“What we call chaos is just patterns we haven’t recognized yet.”


Chuck Palahniuk


“Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.”


Henry Miller


So. Businesses absolutely freak out over the whole idea of chaos & confusion.

They see it as a terminal virus for which they spend gobs of money trying to inoculate the organization against and invest gobs of time trying to tamp down <or stamp out> any outbreaks within an organization.

Well. Let me suggest that, on occasion, a little chaos and confusion outbreak is good for an organization.

Yup. I just said that.

I wrote fairly recently that great organizations tend to linger on the edge of chaos … or ‘bedlam’ as I called it. 

chaos edge businessI believe the part I left out is the idea that in a great organization, well, what appears to be chaos is not really chaos, and what appears to be confusion, is not really confusion. To be clear … it can have the same feel, the same smell, the same look, but it is not really chaos or confusion.


Than what the hell is it? Well. I believe it was Peter Senge who said “Living systems, and organizations, have integrity.” Using that I would suggest 99.9% of organizations have structural integrity, therefore, true chaos is 99.9% impossible. What that means, pragmatically, is chaos in a typical organization is simply a pattern, or an order, we just don’t recognize — yet. Yeah. It is quite possible we will never see the pattern or create the order as ‘learning’ from the confusion. Instead we may only see the outcome of the seeming chaos and confusion and that outcome is most often a new idea or a new thought or a new invention.


“Invention … does not consist in creating out of void but out of chaos.”

Mary Shelley


New shit always confuses, and scares, the crap out of an organization.

life victories defeats hereMost organizations seek consistency & order & patterns of behavior that they can manage and guide toward the holy grail of business – efficiency <which means you can lower costs and either make higher margins or lower prices>.


I hate to break the news to everyone, but efficiency is not the holy grail of business.

The holy grail is ideas, inventions and thoughts.

Efficiency tends to grind those three things down to dust. Situational or moments of chaos and confusion tends to create the friction necessary to spark those three things to fire.

Maybe that’s it. Great organizations burn on occasion. We confuse the flames as chaos and confusion and only see the organization going down in flames. Instead maybe we should see some chaos & confusion as the phoenix. What I do know for sure is that more often than not, chaos and confusion in business is not really chaos & confusion <despite the faux leaders running up & down the hallways waving their hands trying to get things back to the way they were – orderly>. tame the chaos in you

Most times it is simply something happening in which we have yet to recognize the pattern … the NEW pattern the organization is adopting <or should be adopting>.

I am also pretty sure about this.

Inventions, ideas and innovations, the good ones, the ones that are dynamic beyond their own purpose, are more likely to come from chaos than from ‘efficient orderliness.’

That said.

Maybe the worst thing a business can do is try to tame the chaos within. Its like asking an organization to not feel. Is there anything worse then not feeling?


Originally published May 2015

Written by Bruce