Dee Hock, Founder and CEO Emeritus of VISA International, arguably the most profitable organisation in the world, explains in his book One From Many, that chaos and order are the natural order of things.
Consider this. VISA exists to exchange value, represented by digital money. How can chaos be part of such a world? Surely everything must be ordered for VISA to function.
Yet its founder argues that while it is human to desire everything to be in order, the natural order of life is that it isn’t.
To demonstrate please come for a walk
with me. We are standing on the edge of the ocean facing inland. Slowly
we walk up the beach. At first we encounter some small sand-dunes with
no sand grass on them, then we encounter some larger sand-dunes with
scattered sand grass. The sand grass gets thicker as we venture up the
beach. Then the sand grass begins to give way to small shrubs, then
bigger shrubs. We start to notice less sand and more dirt under our
feet. Soon we are entering a forest with tall trees and shelter from the
sun and the beach seems a long way behind us.
This walk seems orderly.
There is an obvious progression and change from sand to sand grass, to
small shrubs and eventually to fully grown trees. Yet there is a large
degree of chaos that exists within the order presented above.
Sand-dunes shift. Which
seed of sand grass survives and which one doesn’t is seemingly random.
The same issue exists for the seeds for the small shrubs and finally the
larger trees. Chaos exists side by side with order.
Dee Hock created the word ‘Chaordic‘ to describe this reality.
People who do not
understand that chaos and order co-exist are constantly frustrated. As
much as we may try to make the world orderly, it isn’t. One of the
primary reasons is that humans are chaordic by nature. We have the power
of choice and will exercise that choice in both rational and irrational
Leaders need to understand
that ‘chaos happens’ from time to time. A highly valued staff member
resigns and tells you they are leaving the industry. The government
changes a law which directly impacts your revenue. Your computer system
crashes due to a virus.
I’m not advocating that we
shouldn’t do whatever we can to increase order. Take our roads. What
would happen to the road toll if we eliminated speed limits and traffic
lights? It is hard to imagine that increasing chaos on our roads
wouldn’t increase accidents and therefore deaths. Clearly more orderly
roads are safer for us all. But accidents still happen and some humans choose to break the rules.
My point is that no matter
how hard we try to control everything, chaos will find a way to
penetrate our order. Why? Because, it is the natural order of things.
As a leader, your challenge is to develop the capacity to live with and manage chaos when it comes. Because it will come.
Gary Ryan enables leaders and their teams to move Beyond Being Good™.