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The Blog

Seeking the Edge of Chaos

What place does chaos have in development? Co-founder of myfastestmile and top PDP contributor, Mark Upton shares a thought provoking article on the balance between chaos and order and how it might impact on the environments we create, referencing the work of FC Barcelona.


Below is a nice little primer on the “edge of chaos”, revealing that it is here where a system (player/team/club/national sport) can be most adaptive…

I’ve been mashing up these ideas around order, chaos and complexity in a team sport context for a while now…

This illustrates the idea that excellence in team sport learning and performance can be attained along a continuum and may be optimal right at the edge of chaos (the “adaptive zone”). Where that edge is will likely vary from one system (player/team) to the next, and is dynamic. Figuring out where to draw lines in the sand (constraints) at any moment in time is an on-going puzzle.

“For a given system the region which lies between order and disorder provides an optimal environment for learning and adaptation” (Cowan & Pines)

It has been a fascinating personal and shared journey understanding and applying these theoretical ideas in team sports (unknowingly at first!). I’ve observed first-hand that this way of viewing the world is already, or more readily, adopted in certain countries/regions. For example, FC Barcelona have recently shared their intention to use these ideas (complex systems, ecological approaches, coordination dynamics) as a framework to increase understanding, share knowledge and support coaches into the future…

(Watch from 18.10 – 21.45)

In a practical sense this is about exploring the space between the extremes of “just let them play” and “drill everything in isolation until it becomes ingrained”, understanding the wider socio-cultural dynamics that swirl around and influence us, and coming to terms with the decision making and adaptive expertise required from coaches when inhabiting this space.