• Lisa Paul IBCLC

Making sense out of chaos



Chaos and the theories around it fascinate me. In my early days at college, a friend introduced me to fractals, and the thought that the flap of the wings of a butterfly could cause a storm. While my understanding of the surrounding theory and the mathematical underpinning has waned in the years, I still find myself attracted to making sense out of chaotic situations. I find it both beautiful (like the image of a fractal on the left) and overwhelming.

This week I attended an Agile meetup where Don Gray presented. Without going into too many details about the actual meeting, we explored a problem, why it existed, and how to fix it. At the end of this discussion, Don shared a slide of the cynefin framework. (I highly recommend clicking on the link to see the graphical representation, which I hesitate to include due to copyright issues.) In essence, the cynefin framework breaks down a problem into 5 categories - simple, complicated, complex, chaotic and disordered. When looking at the problem from this framework, it was obvious that the problem we had been pondering fell into the chaotic realm.

What does chaotic realm mean? Basically that you cannot directly correlate cause and effect. Like the butterfly wings causing a storm, the ripple effects of a small action cannot be followed, or predicted. When several variables exist, trying to make sense out of a chaotic problem often has people running from one proverbial fire to another, and making no progress. When faced with chaos, the best choice is to control what is controllable and to move forward with consistent action.

To extrapolate this theory to its application to world of lactation is not lost on me. I was most fascinated in the chaotic nature of the lactation world and why it is so appealing to my problem-solving nature. It also helped me to see why the current model of evidence-based solutions is inadequate and does not always lead to best practices in our field.