Six considerations for adding flow to chaos

It would be wonderful if we could predict and control the future flow. However, we live in a chaotic world where the future is generally unknown. Look at the impact of Brexit, and now Covid-19. Chaos can be defined as a “place between order and disorder” where the outcome evolves typically through the self-organisation of the inputs. We understand that we do not like change, so chaos leads us to a feeling of being uncomfortable. We strive for stability, but the significant levels of inputs add complexity.

However, the benefits to creativity provided by the adaptable systems of a chaotic world are recognised. When we look at moving clouds and picture different objects, we can all interpret these complex systems differently.

Csikszentmihalyi describes the optimal experience of flow as

“a sense that one’s skills are adequate to cope with the challenges at hand, in a goal directed, rule based way that provides clues as to how well one is performing”

Accepting that chaos exists in everything that we do, by working on our skills to make sense of our chaotic systems, and the macro environment around us, we can start to feel more comfortable.

A few suggestions as to how you can increase the stability or flow of chaos:

  1. Accept that things happen that are unpredictable.
  2. Build a reflective culture that can allow the review of ideas as the idea is being delivered. By listening to the organisation reaction, managers and leaders increase their understanding of the actions of their behaviour and can adapt, but this often operates without reference to the original idea. We could be to create a space where the unique design can be questioned and changed as part of the listening and feedback process. This allows the manager or leader to listen to the contradictions and make changes.
  3. Understanding that as situations get more severe and significant, our decision making capability becomes more digital. We eliminate the areas of discussion and ACT on what we know. This is why we should make accountable target dates for what we do. Remember though that we do need to time for existing in chaos. How can you manage this digital nature when you are wanting to be in flow?
  4. Resist the negative views of feedback. There are many reasons as to why negative opinions are aired, ranging from non-acceptance to the need to add some stability back into a situation and stay in the status quo. We all have our levels of being able to exist in a rapidly changing world so we should be aware of this difference in others. We should manage this on an individual basis.
  5. Accept that this is not a comfortable space to exist. If we go to the gym and have a tough workout, our muscles will likely ache. We will probably feel fatigued, and we need to take regular breaks to enable the true flow.
  6. As complexity increases, so does paralysis. The amount of time taken on highly complex tasks is more significant than those that are simple. Obvious isn’t it – so why do we not allow time for ourselves to do the complicated stuff?

Finally, remember

“Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose…..”

JBS Haldane – 1928


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