Puppies and ping-pong balls

Imagine you are in a room alone with a Ping-Pong ball. If you repeatedly drop the ball from waist height, you can be fairly confident of correctly predicting that it will fall to the ground somewhere near your feet. We call this Scenario 1.

However, suppose now that an eager ball-chasing puppy is in the room with you and also that a strong electric fan is brought into the room, placed near you, and switched on. Now, when you drop the Ping-Pong ball, how certain can you be that the ball will land near your feet. Presumably much less certain, because the puppy might catch it or the fan might blow it off course. We call this Scenario 2.

Now suppose there is a pack of eager puppies in the room and a series of electric fans; someone has opened the window and a howling gale is blowing; and, furthermore, you are now obliged to stand on an electric treadmill programmed to randomly vary its speed! Now when you drop the ball, how confident are you that it will land near your feet? Indeed, how confident are you in making any prediction about where the ball might end up? We call this Scenario 3.

Bright, J.E.H. & Pryor, R.G.L. (2005) The chaos theory of careers: A user’s guide. Career Development Quarterly, 53(4), 291–305.
Sleeping puppies

Chasing ping pong balls is very tiring!

This engaging image is used by Jim Bright and Robert Pryor to illustrate the difficulty in predicting a compatible career selection for someone. In Scenario 1 things are pretty simple, stable and predictable; they equate this to the situations under which person–environment matching theories such as Holland would be applicable.

They related Scenario 2 to more complex theories such as Gottfredson‘s, in which there are a larger number of inter-related factors but it is still possible to give some broad predictions about the choices people might make.

In Scenario 3 it would be difficult to make any specific, long-term predictions about what would happen to the ball. For the first few seconds after it leaves your hands you might be able to say where it would be, but after that…

Pryor and Bright argue that career decisions and actions in real life take place in conditions that are much closer to Scenario 3. There are so many factors that could influence a decision and they interact in seemingly unpredictable ways. They then borrow some of the language of Chaos Theory to describe this complexity. Here are a few of the concepts.

Nonlinearity and recursiveness

In simple world of careers (no puppies), you can use statistical tools such as psychometric tests with confidence to predict satisfying careers for people, because you can easily connect cause and effect in a linear way. Small changes in conditions produce small effects and big changes produce big effects. The impact of different factors can be separated and they don’t interfere with each other.

However, in a non-linear world, small changes can produce enormous effects. For example, a single word could change the course of someone’s life.

As well as this, different factors interact with each other. For example, a small change in your total working hours might have serious knock on effects for your life outside work. This might mean that you have a more stressful home life. This, in turn, leads to you being more tired and distracted at work. Because of this you are less efficient and you get less work done, so you have to stay later, and so on…

Because of the feedback loops the impacts of these small changes are all out of proportion.

Phase shifts

In a linear system, things change smoothly, but in non-linear systems things can transform suddenly. As you heat water, the temperature gradually increases as you add more energy. But when you reach 100 degrees, the temperature stops rising and water starts to turn into steam. You have produced a phase shift.

In a career, a phase shift can occur when a petty annoyance that you were able to tolerate gradually increases until it becomes the ‘straw that breaks the camel’s back’. What you could once cope with is now unbearable.

Emergence of order and fractals

In chaos theory things are not completely random. The underlying relationships between the factors often produce patterns that are recognisable if not entirely predictable.

In career terms, an individual may repeat very similar patterns at different times in their working lives. For example, they might start to get itchy feet in a job every time they master the initial challenges. It won’t happen at exactly the same time in the same way in each case, but the pattern is there.

The overall shape of a tree is very similar to the shape of one of its branches. The shape of a twig is similar to that of a branch, just on a smaller scale. This self-similarity is a characteristic of fractal geometry, which is an important component of chaos theory.

The patterns of behaviour that someone demonstrates in a particular situation, could indicate a larger pattern that is true for their life as a whole, and vice versa.

Unattractive attractors and unnecessary metaphors?

Whilst, I really like the insights into the complex and non-linear nature of career decision making that chaos theory provides. There is one thing about Bright and Pryor’s Chaos Theory of Careers that I find hard to digest. They make quite a lot of the concept of attractors. I’ve read this stuff several times and I still don’t get the point.

