Daily leadership activities to leverage complexity. 9th: Fractals can turn from an art to a disaster

Fractals are all around us. They are a simple structure with simple multiple rules that create very complex structures. snowflakes, leaves, trees, rivers, and clouds are all examples of fractals. The simple rules of fractals create a relationship between one element and may other smaller replications contained within. 

Fractals are one characteristic of chaotic and complex systems. Fractals create complex systems by following simple rules. Every organization that has a hierarchical structure also follows the law of fractals. hierarchies are fractals with authority and rank embedded into the fractals rules. 

What worries about fractal structures is their tendency to reach into chaos and complexity. Since we are discussing social systems controlled by people, people also need to watch and verify that the structural behavior is not multiplying itself into chaos. 

As bigger the group you are leading, bigger the option that the organization fractals will get out of control and will erupt as a surprising tipping point. Your role is to prevent it by keeping track of the organization structure.

This might sound like a simple task if you just think about the formal hierarchical structure of a company. But organizations with a hierarchical structure also have a natural network of people and informal groups. This network also follows the fractal rules. The magnitude of informal groups and subgroups is ten times more rich with opportunities than the hierarchical one.

The informal network structure is also the network that gets things done in organizations. Your boss will ask you do to something. You will contact people in your network to get support and help. It’s not a secret that even your boss will use this network to convince people to follow his decisions.

This highly dynamic network needs daily attention. Organizations can run with a broken hierarchical structure, but any deficiency in the informal network will have an immediate impact. You want to prevent it. 

The first step is to understand the simple basic structure of an organization and the simple rules it follows to create bigger and bigger fractals. If you can’t explain it as simple as the Sierpiński triangle can be explained, you still have work to do.

This is a tedious task, but when done right you can inspect an element in the social system that split at a higher rate than the normal. When you spot such behavior, your task is to understand what caused it. If it’s a sign for the social system moving from order to chaos, stop. Consult others and decide if this is a process you want to encourage, enable or stop.

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