Butterflies in the Belfries of Academia

You are surrounded by simple, obvious solutions that can dramatically increase your income, power, influence and success. The problem is, you just don’t see them.” (Jay Abraham)

An insightful TV commercial, features a business executive being told that if he is willing to skimp on the instillation of a few components, his company’s new laptop computers can ship early. The business leader begins to daydream about the possible domino effect that such thriftiness would produce. In fact, by making the rash decision to ship early, he envisions a series of interconnected consequences that would produce a global zombie apocalypse leading to mass hysteria. The amusing commercial ends with a reawakening executive thankfully deciding to postpone the shipping until his company’s new computers are properly and appropriately equipped!

CLIP:  Toshiba Commercial

Toshiba’s whimsical digital advertisement is part of a new-styled marketing campaign that focuses on the societal implications of business strategies.  By illustrating their concern with the “Butterfly Effect,” the theory that describes the enormous effects of tiny actions, corporations such as Toshiba and Direct-TV (dog collar commercial) brilliantly portray their companies as deeply concerned with avoiding the consequences of bad decisions.  When compared to the business processes of other less concerned companies, Toshiba and Web-TV promise that they will not develop faulty products nor rush them to market!

Web-TV’s commercial advances a similar marketing message. According to their scenario: When your cables on the fritz, you get frustrated. When you get frustrated, your daughter imitates. When your daughter imitates, she gets thrown out of school. When she gets thrown out of school, she meets undesirables. When she meets undesirables, she ties the knot with undesirables. And when she ties the knot with undesirables, you get a grandson with a dog collar.

In the end, the commercial’s warning is clear. Don’t have a grandson with a dog collar. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV.  In the case of Toshiba, you can trust them to make noble decisions. Their assurance that even the tiniest business procedure used to manufacture their computer products will never be allowed to inadvertently hurt the environment by making zombies out of their consumers!


The Butterfly Effect describes how a small change at one place in an apparently nonlinear system can cause sizeable differences to later conditions. The name of the effect, coined by Edward Lorenz, is derived from the theoretical example of a hurricane’s formation being contingent on whether or not a distant butterfly had flapped its wings several weeks before. It is a wonderful illustration of the 80-20 rule.

Lesson planning shares similar characteristics with its business process counterpart. Both detail a series of specific activities that aspire specific outcomes. Business processes most frequently focus on meeting customer needs by delivering goods or services that satisfy market demands. In most cases, the lesson planning is also a chain of interrelated procedures that function in a logical sequence that guide the teaching/learning transaction towards specified objectives.

Educators and leaders of professional learning communities should periodically consider the potential “Butterfly Effect” of their respective administrative and instructional processes and procedures. However, rather than rely on serendipitous daydreaming, educational leaders should adhere to a more disciplined analytical approach that describes, captures, and evaluates possible scenarios concerning the deleterious ripple effect of even the smallest miss-step of their instructional processes.

Careful analysis and regular review of the lesson planning process can actually help keep students on course. It can strengthen the pedagogical operation, and thereby greatly reduce the likelihood of apocalyptic scenarios of dog-collared zombies caused by mysterious butterflies flying about in the belfries of unrestrained academic practices.



Dr. Frank Marangos is CEO and Founder of OINOS Educational Consulting. He received a Doctors Degree in Adult Education (Ed.D.) from NOVA Southeastern University (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) and a Doctorate in Ministry and Childhood Education (D.Min.) from Southern Methodist University (Dallas, TX). He is also a Certified Charitable Estate Planner (FCEP).

Posted in E-Couragements, Solutions that Transform