13 December 2013

By Lucy Dunn

I recently picked up a very interesting book called “The Chao Imperative – How chance and disruption increase innovation, effectiveness and success” and again I am drawing parallels to work and the recent lessons from my two very different dogs.

Many of us believe that chaos is the enemy, in our organizations, our families or our personal lives, because it brings up emotions relating to change. It can also be uncomfortable because we may need to make decision without the comfort of habit and may indicate the direction we need to go is to change our beliefs and or at least our systems and processes. Therefore anything chaotic = trouble if we don’t take a moment to find a quiet place.

We have two dogs coming from the opposite of the spectrum in our family. The young one is a “wild thing” and the other is the” old and wise”. In a serendipitous event (which is one of the fundamentals creating chaos), I found myself becoming a foster mum of another young but calm dog, and once again I see a living example of the book I have most recently read!

Everyone is busy these days, not only is work demanding, but new technologies like smartphones, ipads, tablets or any mobile devices keep bombarding us with information or requests of all sorts. At year-end, perhaps it is constructive to make time (because it will never appear if we don’t decide to make time) to stop and be open to something really different. We all have brains but unlike our common view of our thinking being constant and consistent, our brains actually have multiple regions, each with vastly different functions and specialties. As we do the kind of work that happens in most offices, we are only using a tiny portion of our mind. Even what we think of a high level strategy only uses the cognitive regions of our brains, but what about all the rest?

When we stop allowing life to be so full, we allow a pause in our brain activity and give our brain cells time and space to renew, re-organize, and re-strategize for new opportunities and challenges. This is what the book called the “white space.” I am not talking about an action filled adventure vacation or intense family time, this is time for quiet reflection, something most of us feel uncomfortable doing.

The “Chao Imperative” authors’ (Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack) look into situations and though many examples in the book are related to academics and corporation, I see parallels in my life and how their theories can apply to any one working in a busy environment. Here are some of my take-a-ways from this rather avant-garde book: 

  • When an opportunity presents itself to learn something completely new, even though you may not feel comfortable take at least 5 quiet minuets to consider doing it
  • Do something completely different, something that you are fearful of sometimes, be totally open to serendipity, and you will be surprised
  • Do something outside of the rule book. Don t follow the rules blindly. Ask yourself what would happen if you did this in a different manner? Always look for the possible good that could be brought to your organization if another way was considered.
  • Seek the console outside of your “unusual suspects” because they bring ideas and experience which you may overlook
  • Allow yourself to drift off sometime during the day, give the left and right side of the brain some down-time. Virtually important inventors practice this religiously

The authors conclude that in this fast-changing world, in order to survive, we have to accept chaos in to our lives, even invite it. Only then we will be more responsive, nimble and innovative.

Back to my three dogs, I unknowingly, invited “chaos” in the household through serendipity. Having three totally different dog personalities under one-roof was asking for trouble. They have different needs in terms of food, exercise, and mental stimulation. Yet, at the same time, they are forming a harmonious dynamics amongst themselves, maybe with or maybe not through my supervision. All of the sudden I see my “wild thing” learning to behave, and the “old and wise” more tolerating to the pandemonia, and the new dog exploring where he fits and what he can do or can’t do. Brining in a “change agent” has opened up some very interesting opportunities as we explore how we manage (the household), look at forming new teams (taking different dogs on walks two at a time) we are seeing many new potential opportunities (in this case for play).

Can you see my dog example offer some insight in your work, team, or company? I would love to hear your stores.

Happy holidays and wish you all a great 2014.


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