We have all witnessed a point in time when our responsibilities began to overwhelm and burden us day in and day out. Although we manage to keep ourselves at our peak, making it a day at a time, as humans, we begin to experience a natural dip in our consistent ways. Sometimes, even our most foolproof, organized, and picture-perfect plans take a hit and convince us to go back to our mindless, care-free attitude.
But perhaps the problems lie in the way we address to solve them. Maybe it’s time we saw the chaotic commotion of staying organized.
Organization and chaos are at two different ends of the spectrum, where one is good and the other is a disaster. When you think about chaos you think: destruction, mess, impossible to find memos and lost notes buried under weeks of useless papers, coupons, and broken pencils. Organization, on the other hand, is a clean desk, sticky notes arranged by color, coordinated file folders. One helps you, one hinders you. But, I like to think that it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Before digging into the depths of organized chaos, let’s give it a definition. Most would say that ‘organized chaos’ refers to a complex situation or process that appears chaotic while still having enough order to achieve progress or goals. I’d agree. The idea of organized chaos is more than saying you know where everything is in your messy bedroom or office, even if no one else can make sense of it. Organized chaos, again, isn’t for every company and every employee. But for those it works for, it’s more than letting papers pile up on your desk.
Chaos in business
The business concept of chaos is actually a big <or small> tangled ball of string.
The opportunities are found in the trick of being patient and locating that piece of string to tug out of the mess and tease it out and then the whole mess unravels and becomes untangled and chaos is averted. That metaphor relates to organizational, ideation and creativity. Just think about it before you reject it.
There are types of people and some with ability at spotting the order in what seems chaos to others (something sometimes referred to as pattern recognition). Here are some things about enjoying ‘chaos solutions’ that I have seen:
Seeing the whole more than the parts
It is said, ‘Gotta look at the horizon and focus because if you don’t … well … you can get smashed by the parts.’
In business this translates into seeing how the whole is different from the sum of its parts. The truth is that parts can be put together in multiple ways to create an effective ‘whole.’ Once you recognize that you can keep fairly sane in some relatively insane chaotic moments.
A frustration when details keep advancing in the big picture
Mobility is key to success in a chaotic environment. Static means you get blindsided by something. It gets frustrating when you get bogged down in details and is a blessing when you reflect upon this.
How to better manage organised chaos
1. Manage people like the adults they are.
A lot of time we react to chaos with an attempt to tighten up control. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work for your best employees. They’re smart, skilled, and capable. When we control them, we treat them more like children than adults. So give them space and the ability to make their own decisions.
2. Mistakes will be made. Leverage them.
In the midst of the chaos, people will make decisions that aren’t the right ones. They’ll put too much weight on the wrong factor, get distracted by something, or spend their time on an initiative that isn’t the most important. Instead of trying to eliminate mistakes, learn to leverage them as ways to educate your team.
3. Reject Either/Or Thinking
One of the things that has been observed a lot is – when we’re in the middle of chaos it’s easy to get anchored with false narratives. We have to pick from choice A or B (and each has their own downsides). In the stress of the moment, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and restrict our thinking. Don’t let that happen. Learn to generate more options (C, D and E).
4. Teach People To Make a Decision
The other dynamic when people feel the stress of chaos is that they just stop making decisions. Our goal has to be to help them make their best call, without the fear that a mistake will be (professionally) fatal.
Learning to live with Holy Chaos
It’s amazing for me to see what WorkAmp can get used to as our “New Normal.” We believe that success in a chaotic world (or environment) is often defined by who your companions (partners in crime) are. You need to have partners (in business or personal) or teammates who are more orderly than you and, maybe more importantly, are comfortable in your comfort in chaos. That’s it. Chaos can be good.
The future of the workplace will be one where, under apparent chaos – and there will be chaos, market success will bubble from the bottom up, through the contribution of empowered and purpose-driven contributors.
The number of workspaces WorkAmp has designed – at different scales and with different functions – we can start to see some merit to the topic. Can we ensure that, through design, the organized and the disorganized have optimal environments for creation? We’re all different and we all have the right to be comfortable (as long as we’re being productive). How can we generate workspace designs that are not just multi-purpose but also “organizationally-flexible”?
At WorkAmp we believe, disorder and a bit of confusion can be linked to spaces that inspire more creativity. Workspaces with out-of-place objects negatively affected their ability to concentrate. Many design thinking meetings with clients had one thing in common and that is- more efficient and prolific results are gained by working in an organized space. But that doesn’t mean that everyone agrees to it; there are still ardent defenders of “control chaos” who insist that their best work emerges from working beneath piles of papers or supplies.
Smeet Gala is the founder of WorkAmp, a productive organization that creates workspace solutions to experience work holistically. With having an eye for marketing and strategies, Smeet has pondered and developed solutions that highlight the needs of employees as users of space. WorkAmp has solved workspaces for over 100 companies across the globe and sets as a live example to rethink spaces.
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