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A metaphor for attractors and strange attractors

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —January 19, 2005
Filed in Communication

The concepts of an attractor and strange attractor from complexity science can be difficult ideas to grasp, but I came across this metaphor by Bill McKelvey which you might find useful.

“As a metaphor, think of a point attractor as a rabbit on an elastic tether—the rabbit moves in all directions but as it tires it is drawn toward the middle where it lies down to rest. Think of a strange attractor as a rabbit in a pen with a dog on the outside—the rabbit keeps running to the side of the pen opposite from the dog but as it tires it comes to rest in the middle of the pen. The rabbit ends up in the ‘middle’ in either case. With the tether the cause is the pull of the elastic. In the pen the cause is repulsion from the dog unsystematically attacking from all sides.” (McKelvey,2004: 43)

McKelvey, B. 2004. “‘Simple rules’ for improving corporate IQ: basic lessons from complexity science.” Pp. 39-52 in Complexity Theory and the Management of Networks, edited by P. Abdriani and G. Passiante. University of Lecce, Italy: Imperial College Press.

About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:

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