The Chaos Theory of Careers (CTC) is one big metaphor and there’s nothing wrong with that. A good metaphor can give us an insight into a complex situation. In general, a metaphor makes something complex and unfamiliar easier to understand by comparing it to something we are already familiar with. In CTC they do the opposite. They try to help you understand careers by comparing it with something even more complex and unfamiliar. It’s almost as if they were trying to dazzle us with a bit of science terminology to show how clever they are.

  • Can you think of examples of non-linearity, phase shifts and fractals in your clients or in your own career?
  • Do you have a better understanding of and apprecation for the idea of attractors?
  • How chaotic is your career?
  • Have you ever been in a room full of puppies and ping pong balls?

Further reading

Related post: Twisting the Kaleidoscope

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  1. #1 by David Winter on 17 March 2010 - 11:20

    In case that’s all a bit heavy, here’s a puppy playing with a ping-pong ball.

  2. #2 by Jim Bright on 17 March 2010 - 21:48

    Hi David,

    Thanks for featuring our Chaos Theory of Careers in your theory blog. I enjoyed reading it and it is always interesting and exciting to see how ideas are interpreted. Clearly I need to do some more work in conveying the idea of Attractors (more of this in a moment). However two general points to make are:
    a) The theory is complex because we (Bright and Pryor) contend that we have over-simplified a very complex phenomenon, and therefore we need more complex accounts to provide us with a useful and valid framework. We need an account that addresses Complexity of influences in careers, change in careers and chance in careers. Few if any accounts provide a principled account of chance events in careers – generally chance is characterised as rarely occuring, or left-field, and often seen as a form of “error variance” that will cancel itself out over time. Many accounts simply ignore or downplay it’s role. Merely stating that chance occurs is useful not sufficient.
    Accounts that privilege only one or two variables (e.g. personality, interests etc) are useful but also not sufficient as they underestimate the contribution and nature of all the complex interactions of a broader range of factors.
    Accounts that claim to “predict” outcomes must be treated especially cautiously, as evidence of predictive validity is generally modest or non-existent as it is in similar models of other complex phenomena such as weather forecasting or economic forecasting, or even traffic forecasting (I gather you may live not a million miles from the M25 – as Eric Idle would say “say no more!”).
    For these reasons and others, a new approach is required.
    b) metaphors. We do not see our theory as being “one big metaphor” we are not saying that “we are somewhat like” – a metaphor (or simile or analogy) we are making the bolder claim that “we are” complex dynamical systems. Of course one can object to such statements and take refuge in the apparent charms of radical social constructivism and relativism and say that all scientific models are merely saying one thing in terms of another. However we explicitly refute such thinking (in this extreme form) as it logically leads to solipsism (that we can be certain of our own existence and nothing else) this is where David Hume ended up 300 years ago – it is not a helpful position. For an extended argument about why are theory is “constructivist – realist” see Pryor and Bright (2007) in JVB.
    I completely get your objection that it is odd, or even showing off to replace one metaphor with a more complex one, but that is not what we are trying to achieve. Rather we are looking for the most coherent (and yes simplest) model that will capture a lot of career development territory – this turns out to be (unsurprisingly a complex model or theory).

    They are an odd/abstract concept, but once you get them, they provide some powerful insights into career behaviour. Again the Pryor and Bright (2007) paper in JVB provides an extended account of Attractors and is worth reading. We also have a book coming out on this published by Routledge.

    In short, if we say that career behaviour is result of the operation of a complex dynamical system (a system subject to lots of influences that are continually changing at different rates. Some influences might be, parents, geography, gender, history, family, economy, friends, teachers, media etc etc etc), then we can ask how is the system limited or constrained – what are the system limits?

    The “forces” or “organising principles” that limit a system are called Attractors (because they attract the system to behave in a certain general way).

    The first and simplest Attractor is called a “Point Attractor”. You can observe a point attractor operating when the system ends up moving to one specific end-point. Consider a bathful of water sloshing around. If you pull the plug out of the bath, the plug hole imposes a point attractor because the system of sloshing water all moves toward the point (the plug hole). In careers, setting a goal is akin to imposing a point attractor on your behaviour because you constrain to your behaviour (your system) to operate only in ways that move you to a defined point (the goal).

    The second simplest Attractor is called the Pendulum or Periodic Attractor. Here the system is limited to only moving between one of two defined points (like having two competing Point Attractors). Here the system can only move between two points. This is observed in careers when a person limits their choices too only two choices like (Should I stay or should I go?) or “if I were a poet, but then again no, or a man who sells potions in a travelling show”).

