CU Chaos And Complexity Center Announces New Business Network

July 07, 1998

The Colorado Center for Chaos and Complexity has formed a business network that is expected to draw participants from local and national companies, government agencies and non-profit organizations.

Based at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, the interdisciplinary center has applications for real-world problems ranging from earthquakes, landslides and weather to climate systems, superconductors and the stock market.

Researchers rely on extended numerical calculations on powerful computers to study "nonlinear systems" which provide new insights into the dynamics of change.

The center's new business network, the centerpiece of its outreach efforts to scientific and nonscientific organizations, will be directed and chaired by T. Irene Sanders, a nationally known expert in applying concepts from chaos and complexity to strategic planning. Sanders is the author of the 1998 book, "Strategic Thinking and the New Science: Planning in the Midst of Chaos, Complexity and Change."

Sanders, who heads up Sanders & Co., an Evergreen, Colo., consulting company, has pioneered the application of chaos and complexity as it relates to the skill of strategic thinking.

She has worked with a wide range of Fortune 500 companies, international groups, and non-profit organizations. Sanders also frequently provides strategic thinking and planning services to U.S. congressional committees as well as senators and representatives.

The science of chaos is broadly defined as simple systems that exhibit complicated patterns of behavior and which are often hard to distinguish from random behavior, said CU center Director John Rundle, a professor of physics and geophysics. Although subtle analysis reveals that patterns of order do exist within the apparent disorder of these systems, small changes in the initial conditions of a system can result in widely different outcomes.

The study of complexity involves understanding how big, complicated systems behave in relatively simple, patterned ways. Examples include earthquakes, protein folding in cells and the stock market -- all of which involve "elements or agents that communicate with each other" and which can be analyzed using powerful statistical methods, Rundle said.

Founded in 1996, the center includes CU-Boulder faculty and students from applied mathematics, astrophysical, planetary and atmospheric sciences, business, chemistry and biochemistry, computer science, biology, geological sciences, physics and several other departments. CIRES is a joint center of CU-Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The center encourages participation by faculty and professionals from all CU campuses as well as higher education facilities in the state and nation. The institute is self-funded and involves no long-term financial commitment from the university, said Rundle.

Sanders spent 12 years in Washington, D.C., before moving to Colorado in 1993. She is a graduate of Duke University and the Medical College of Georgia and completed a fellowship in organizational change at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

University of Colorado at Boulder

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