We Are Approaching Chaos. And That’s A Good Thing.

chaos future

“Out of clutter, find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.” - Albert Einstein

I treasure the moments in life when I meet someone or hear a keynote from a person who changes the way I think. Those moments are rare, but when they come, my world expands because of the newly gained perspective. This is exactly what happened when I heard Jeremy Gutsche speak for the first time several weeks ago.

Gutsche is an expert on chaos. He spent twenty years studying chaos and published his findings in a book Exploiting Chaos: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change.

While the word “chaos” sounds unsettling, stressful, and even frightening, chaos is the opportunity for us to create the future. Gutsche demonstrates that through a timeline. First, we have “path dependency.” This is where we were before March 2020 when organizations knew exactly where they were going. Then, the COVID-19 crisis hit. As of the time of writing this article, we are still in a midst of this crisis. The good news is crisis lasts only 2 to 3 months, which means that we are almost done with this stage. Once we emerge from crisis, we enter a period of chaos. Chaos usually lasts about 6 to 12 months. The final point on the timeline is recharting, a time of finding and creating a new optimal path.

Getting back to crisis, it is apparent that crisis is not good for anyone. The last 1.5 months in the U.S. have been taxing on everyone: schools, businesses, parents, children, and most of all, the medical professionals. Maybe it is going to sound overly dramatic, but the world as we had known it seized to exist.

People get intimidated and frightened in the uncertain times of crisis. However, Gutsche has a different perspective. He reminds us that the Bubonic plaque caused a reshaping of society and led to the time of great innovation and creativity in the Renaissance period. Crisis creates urgency to research and experiment.

From a business perspective, when companies are in the “path dependency” stage as they were for ten years during the economic boom, they become repetitive, protective, and complacent. Management is fixated on next quarter’s results to the point that they cannot see opportunities that may be within their grasp. Everyone is focused on compliance, obsessing over rules, policies, and procedures.

Crisis causes a shock. While it feels terrible, sometimes a shock is needed to make change happen.

Out of crisis, chaos emerges, and chaos propels the patterns of opportunity to accelerate. In a time of chaos, organizations are more open to innovation. Gutsche contends that “chaos changes the rules, reshuffles the deck, switches who is in the lead.” He also presents an idea of potentialism. Once we reemerge from this experience, we will want to live our lives to our greatest potential.

We now have an opportunity to rechart our life’s path. We can keep what was working and throw out what was not. We can experiment and create a more meaningful and purposeful way to live and work. We are now empowered to think differently. Let’s not miss this opportunity.

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