    The third simplest Attractor is called the Torus Attractor (the labels come from Mathematics, I know they sound odd). Here the system is also ultimately limited, but moves through a series of defined points more complex than swinging between two (pendulum) or just moving towards one point (Point). In careers this is observed when people are limited to operating to a strict routine or strictly following policies. So when we get “stuck in a rut or routine” or habit, we are imposing a Torus attractor on ourselves. If we follow the same route around the office dropping off mail on colleagues desks, we are imposing a Torus attractor on our behaviour for example.

    Note these first three Attractors are closed systems and are totally predictable. We know what is going to happen next in these systems. If the Pendulum is at one extreme in its swing, we know it will next swing back in the other direction. In the last Torus example if we are currently at Jane’s desk, we know that next is Tom’s, then Fred’s and then Tiger’s.

    The final Attractor is called (from Chaos Theory) the Strange Attractor. It is an open system, so external factors can and will influence it from time to time causing change which sometimes can be radical change. As you point out in your discussion of emergence and fractals, Strange Attractors display some stability and order emerges over time, but it is an order that is continually changing and sometimes radically. We argue that people are constrained by these Attractors in reality. Think about your looks over time, you are self-similar to your five year old self, but at the same time different. You continue to be changing but self similar over time. Sometimes you might radically change perhaps due to a severe accident, or even with the liberal use of silicon and botox!!

    Within this framework, when people limit themselves to goals, or dichotomise decision-making, or impose rules or routines, they are simplifying reality. This is useful to remember because it cautions us against relying on these closed system ways of thinking or acting, because inevitably some unplanned complicating factor will insinuate itself into the most rigidly maintained closed system. Goal posts do move, black and white choices turn grey, there are exceptions to the rule.

    therefore in Chaos Counselling one of the aims is to assist the individual appreciate their Strange Attractor, and hence themselves and the world in all its glorious complexity and to appreciate the limitations on planning, predicting, and the dangers of getting too stuck into habits and routines. In the short term, Point, Pendulum and Torus attractors can be very useful and powerful, but in the longer term we have to appreciate the complexity and unpredictable nature of things. Goal-setting works well in the short term but is far less effective in the longer term in real life settings. As that great career counsellor John Lennon remarked, Life is what happens when you are making other plans.

    I hope this lengthy answer is somewhat useful, and thanks again for highlighting and discussing our work. I am writing this from my Hotel in Brisbane, Australia, before I submit my hapless attendees on a Career Counselling and Coaching course to more of this and I shall discuss your thoughts with them!
    Perhaps there will be an opportunity to discuss this in London sometime in the future – I did talk last year at the International Centre for Educational Guidance at Uni Derby.

    You may want to check out our other papers on Chaos in IJEVG, Aust Jnl Career Development, CDQ, Jnl Employment Counselling, and Jnl Vocational Behavior.
    Also check out my own blog, “The Factory” at brightandassociates.com.au/wordpress

    Keep in touch and looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
    Jim Bright (co-author Chaos Theory of Careers)

    • #3 by David Winter on 18 March 2010 - 12:40

      I really appreciate you taking the time to reply to this post so comprehensively.

      (a) Complexity
      I completely agree with everything you say here. Many career theories (as well as many advisers and many clients) do over-simplify the career choice process. It is messy and complex and impossible to predict with any certainty in the long term. I really like CTC because it emphasises the non-linear nature of influences and the possible large impact of small changes. I tend to get into fights with people who talk about the predictive validity of psychometric instruments for precisely this reason.

      (b) Metaphor
      I suppose I do think that all career theories are, in some ways, metaphors in that they seek to provide us with an explanation of the complexity of real life. The explanation will always be simpler than the reality. If it wasn’t, then it would be no more use than the reality itself. The closer to reality and the more accurate a model is, the more complex it will be. As a practitioner as well as a theory geek, I have a constant struggle over theories in terms of accuracy versus usefulness.

      I completely agree that CTC is more accurate because it encompasses more of the complexity of real life – I like that about it. However, because of that complexity, I worry about it’s usefulness, especially if we have limited time with a client (and limited brain capacity). I studied Physics originally, and so I was already familiar with Chaos Theory in relation to physical systems. Even so, I frequently struggle to get my head round it.

