Chaos, Complexity, and Contingency Theories: A Comparative Analysis and Application to the 21st Century Organization

Franklin M. Lartey


Organizations in the 21st century deal with constant changes such as globalization, technological evolutions, regulatory changes, competition, and other unexpected events, among others. These challenges can be viewed and addressed through the lenses of contemporary theories. This paper selected three contemporary theories namely chaos, complexity, and contingency theories, and presented their foundations and characteristics by comparing and contrasting their key concepts. These concepts include nonlinearity, feedback, bifurcation, strange attractors, fractals, and self-organization for chaos theory; nonlinearity, dynamism, feedback, self-organization, emergence, and adaptability for complexity theory; and adaptation, equifinality, effectiveness, and congruency for contingency theory. Examples of studies and organizational applications of these theories were provided, and implications for scholars and organizational leaders were discussed. By explaining notions such as how the capacity of a system could be greater than the sum of the capacities of its subunits, this paper can act as a starting point for anyone seeking to understand the three theories or use them for research or organizational purpose.

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Journal of Business Administration Research (Submission E-mail:

ISSN 1927-9507 (Print)      ISSN 1927-9515  (Online)

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