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Going On Offense – Using Chaos as an Enabler

This is directed to all of those who may be looking for a possible “silver lining” in this unprecedented time of global health crisis.  

We are all dealing with the threat of being infected, trying to protect ourselves and care for our families, and do what we can to protect and preserve income. The only effective response to date has been to isolate ourselves – “social distancing” – from exposure and transmission. In doing so, the social stress is building from the changes to our daily lives. Millions of people are working from home, and the heightened stress of going to the market for groceries and supplies that could last for a 2-week sequester, etc. The unpredictability and amount of change in our daily lives right now activates our survival mode and causes large scale reactions to even the slightest changes. Uncertainty is building, but this is actually chaos on display.

In the “glass is half full” sense, perhaps we can use this chaos to our advantage. We are experiencing dramatic changes in the way we work: our routines, our habits, how we communicate with one another, the “free” time that we have while working at home. In his book The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success, Ori Brafman suggest that disruption could lead to a serendipitous moment where breakthrough ideas emerge. I highly recommend this book. I have now read it twice. 

Brafman writes “In attempting to keep chaos at bay, we risk squelching the very innovations and new ideas that will help advance our businesses and our futures.”  He advocates for bringing chaos into our organizational processes and decision making. It is likely that many businesses are working to replicate the office environment with the workforce working remotely. At some point you can anticipate the next set of questions leaders will be asking: Now that everyone is secure, we have to make sure they are productive, right? We have to increase the number of meetings, conference calls, etc. to ensure they are working a full day, don’t we?

My advice is to resist this urge to control the chaos. By giving disruption and chance room to play out, we can increase the probability for flashes of innovation and breakthrough thinking.

Brafman, Ori. The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success. The Crown Publishing Group. You can pick up a copy here.

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