Innovation from Everyday Chaos

Innovation can be found in unlikely places

Finding opportunity in the chaos

Tim Hartford described in his book Messy a great example of organized chaos. Hartford begins with a story about a jazz musician was scheduled to play a midnight show set up by a teenager. There was a lot of excitement around the event. Doing a sound check, the musician found the piano was out of tune, the peddles didn’t work, and some keys didn’t work.

The concert still went on and the musician played around the broken keys for a successful concert. There was an element of chaos with the malfunctioning piano and the potential for chaos. The musician was prepared by knowing how to play around the broken keys.

This is innovation in the face of a challenge.

We are constantly shown examples of order and organization were the key to success. We sometimes crave order to make us feel secure or in control. These tools may be helpful but they are only a means to an end.

We need some degree of a personal organization but we can take it too far and become too strict to the plan. This will result in taking more time than it should.

It’ll prevent us from not seeing innovative opportunities, and putting more focus on doing the organizing than working towards our goals.

Another example of being organized getting in the way of our political debates. Organized lines and speeches don’t inspire the public, especially for the same lines you hear from multiple events.

Embrace disruption when possible

Embrace disruption as a way to challenge your actions. If you can find an improvement then you’ll be better off, if you don’t then keep going until the next disruption and evaluate again.

A good example is when I would walk from building to building, I would cut through the hospital.

There was some construction so I had to alter my path. I found a faster path and it became my new route.

Don’t focus on one problem but alternate between challenges. Failure from one may provide insight to another. Pick up unfamiliar topics to expand your challenge.

If you’re paying attention to events around you, there may be opportunities. Remember, an opportunity may not necessarily be in front of you. It could be on the periphery.

Working on multiple projects or goals could complement each other. As you work on one you may learn something about the other. Sort of that moment when your shaving and you have an idea about something you’ve been working on.

Some of the most successful projects were side projects.

Organization in the face of chaos

Organize chaos of goals and ideas by using a simple list and rotate to the top 3 things you want to work on.

Don’t worry if you’re a neat freak or cluttered. What works for you is ok. My work area is organized chaos. I have stacks of books, documents, and notes organized by “topic”.

When I look in these stacks for a book or note, I often come across something I wasn’t expecting and it inspires a different way to look at what I’m doing.

Work to the strengths of your organization style.  Don’t try to force something if it’s not working but don’t go to the extreme of an organization style.

Final thoughts

When dealing with everyday chaos, there is great value in being prepared. Preparedness allows you to harness the opportunities found in chaos. For example. You have an idea about what to write and a general direction you want to go.

Searching you find things you can add on or alter your direction but you started at a base point. But you don’t want to be so rigid that you lose speed and flexibility.


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