      One of the ways I try to integrate a theory is to work out what questions it makes me ask about the client. For example, Super’s developmental theory prompts me to question the readiness of the client for the career management task they are facing at their particular stage. Law’s Community Interaction theory prompts questions about the influences and information filters the client has experienced as part of their background. When I have time, I will try to do the same for CTC, but if you have any suggestions, I’d be interested in hearing them.

      It’s quite interesting that in the original physics the notion of attractors is developed as a simplifying metaphor. Many chaotic systems behave as if they were under the influence of attractive forces even when they are not. It’s easier to think in terms of attractors than it is to unravel the equations that actually determine the behaviour.

      With my physics background, I don’t have trouble understanding the concepts of attractors. What I have trouble with is picturing how I would ever use these concepts in real life with a client when I could use more readily understandable metaphors. I could see myself talking about ping pong balls and puppies, but strange attractors would require too much explanation to be worthwhile in the limited time I have with clients. I have read your JVB paper on attractors, but I’m still not won over. However, I’m happy to be proved wrong.

      I’ve tried to list all the papers I can find. Unfortunately, many of them are not available online and the others are behind paywalls and so only available to people with access through Athens accounts, etc. Tell me if I have missed anything.

      Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright, J. (2003) The Chaos Theory of Careers.
      Australian journal of Career Development, 12(3), 12-20.

      Pryor, R. & Bright, J. (2004) “I had seen order and chaos, but had thought they were different.” The challenges of the Chaos Theory for Career Development. Australian Journal of Career Development, 13(3),18-22.

      Pryor, R. & Bright, J. (2003) Order and chaos: a twenty-first century formulation of careers. Australian Journal of Psychology, 55(2), 121–128.

      Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright, J. (2005) Chaos in practice: Techniques for career counsellors. Australian Journal of Career Development, 14(1), 18-28.

      Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright, J.E.H. (2006) Counseling chaos: Techniques for practitioners. Journal of Employment Counseling, 43(1), 2.

      Pryor, R. & Bright, J. (2007) Applying chaos theory to careers: Attraction and attractors. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 71(3), 375–400

      Pryor, R. & Bright, J. (2008) Archetypal narratives in career counselling: a chaos theory application. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance, 8(2), 71-82.

      I was annoyed that I couldn’t make the iCeGS talk, but would be interested in chatting when you are in London (as long as I can publish the discussion here!)

  3. #4 by David Winter on 18 March 2010 - 12:55

    Interesting video demonstrating the complex behaviour of a chaotic system. It also has a cute cat at the end.

    Also check out this BBC documentary on the Secret Life of Chaos. It suffers from the TV science documentary syndrome of too many clips of the same thing over and over again, but it’s quite a good programme despite that.

  4. #5 by Jim Bright on 18 March 2010 - 21:12

    Hi David,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I reckon part of your issue with Attractors is having come to them through Physics! I think they are useful because they help the counsellor to understand the patterns of behaviour of the clients. The counsellor who is using CTC can readily identify if the client is “trapped” within a Point Attractor (for instance too goal-focussed, or obsessed), or has a tendency to reduce career decisions to black and white choices (Pendulum) or is very stuck in a routine/habit or seeks the certainty apparently afforded by such routines (Torus Attractor).

    The Attractors are useful because they provide us with this principled account of these different but common career behaviours and also gives us a principled account of why goal-setting is not necessarily a good thing, but could be encouraging rigidity or myopia. I think this is especially important given that goal-setting has been so uncritically promoted as a good thing in our industry, and rarely if ever is the idea that goal setting may have limitations considered.

    I don’t think it is necessary to explain what a strange attractor is to a client in all or indeed many cases. I might normally talk in terms of being prepared for continual change, or being open or similar depending on the nature of the consultation and the sophistication of the client.

    I think the concept is useful because they capture career behaviour within one set of linked concepts – Point, Pendulum, Torus, Strange. Each relates clearly to the other one, for instance in terms of increasing complexity, and in terms of closed system/open system. Thus using this set of terms not only captures the clients behaviour but also gives you insights into the degree to which the client is limiting themselves.

