Home Concepts Best Practices Coaching in Organizations: A Status Report (Past, Present and Future)

Coaching in Organizations: A Status Report (Past, Present and Future)

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Revolution of Complexity and Chaos

A third revolution that potentially impacts on the future of professional coaching is to be found in the physical sciences. In recent years, we have seen a turn toward an inter-disciplinary perspective on the nature and dynamics of highly complex systems. Initiated by Ilya Prigogine and the “chaos” theorists (such as Benoit Mandelbrot and Edward Lohrenz) and bolstered by the exceptional work being done at the Santa Fe Institute (notably the work of Stuart Kaufman), the worlds of system dynamics and energy consumption and dissipation have been permanently realigned. We now know about the intriguing nature of attractor basins, the critical roles to be played by initial conditions and bifurcations, and the irreversibility of many dynamic systems.

With regard to the relevance of these studies for professional coaching, we have only to look first at a proposition that highly complex systems (such as corporations) cannot be effectively managed through the use of hierarchical structures. Most successful systems that are highly complex operate in a nonhierarchical manner. In observing the flocking of birds, for instances, it has been discovered that there is no lead bird, rather leadership shifts quickly based on the bird with the most knowledge about an impending challenge (such as a hawk swooping in or a shift in wind currents). The birds move gracefully and are constantly shifting their position with reference to one another – producing a highly adaptive and responsive system. The flat world described by Thomas Friedman is certainly compatible with this analysis offered by the physical and biological scientists. We have witnessed the emergence of very flat international networks, mediated by the Internet, and the emergence of a global economic market that knows neither start nor end to a day of trading.

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