Some people might be surprised to know that all innovations come from chaos, that innovation in reality is a typical example of a chaotic process. For chaos, is exactly what we avoid when we design or interact within a new system. But, the same way chaos creates hurricanes, rivers, traffic jams or blood vessels it also creates innovation.
The scientific concept of chaos refers to the interconnectedness that is present in apparently random events. It relates to the hidden patterns that we are not able to perceive, an order that we just don’t understand, or as the great theoretical physicist David Peat put it “chaos and chance don’t mean the absence of law and order, but rather the presence of order so complex that it lies beyond our ability to grasp and describe it”.
Chaos theory shows that little things matter. That apparently insignificant things can end up playing a big role as the time passes. That complexity can arise from simplicity in the same way that simplicity can generate complexity. It also teach us that the reality in not as binary and defined as we are used to think – mind and body, theory and practice, life and death, winner and looser, creative and mediocre.
Chaos teaches us that everything is in flow. We generally think in the steps from beginning to end. We blindly believe in our plans. That we plan and execute and measure in sequence, and that after we plan is just a matter of implementing and all will be finished and perfect. We are just not used to think in cycles and flows.
Innovation is not a random event. Although it has innumerous variables and it is unpredictable it fundamentally involves the discovering of a new order. Innovation is an order that is emerges in people’ head. It doesn’t emerges in technology or in processes but, so far, only in people’ minds. Therefore, inspired by the chaotic nature of our minds I would like to suggest three ‘practical’ things which I believe could help us to perceive these new orders and innovate more often.
First, more time to our minds – more time to think. I find people in large organization increasing busy with activities which are mechanical and involves many analytical competences but don’t help going deep on the issues or on the development of conceptual competences. Most or our time is spend in emails and meetings. So we have to understand that thinking is work.
Second, sensitiveness to the little things – with more time to think we have to develop a deeper sensitiveness to perceive people’s motivation and energy levels; as well as sensitiveness to feel the context. To reduce the current level of anxiety and arrive to a state of alert capable of perceiving the nuances and subtleties of the system.
And third, humbleness – with more time to think and more sensitiveness we will see how little we know. Than we should be more humble and prepared to live with doubt and uncertainty. To develop honesty and to be more prepared to collaborate and dialogue with others. As the most important lesson of chaos is exactly that, at a deeper level, everything is connected to everything.