    Of course you could use an infinite number of metaphors to describe career behaviour and these can be very powerful (I have just been working in Canada with Norm Amundson and he is presenting with me in Sydney soon on Career Creativity using metaphors and CTC). However these metaphors may capture a lot about the immediate behaviour, but may not locate that behaviour within a bigger framework in the way that the Attractors do. I want to emphasise too, that this is not an either or debate, personally when using Attractors, is does not preclude me using metaphors and narrative at the same time. Indeed if you argue that people are truly strange attractors, then the more different techniques you have to capture some of that complexity, the better off you will be.

    I have in the past argued that metaphors provide a way of navigating around the Strange Attractor, because each metaphor provides a new perspective /view on the client’s circumstances. So to use a metaphor like a movie camera panning around and zooming in and out of the Strange Attractor (like a clip from a BBC doco!!!).

    You might be interested to know that I have recently put online a tool called the Change Perception Index that aims to measure a lot of the key concepts in the CTC including Continual Change, Non linearity and the Attractors. However I have re-labelled a lot of the factors to make them more client friendly. In the case of the Attractors they are labelled Goal Driver (Point Attractor), Role Driver (Pendulum Attractor), Routine Driver (Torus) and Change Driver (Strange Attractor). This is of course a simplifying move at the expense of technical accuracy in the use of terms, but I think it is this kind of move that you are saying is required to make the theory more client friendly and hence useful.

    thanks for listing the publications, there are some more that are related to the theory including:
    1. Pryor, Bright. (2009). Good Hope. Chaos application. South African Journal of Higher Education, 23(3),521-537
    2. Minbashian, A., Bright, J.E.H., & Bird, K. (in press). A Comparison of Artificial Neural Networks and Multiple Regression in the Context of Research on Personality and Work Performance. Organizational Research Methods
    3. Minbashian, A., Bright, J. E. H., & Bird, K. D. (2009). Complexity in the relationship among the subdimensions of extraversion and job performance in managerial occupations. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, Volume 82, pages 537-549.
    4. Bright, Pryor, Chan, Rijanto. (2009). The dimensions of chance career episodes. Journal of Vocational Behavior. 75(1), 14-25.
    5. Pryor, R.G.L. and Bright. J.E.H. (2009). Game as a career metaphor: A chaos theory career counselling application. British Journal of Counselling and Guidance. 37(1), 39-50.
    6. Bright, J.E.H. & Pryor, R.G.L.. (2008). Shiftwork: A Chaos Theory Of Careers Agenda For Change In Career Counselling. Australian Journal of Career Development. 17(3), 63-72.
    7. Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright, J.E.H. (2008). Archetypal narratives in career counselling. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance. 8(2), 71-82.
    8. Pryor R.G.L., Amundson, N., & Bright, J. (2008). Possibilities and probabilities: the role of chaos theory. Career Development Quarterly 56 (4), 309-318.
    9. Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright J.E.H. (2007). Applying chaos theory to careers: Attraction and attractors. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 71(3), 375-400.
    10. Bright, J.E.H. & Pryor, R.G.L.. (2007). Chaotic Careers Assessment: how constructivist and psychometric techniques can be integrated into work and life decision making. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal, 23 (2), 30-45.
    11. Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright J.E.H. (2007). The Chaos Theory of Careers: theory, practice and process. Career Planning and Adult Development Journal 23 (2), 46 – 56.
    12. Earl, J. & Bright, J.E.H.. (2007). The Relationship Between Career Decision Status and Important Work Outcomes. Journal of Vocational Behavior 71(2), 233-246.
    13. Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright, J.E.H. (2006). Counselling the Australian Perspective. Applied Psychology an International Review.
    14. Borg, T, Bright J.E.H. & Pryor, R.G.L. (2006). The Butterfly Model of Careers: Illustrating How Planning and Chance can be Integrated In the Careers Of High School Students. Australian Journal of Career Development.
    15. Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright, J.E.H. (2006). Counseling Chaos: Techniques for Practitioners. Journal of Employment Counseling. Vol 43(1) Mar 2006, 2-17
    16. Bell, J., Smith, M. & Bright, J.E.H. (2005). Measuring student self-efficacy to enhance school to work processes: the development of a large-scale on-line survey instrument. Managing and Leading.
    17. McKay, H., Bright J.E.H. & Pryor R.G.L. (2005) Finding order and direction from Chaos: a comparison of complexity career counseling and trait matching counselling. Journal of Employment Counseling. 42, (3) Sep 2005, 98-112
    18. Davey, R., Bright, J.E.H., Pryor, R.G.L. & Levin, K. (2005). Of never quite knowing what I might be: chaotic counselling with university students. Australian Journal of Career Development, 14(2), 53-62.
    19. Pryor, R.G.L. and Bright J.E.H. (2005). Chaos In Practice: Techniques for Career Counsellors. Australian Journal of Career Development, 14(1), 18-28.
    20. Bright, J.E.H., Pryor, R.G.L., Wilkenfeld, S and Earl, J. (2005). Influence of social context on career decision-making. International Journal for Educational and Vocational Guidance 5 (1),19 – 36
    21. Bright J.E.H. & Pryor R.G.L. (2005). The chaos theory of careers: a users guide. Career Development Quarterly. Vol 53(4) Jun 2005, 291-305
    22. Bright, J.E.H., Pryor, R.G.L. and Harpham, L. (2005). The role of chance events in career decision making. Journal of Vocational Behavior. 66 (3),561-576
    23. Pryor, R.G.L. & Bright J.E.H. (2004). “I had seen order and chaos, but had thought they were different.”The challenges of the Chaos Theory for career development. Australian Journal of Career Developmentv.13 n.3 p.18-22;
    24. Earl JK and Bright J.E.H. (2004) The Impact of Work Quality and Quantity on the Development of Career Decision Status. Australian Journal of Career Development v.13 n.1 p.15-22;
    25. Pryor, R. G. L. & Bright, J. E. H. (2003). The chaos theory of careers. Australian Journal of Career Development, 12(2), 12-20.
    26. Pryor, R. G. L. & Bright, J. E. H. (2003b). Order and chaos: a twenty-first century formulation of careers. Australian Journal of Psychology, 55(2), 121-128.

