The Paradox Of Chaos

“Our philosophy is that the key to achieving competitive advantage isn’t reacting to chaos; it’s producing that chaos. And the key to being a chaos producer is being and innovation leader.”  -Ed McCracken

We strive for order, both in our professional and personal life. Without order, there would be mayhem and bedlam throughout our world. We would live life in a perpetual state of turmoil and upheaval. It would be a world ruled by confusion and chaos…and constant change.

However, we are beginning to come to the realization that there are limits on our ability to create and sustain that order. Limits that are unraveling in the face of an unrelenting and accelerating pace of change. The cocoons that once insulated our organizations in order, safety and routine now blind us from the disruptive forces that are bearing down upon us.

So we bunker down and work strategically to protect ourselves and our organizations from these change forces that look to disrupt all we’ve created. We work methodically to build a long-term plans that lay out a safe and secure future for us and our organizations. But there remains a problem with these fail-proof plans that we continue to promote as organizational insurance to a protected and productive future. They don’t exist…

Or as Ed McCracken shares, “No one can plan the future. Three years is long-term. Even two years may be. Five years is laughable.”

The problem is that we’ve approached the turbulence and unrelenting pace of change in today’s world as a threat. We only see the destructive and damaging effects of the chaos of change. We’ve narrowed our lens and only allow ourselves to see the negatives. But what we do know is that every negative has a positive…

Which is the paradox of chaos.

While we know that chaos can often be volatile, disruptive and destructive. What we fail to see is that same upheaval often creates the space for the new to take hold, to take root. Chaos often creates the space and room for more transformative and innovative thinking and ideas. A space that is often non-existent in the cocoons of safety and order that many organizations have worked so diligently to weave.

Leaders are failing to see the other side of chaos and the opportunity it creates in their organization.

Rather than planting the seeds of transformation and innovation in the spaces created by chaos, many leaders and organizations continue to work feverishly to fix and repair these holes and voids of order that the forces of disruptive change create. We continue to recoil into the cocoon of safety and order, rather than pushing through to unleash the butterfly of transformation that lies within.

We remain fixated and focused on restoration, when chaos can provide us an open door to transformation and innovation.

“The things we fear most in organizations – fluctuations, disturbances, imbalances – are the primary sources of creativity.”  -Margaret J. Wheatley


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