggested Citation

Lauder, Mike and Marynissen, Hugo and Summers, Timothy, A Study of Normal Chaos: A New Research Paradigm (September 8, 2017). Seventh International Engaged Management Scholarship Conference, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3027060 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3027060

Mike Lauder

Cranfield University - School of Management ( email )

Bedfordshire, MK43 0AL
United Kingdom

Hugo Marynissen (Contact Author)

Antwerp Management School ( email )

Sint-Jacobsmarkt 9-13
Antwerp, 2000

HOME PAGE: http://www.antwerpmanagementschool.be

Timothy Summers

Arizona State University ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://www.howhackersthink.org/

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