    Dont hesitate to contact me if you want to see them.

    If interested in practical tools to use with CTC we have the Change Perception Index, the Luck Readiness Index and Creative thinking Strategy card sort.

    see jimbright.com/tests for the tests and my online shop at brightandassociates.com.au for the cards, or my blog at brightandassociates.com.au/wordpress

    keep up the great work David, having a place to discuss these ideas informally is a real contribution to our field.

    • #6 by David Winter on 19 March 2010 - 18:40

      Thank you again.

      I think you may be right. Perhaps my physics background has tainted me in some way. Not for me then the quantum tunnelling theory of career transitions (although on second thoughts the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle could apply quite well to careers).

      I have to say, I’m becoming more relaxed about the idea of attractors, especially when they have less physicsy names like Goal Drivers and Change Drivers.

      Let me play with them a bit to see if I really do understand them.

      Goal Driver
      This one is quite clear, I think. Someone is obsessed by a single objective. They are a bit single-minded and blinkered to alternatives. This could be positive in some circumstances as there are examples of people setting themselves clear goals and pressing on to succeed. But there are also lots of, mainly untold, examples of people doing this and getting nowhere other than a life full of depression, frustration and bitterness.

      Role Driver
      Sounds a bit like Vacillation Driver to me. I guess it doesn’t have to be just two choices. This person doesn’t pick or pursue any option because as soon as they move towards one, they feel the pain of not having the other(s). Have I got that wrong?

      (I have to agree with you about the worrying goal-setting obsession, especially with the increasing appeal of coaching approaches to careers work. It’s not wrong in itself, but unthinkingly applied it can be misleading.)

      Routine Driver
      Translates in my head into Deja Vu Driver. ‘I seem to keep making the same sort of mistakes over and over again.’ ‘I think I’m making progress but I just find myself more or less back where I started.’ For example, impulsive decision > don’t like this try something else > impulsive decision > don’t like this either > impulsive decision > etc.

      Change Driver
      This sounds a lot like the Planned Happenstance approach. Being alert to unplanned learning and emerging opportunities. (Give me an oxymoron instead of physics jargon any day!)

      I wonder if these Drivers map onto the four Career Decision Styles described by Jenny Bimrose.

      I had a go at the Exploring Chaos Reality Checklist on your test site (because it was free). A lot of the questions sounded familiar and I realised they were similar to the ones posed by H.B. Gelatt in his book on Positive Uncertainty, which makes sense.

      I might take you up on some of those articles (rubs his hands together avariciously!).

  5. #7 by Jim Bright on 18 March 2010 - 21:20

    thanks for the youtube video of the pendulum, I will show it to my trainees today!

