The Butterfly Effect

March 14th, 2011 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Creativity | Opportunities

The “butterfly effect” refers to the idea that a small flap of a butterfly’s wings in one location could set off a chain of events in the atmosphere that could lead to large scale alterations or consequences, such as a tornado, in another location. The butterfly effect concept relates to the sensitive dependence on initial conditions as applied to chaos theory. In simple terms this means that a small change or activity in one location within a complex system results in large effects or consequences in another location or situation. Chaos theory is used to study the behaviour of dynamic and complex systems such as the weather, the changing landscape, the environment, medicine and biological evolution.

The concept of the “butterfly effect” can also be applied to our work and personal lives to provide insights about:

  • Considering how everything is interconnected
  • Understanding the law of cause and effect
  • Knowing the impact of the choices and decisions you make
  • Accepting the results you create
  • Achieving significant outcomes through small actions

Your personal and business life is part of a larger network of connections. You generally find that an action made (or not made) in life can have multiple influences and effects. For example, in the recent Brisbane, Australia flood, if water was released from the dams progressively as the dam levels were rising, could this have avoided the flood that Brisbane experienced? Related to this observation is the law of cause and effect which states that for every action there is an effect or reaction. In other words, “You reap what you sow”.

Your pathway in life and the decisions you make can also create ripples in life just like a “butterfly effect”. We are continuously faced with decisions that we have to make in life. The decisions could relate to education, career, lifestyle, personal development, opportunity and investment, that can change your pathway to higher prosperity. Of course making the wrong decisions could lead to a negative outcome. These inflection points in your life path will create your future destiny. You therefore have the option to influence your own destiny or allow your destiny to be dictated by external influences. In summary, “The decisions we make and the action we take today will determine our future results and outcomes”.

To achieve significant outcomes you need to reduce activities into small manageable tasks that require action. By mastering each of the small actions and disciplines, you build momentum that allows you to achieve the bigger outcomes that are linked to the actions.

A simple approach that can be implemented to achieve results is outlined below:

  1. Goals – Set your S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives.
  2. Beliefs and Emotion – Establish a positive mindset and remove any limiting beliefs.
  3. Decision – Develop a plan of activities and tasks by making the right decision. Take into account all the impacts and influences the decision will produce.
  4. Action – Take small incremental and disciplined actions based on the activities and sub-tasks that you document in your plan.
  5. Results – Achieve the results and successful outcomes that you deserve.

Dr John Kapeleris

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2 Responses

  • David says:

    Hi John,

    Nice post. I like the summary of actions you provided at the end of the post . Lisa and I would like to see you explore the theory of the ‘Butterfly Effect’ in business a bit more. It would be interesting to see examples of this and perhaps find out what we can do in our own organisations to implement positive butterfly effects.

    • admin says:

      Thanks David for your post.

      Using the “Butterfly Effect” in a business sense can involve application at two levels – the personal level and the organizational level. At the personal level it can involve the decisions you make and the actions you take in your daily work function. For example, if an opportunity presents itself to deliver work for a client one of the decisions you will make will involve quoting a suitable price for the work requested. Pricing is a critical factor that will be considered by the client when making their final decision. By understanding the needs of the client and anticipating buyer behaviour of the client a more appropriate pricing structure can be developed to maximise client acceptance.

      At the organizational level it can involve the interaction with external customers. As a leader of a number of teams throughout my career I have emphasised the importance of creating “magic moments” for potential customers and existing clients. In other words, if I can help people (clients) get what they want then I will eventually get what I want. An example from my career involved a situation at an international medical trade show in Dusseldorf, Germany many years ago. The trade show was a four day event where I had pre-booked a number of meetings with international distributors and potential future distributors that filled my time schedule over the four days. The only small amount of free time I had was around 15 minutes a day for lunch and a toilet break. While I was in a meeting with one of my distributors which was running over time and I had another distributor waiting for their allotted time I was interrupted by someone I knew from the past who had been working overseas and wanted to speak to me briefly. I finished my current meeting and then asked my other distributors who were patiently waiting if they could give me five minutes to speak with the person who made the unscheduled inquiry. He was so delighted that I had given him five minutes of my time to answer his questions as no one else from the Australian contingent of companies represented at the trade show were interested in giving him any time. Many years later the person working overseas had settled back in Australia taking up an influential position in an organization. When I needed to engage the organization for a significant business opportunity the person who I had given five minutes of my busy time a few years back had remembered the experience resulting in the closing of a significant deal with the organization. The moral of the story is that we should give some time to people who genuinely make inquiries because you don’t know what opportunities will emerge. In other words, what goes around comes around.




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