By Charles Bezerra. Some people might be surprised to know that all innovations come from chaos, and 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. 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 time passes. That complexity can arise from simplicity in the same way that simplicity can generate complexity. It also teaches us that the reality is not as binary and defined as we are use 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 terms of the steps from beginning to end. We blindly believe in our plans. We plan and execute and measure in sequence, and after we plan, it is just a matter of implementing and all will be finished and perfect. We are just not use to thinking in cycles and flows.
Innovation is not a random event. Although it has in-numerous variables and it is unpredictable, it fundamentally involves the discovering of a new order. Innovation is an order that emerges in people’s heads. It doesn’t emerge in technology or in processes, but, so far, only in people’s 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.
1. First, more time to our minds; more time to think. I find people in large organizations are increasingly busy with activities, which are mechanical and involve many analytical competences, but don’t help going deep on the issues or on the development of conceptual competences. Most of our time is spend in emails and meetings. So we have to understand that thinking is work.
2. 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. The goal is to reduce the current level of anxiety and arrive to a state of alertness, capable of perceiving the nuances and subtleties of the system.
3. 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, and to develop honesty and 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.