    • #8 by David Winter on 19 March 2010 - 18:44

      I hope they enjoy it.

  6. #9 by David Winter on 19 March 2010 - 08:24

    Sorry. The vaguely related cute pictures just keep coming…

    Pendulum Kitteh is rethinking career choice

  7. #10 by Jim bright on 19 March 2010 - 22:11

    Hi David

    Your are pretty much on the money with your descriptions. The role attractor could certainly be vacillation or could be dichotomous thinking. The key point is that the person is over simplifying. The routine driver could be as you described or could be a client that likes the certainty of rules or procedures.

    In terms of links to other works: the most obvious link is to Happenstance Learning theory and Gellatt. I think the CTC provides a broader Account and also a principled account of chance. Happenstance really starts off from this point and is a series of strategies for dealing with the aftermath which is very important.
    Bimrose’s decision styles can be seen as rpoviding some empirical support for the goal driver and change driver, but don’t map the role or routine as exactly. I think another difference is that the attractor/ drivers are describing increasingly more limiting responses to the complexity of the world and so you can see how goals link to roles and to routines and to openness. The decision styles are a really useful Contribution and as you are pointing out there is an increasing coalescence around the types of concepts that CTC privelege and remember we haven’t expanded on the notion of fractal, non linearity, continual change, emergent order and phase shift yet! This is why Ctc is so powerful because it captures in a principled way a lot of the most relevant processes that we all experience in our careers.
    Thanks again for this thread!

    • #11 by David Winter on 23 March 2010 - 23:03

      The way I was linking the Bimrose types to the attractors/drivers was as follows:

      Strategic Careerist = Goal Driver

      Opportunistic Careerists = Change Driver

      Evaluative Careerists = Routine Driver (because they are often characterised by ‘recurring, persistent and distinctive patterns of behaviour when trying to progress their careers’)

      Aspirational Careerists = Role Driver (because they seem to be torn between a vague idealised goal and a practical short-term necessity, oscillating between the two but not really making a go of either)

      Just a thought.

  8. #12 by Jim Bright on 23 March 2010 - 23:45

    yeah, I can see that. There are definitely some similarities which is a good thing, not completely the same in all respects, but good convergent validity.

    • #13 by David Winter on 24 March 2010 - 11:24

      Are you suggesting in CTC that all career patterns can be explained in terms of certain attractors or combinations of attractors?

      If you are, then I would have thought you might be keener to make the connection between observed career patterns and your theory.

      If you’re not, then what about career patterns that don’t fit in with your theory? How are they explained?

  9. #14 by David Winter on 28 March 2010 - 12:05

    Just had a thought! I wonder if these attractors could be used to describe the various types of career guidance discussions as well as career paths…

    Point = Goal-driven discussions which may or may not miss out on some of the subtleties and complexities.
    ‘Can you look at my CV?’

    Pendulum = Client wants to do one thing, adviser wants to do something else.
    ‘Can you look at my CV?’
    ‘Wouldn’t you rather discuss your inability to make a decision?’

    Torus = Discussion keeps retreading the same ground again and again.
    ‘Can you look at my CV?’
    ‘Haven’t I looked at it 15 times already?’

    Strange = Random things keep cropping up and leading the discussion in interesting directions that are hard to fit into your contract.
    ‘Can you look at my CV?’

    ‘How did we end up talking about ping-pong balls?’

  10. #15 by Jim Bright on 28 March 2010 - 20:05

    Hi David

    Thanks once again for giving us this resource and extending our thinking about the applications and implications of the CTC. I will just briefly comment this one last time. I started following this discussion in Vancouver, and have commented in Brisbane, Sydney and now in Melbourne. If I don’t stop, I wont stop so I will stop!

    In sum, you are quite correct with your last two comments. CTC-influenced counsellors would look to characterise career patterns in terms of attractors and yes you can use the attractors to characterise presenting issues or even counsellor responses.

    Finally, maybe you might want to cover the great comedian Frankie Howerd’s alternative theory espoused on his 1977 radio show “I went to the airport for my holidays last week. It was complete and utter Chos. CHOS it was! What’s that my dear? OOH NOO, it wasn’t Chaos, it was CHOS, it wasn’t good enough for Chaos….”

  1. Applied Chaos « Careers – in Theory
  2. The Chaos Theory of Careers – Theories Every Careers Adviser Should Know | Running In A Forest

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