Complexity, Chaos, and Nonlinear Dynamics: A New Perspective on Career Development Theory


  • Deborah P. Bloch

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    • Deborah P. Bloch, Organization and Leadership Department, School of Education, University of San Francisco. The author, as featured speaker, presented an abbreviated version of the ideas in this article at the 2004 National Career Development Association awards luncheon.

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The author presents a theory of career development drawing on nonlinear dynamics and chaos and complexity theories. Career is presented as a complex adaptive entity, a fractal of the human entity. Characteristics of complex adaptive entities, including (a) autopiesis, or self-regeneration; (b) open exchange; (c) participation in networks; (d) fractals; (e) phase transitions between order and chaos, (f) search for fitness peaks; (g) nonlinear dynamics; (h) sensitive dependence, (i) attractors that limit growth; (j) the role of strange attractors in emergence; and (k) spirituality, are described and then applied to careers. The article concludes with a brief case analysis and implications for practice and research.