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Fractal Dynamics Looking beyond the apparent for Deeper Business Patterns
Pravir Malik
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
“Amidst the conventional wisdom and common goals of the time, how is it that Bill Gates decided to drop out of college, start Microsoft, and subsequently became on of the richest men in the world? How is it that after retirement from Government services, Dr. Venkataswamy, without any savings or help from banks, went on to create Aravind Eye Care System, one of the most successful eye hospitals that is fast becoming a model for eye care around the world? In both cases, and in numerous others, the protagonists have seen beyond the common lines to tap into the ever-progressing fractal-system underlying their apparent worlds. Read on to find out more about fractal-systems and maneuvering through them, to create larger success in your own world.”

In business, the iceberg effect is becoming more real. Huge opportunities present themselves in the guise of obstacles. If linear thinking is employed here, it would only attempt to avoid only the visible part of the obstacle. In linear thinking, hence, less and less goes as planned, and not fathoming the true immensity of the ice-berg, the business would in all probability collide with it, most certainly becoming a casualty.

In systems thinking however, the obstacle would be seen as an entry into a whole different world. The obstacle often becomes an initiation point into the unexpected world of fractal dynamics. Both Bill Gates and Dr. Venkataswamy defied linear thinking, and did unexpected things that consequently had huge repercussions.

This series is about becoming aware of the system behind the obvious lines. As a result, a business will be better able to chart out a more successful journey, and change danger into opportunity.

To see a system where there is apparently none is an art. Fractal-dynamics provides a means to begin to uncover the hidden lines of the system a business may be operating in. Fractal-dynamics will provide the canvas and tools to help to insightfully understand the playing field in such a manner so as to gain the competitive advantage.

Understand the Basis of Fractal-dynamics
The fractal view is about finding patterns that repeat themselves on different scale. For example, in viewing stock market action, the plot delineating the averaged daily stock index will chart out a pattern that is similar to a plot of the averaged monthly stock index, which will be similar to the plot of the averaged yearly stock-index. Hence, the stock index, which has a similar pattern whether viewed by day, month, or year, has a fractal basis to it.

Realizing the fractal-basis of the stock market provides deep insight into the nature of the system that the stock market belongs to. It now becomes possible to leverage the information obtained for a day, with its attendant variations and end-to-end movements, to plan for longer-term time-intervals up to the scale of years, because the fractal has provided insight into the nature of the whole system.

Uncovering the fractal, hence, results in tremendously efficient problem solving or planning. This obviously helps those involved in coordinating stock markets or those investing in them, to think of more insightful short and long-term planning and investment strategies respectively.

The key to this effort is in understanding the base fractal-pattern that provides insight into the nature of the system. This is where the mastery lies.

Understanding the Basic Fractal Behind Business
While the fractal for the moving stock-index provides insight into the underlying stock market system, the index itself is the end-result of a complex of individual, organizational, and market/system dynamics. While linear thinking may provide some insight into the nature of these dynamics, the focal point, that is, the complex of individual, organizational, and market dynamics is itself fundamentally a system. To understand these dynamics it is necessary to turn to systems thinking.

This is where fractal-dynamics can provide substantial insight. But first, just as in the case of the base-fractal that stands behind stock-index movement, it is necessary to understand the system-fractal that similarly animates each of the different ‘levels’ in an organization. These levels can be thought of as the individual-level, team-level, the organization-level itself, and the market-level that the organization operates in.

Without getting into a lot of detail, suffice it to say that through substantial research and development the system-fractal, the pattern that repeats itself at each of the different levels in and beyond the successful organization, has been isolated. This implies that the nature of the system in which organizations and markets operate is uncovered. To succeed in this system, an organization has to operate along dimensions dictated by the fundamental pattern or fractal that so animates the system.

Simply stated the pattern can be thought of as the movement from a ‘physical’ or material-outlook, to a ‘vital’ or financial-outlook, to a ‘mental’ or conceptual-outlook. In other words, the fractal that animates successful business is such that there is an implicit push to move from having a primarily physically centered approach to the organization or market, to having a primarily vitally-centered approach, to having a primarily mentally-centered approach.

Moving Along the Pathways of the Fractal System
In a physical or material outlook the observer may view the world or market as being fixed. This implies always operating in the same way as it has, without little change. The fact is that when the market does change, as it inevitably does, then an individual, organization, or industry with this point of view risks serious stagnation.

In a vital or financial outlook the world or market is seen as more flexible and existing to help the organization fulfill financial goals. This is a more liberating and certainly more energizing outlook, and allows organizations to swiftly change customers, products, and strategies if required, but also forces it to remain subservient to financial goals.

Hence, when resources of investments have to be radically changed, as often happens, such a company usually falters, to the extent of being easily overtaken by more innovative players.

In a mental or conceptual outlook the organization has likely begun to tap into a different source of competing – its raison d’etre, its living vision, if you will. This usually allows it to become extremely innovative, become the leader in its industry, and define new markets and opportunities.

In the case of Bill Gates for example, the computer industry was at the ‘physical’ stage in its cycle. Large systems used by a privileged few, was the reality of the day. Yet, in the fractal scheme of things, the next stage in the computer industry’s fractal had to be a movement to the ‘vital’ level – the level that signifies energy, activity and experimentation of all kinds. For that to happen, computing power had to come down to the level of the desk-top. Enter the energy and drive of Bill Gates. The rest is history.
To successfully maneuver along the lines of the underlying system entails leveraging the notion of the fractal-pattern. Surfing along the lines of the underlying system is important, because following the natural direction that a system is already moving in gives momentum and automatic intent to an organization’s efforts. Further, it allows the surfer to be proactive and hence often engenders vast creativity.

As in the computer industry example, this obviously entails first understanding where the market is in its system-fractal.

Assuming then that the system is seeking to make a shift from the physical to the vital mode of operation would imply that an organization makes at least the corresponding shift in its way of operating.

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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