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Fractal-Dynamics-Corporate-And-Business-Strategies--Planning-Methods
Pravir Malik
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Fractal Dynamics is a means of becoming aware of the system behind the obvious lines—tapping into the underlying system can provide the protagonist with unprecedented competitive advantage. In this article we will begin to take a more systematic look at what it means to tap into the system behind, by considering an area of vital importance for all businesses—planning.

Linear Planning
The system-fractal, we may recall, is the pattern that repeats itself in each of the different levels within and beyond a successful organization. A movement from a “material outlook” to a “vital-outlook” to a “conceptual-outlook” characterizes it.

Yet, if we consider the common approach to planning, it is one of forecasting, or linear planning. These approaches are rooted in a physical or material worldview, the first level in the system-fractal, and hence, by that very nature, can never be as insightful as planning that is at the higher conceptual-level of the system-fractal.

Forecasting and linear planning after all, assume that what had been true yesterday will continue to be true tomorrow. In today’s world, however, this may be true only in limited market segments. These techniques, hence, can only apply to markets that have literally been frozen in time. Examples of these markets may be government controlled sectors, such as agriculture, whether in the U.S., or in India. Organizations that operate in such slow-moving markets can continue to view the world as fixed, and hence forecasting and linear planning may prove to be adequate.

The Next Rung of Planning
As reality proves, however, most markets are, to say the least, very volatile. Assumptions break down rapidly. Geographies merging, industries merging, continuing consumer sophistication, break-through in a range of technologies, sudden resource-based or political instability, new and unforeseen competition are perhaps some of the drivers of the rapid rate of change.

When the volatile activity of markets is accepted as a reality, organizations are implicitly accepting a vital world-view. They know they have to act fast, and act continually. They have to be prepared for surprises. Their actions are perhaps best summarized by the “fire, aim, ready” heuristic popularized by Tom Peters. Yet, they can never know what they don’t know, and if circumstance unfolds along lines they had not considered, they are likely to be a serious casualty. To counter this, the best of these organizations may use a scenario-planning type approach to planning, which at least begins to prepare an organization for the unexpected. In such an approach various future market narratives are created, that may seem highly unlikely, but by dint of having at least considered them, these organizations begin to consider what they did not know, and their likelihood of getting shocked or surprised is lessened.

Scenario planning is a vital-world outlook to planning. In this approach one does not know what is going to happen, but prepares for the unexpected by creating several possible future realities. The starting point is often trends that are occurring in the present. This approach to planning is already far more sophisticated than the linear or planning approach. It has overcome the massive barrier of viewing the world as fixed. Yet its basis is a vital-dynamic of hedging, which by definition can never be as insightful as planning based on the conceptual-level, the third stage in the underlying system-fractal. For in the vital view, while the world is not viewed as fixed, at the same time there is little insight into what the deeper lines governing world dynamics may be about, and hence, organizations that subscribe to this basis of operation often display a high degree of waste.

Fractal-dynamics Based Planning
The most successful organization does not hedge in its planning. It does not engage in such heuristics as “fire, aim, ready.” Rather, by dint of having engaged in a market-space for years, something of the deeper system-fractal that the market is a part of may reveal the next needed step in its journey, to the persevering organization.

Through its efforts such an organization at best becomes an instrument to push the underlying industry-fractal or market-fractal to the next level in its own fractal journey. The organization thus, has somehow ‘merged’ with the deeper system, and is helping the system unfold in the manner that it must, as prescribed by the movement inherent in its own fractal.

Microsoft, for example, through marketing force, was able to make today’s Internet a reality by popularizing the use of the desktop through an easier-to-use operating system. Transparency, rapid exchange of information, amongst other Internet characteristics is resulting in the shift of power from the few, privileged corporations, to the common person. The underlying system-fractal, hence, is moving from the physical or fixed world-view level, to the vital or enterprising world-view level. This spells forward movement for the system-fractal along its needed journey, and Microsoft, hence, has been heavily rewarded for this. That was then. Now, the opposite is happening for Microsoft. It is impeding the progress that must happen, relative to movements like open-source, by continuing to control resources that could bring even more power to the individual, and hence, is being pushed aside in favor of organizational instruments that are able to push the underlying system-fractal journey forward on its required path better. It is hence, out of synch with the underlying market-fractal.

In fractal-dynamics based planning, getting into synch with the fractal that underlies a market or system is paramount. This implies knowing at what level that system or market is in its fractal-journey, and consequently preparing the way so that the underlying journey can continue to the next level unimpeded. A range of different characteristics is required by individuals and organizations to become successful at fractal-based planning. These include the important ability to enter into touch with one’s own fractal-journey, and know what forces will help it and what forces will impede it, for example. This and other characteristics required for success at fractal-dynamics based planning can be the subject of further explorations.

Pravir Malik is the founder of Aurosoorya, an organization specializing in creativity and innovation. He has consulted for many organizations around the world and can be reached at pravirmalik@yahoo.com.

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