The old Organizational Life Cycle Theoy suggests business environments are relatively stable and that organizations build structures over time to account for the slight changes and problems they encounter. However, for a new nonprofit both internal and external environments are unpredictable, unstable, and volatile. This volatility necessitates the rapid and seemingly chaotic rearrangement of activities, priorities and performances. Nevertheless order appears over time.
In the complexity sciences, a strange attractor is a set to which a dynamic system evolves after a long enough time. The strange attractor is the basis of self-organization. Narratives function as strange attractors at this new nonprofit that could suddenly close, devolve, and succumb to entropic forces at any time. Like the strange attractors in a fractal system, narratives at all levels are undergoing changes, while still offering organizational stability.
Narrative as a strange attractor implies the ritual view of communication. As Carey (1988) states, the “ritual view of communication is directed not toward the extension of messages in space but toward the maintenance of society in time; not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs” (p. 18). This view of narrative as communication is a constitutive approach. Communication constructs the social world, including our selves, our relationships, and our organizations. A community’s continued existence “is not that different from the story told about it; it too is constituted by the story of the community, of what it is and what it is doing, which is told, acted out and accepted in a kind of self-reflective social narration” (Carr, 1986, pp. 149-150).
Since narratives are constantly changing, they create the basis for common understandings, create order/disorder in the complex world of social, institutional and interpersonal relations, narratives are the strange attractors that produce a (re)ordering, reintegrating and renewing from the edges of chaos in which we – and nonprofit organizations such as the Lanc – find ourselves. The retelling of narratives is the “sacred ceremony that draws people together in fellowship and commonality” (Carey, 1988, p. 19). At the Lanc, the narratives and the embodied enactment of those narratives are the strange attractors that maintain order within chaos, and chaos within the order.
What stories are being told in your business or organization? Are they narratives that will continue your organization and propel it to a prosperous future? Or are you telling stories that will lead to your demise?
"Our life always expresses the result of our dominant thoughts." ~ Soren Kierkegaard
This is just as true in your businesses.