Workshop: Normal Chaos: a catalytic framework for theorizing crisis

One of the workshops at our CIP Conference 2017 on 16 June 2017 at University of Lisbon – Faculdade de Psicologia.

In our quest for failure free operations, we try to learn from our mistakes. Therefore we hold inquiries, make diagnoses about how and why an event occurred, and we offer recommendations for improvement. This mostly results in more rules and regulations. However, in a very unstable environment, facing high levels of complexity, people do not hold on to regulations, they rather improvise based on prior experiences and trainings. This for the simple reason that rules and regulations require a stable environment for being effective. Therefore, the question could be raised whether our current view on how to manage crisis situations, that is based on formal rules and procedures, is not based on a ‘perfect world paradigm’? In this session we will explain in depth how we might approach this problem more successfully from a ‘normal chaos paradigm’. This new paradigm takes into account the formal and informal process that are at play in our environment, as well as the interdependencies that are required to solve complex situations.

The differences between the ‘Perfect World’ and the ‘Normal Chaos’ paradigm. An illustration based on a real case in firefighting.

Based on a published case (Brugghemans & Marynissen, 2013) about the decision-making process in a fast burning crisis situation involving multiple firefighters, we will 1) indicate the differences between the ‘Perfect World’ and the ‘Normal Chaos’ paradigm, 2) give a practical application of the Normal Chaos theory, and 3) how this might help us in our future approach of crisis preparedness and crisis management.


Dr. Hugo Marynissen is CIP member and Academic Director at Antwerp Management School, Belgium.
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Dr. Mike Lauder is CIP member and Faculty Member at Antwerp Management School, Belgium.
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