The concept of ‘Parallel Process’ has taken root within group analytic discourse, particularly in relation to supervision, reflective practice, and organizational consultancy. It is often invoked to ‘explain’ phenomena in ways that suggest that, as a concept, it can be taken as given. But what is ‘parallel’ about the process and how does it work?

This chapter proposes that parallel process is better understood as a manifestation of fractal self-similarity within complex non-linear dynamical systems.

Because human organizations are complex non-linear dynamical systems, the trajectories of their behavior may be considered, by definition, to be described by strange attractors. One of the properties of strange attractors is that of self-similarity at different scales; patterns of behavior at one scale of observation are similar (but not identical to) patterns of behavior at other scales. These similar patterns are a deterministic property of the system-as-a-whole.

Links are made to concepts from other disciplines: physics, biology, evolutionary theory, genetics, cognitive science, and computational neuroscience.