Is this normal? How can I deal with chaos?

 

The one constant in life and business is change.

When it’s your socks that need changing most people can sense, assess and respond with appropriate action. But when you’re marching days into the arctic circle, your main issues is survival, not stench. Frostbite, not the fragrance of your socks.

When normal is abnormal and you have multiple inputs you look to group and rationalise so that you can act accordingly. You create routine and discipline to make things simple.

The day ends, socks from everyone in the family go in the wash (grouped in the washing basket), we put new ones on tomorrow (found in our individual drawers).

In fact, I’m grateful that most of us have accepted the standard daily routine and haven’t chosen to optimise or experiment in sock longevity.

How about when things are more complicated?

How do you deal with multi touch attribution in marketing, while the market is in flux? How do you fund your entry to a new market with confidence, while exiting another?How do you work out if something is normal, when you’re doing it for the first time?

Huh, it’s no wonder there’s mixed satisfaction with first times given the varying research, scenarios, and inputs that go into them.

Heck if THAT first time had a stakeholder brief, a pre-meeting meeting, budget analysis, room allocation and a pre-mortem I’m sure billions would have far better memories of their first time. Such is the irony that those who have worked in large corporate multinationals can attest to: you often have far too much planning involving far too many, for events that should be a walk in the park for two.

So standard events and first times we can handle, but what do you do with chaos, disruption, and disorder?

“Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” — Mike Tyson

Dealing with utter chaos

There’s a framework I was introduced to a couple of years back that builds from the Agile cycle of Launching, Analysing, Learning, and Adjusting. The Cynefin Framework, penned by Dave Snowden almost 20 years ago is the perfect aid for today’s VUCA world.

Simple or Complicated?

When confronted by seeming disorder, in most cases we can: sense, categorise and respond. Some points may require analysis but overall we can form best practice and good practice to deal with most scenarios.

Complex?

When things are complex we can: probe, sense what’s happening and respond. This works when there is some sort of flow or pattern occurring that we can see happening. Think of putting patches on a leaking boat to see which stops the water coming in.

When there are one hundred holes in your plan, profits leaking everywhere but it’s all going in one direction you can probe, sense which holes are now leaking less, and respond. The patterns are complex, but you can start to move them into some complicated best practice.

Chaotic?

When there’s no order, rhyme or reason: act.

Things seem uncontrollable, so act through which you control, sense what happens and respond.

Next, hunt for leverage.

Act. Start creating and pulling levers one by one.

Discover the biggest lever and pull harder.

Turn the chaos into order and set the direction you desire. The art is focusing on the right big levers.

“ You’re better off not giving the small things more time than they deserve.” — Marcus Aurelius

From Chaos To Simplicity And Back

The best companies in the world and products, take us from seemed chaos to simplicity.

  • Spotify use machine learning to take us from a bunch of CDs on the wall to a play list that suits us, our mood, and activity.
  • Amazon takes the chaotic world of online shopping creating a simple categorised way to hunt for your Christmas gifts.
  • Apple took a complex digital camera and put it in your phone for in-focus shots from your lock screen. They combined it with a bunch of other things that used to take a backpack to carry, but now fit simply in your hand.

The key for growth being that continual path from chaos to simplicity and ensuring that for your customers: simplicity doesn’t equal boring and repetitive. The most thriving brands and platforms have variety, novelty, and investment. They’re not just simple.

Their simplicity enables complex and chaotic interactions.

You came to Facebook or Instagram for the easy photo uploads and the novelty filters or old friend connections. But you come back because of the variety and unpredictable messages (almost chaos) your connections post. You keep coming back because of the investment you’ve made in data, shared history and connecting with a community.

Anyway, before you jump over to Facebook or Instagram…

Spot the complex, get complicated and dive into chaos!

Oh, and please commentshare or like if you think someone else needs a little chaos in their life.

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