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The Heretic is a free dispatch delivering insights into what it takes to lead into & in the unknown. For entrepreneurs, corporate irritants and change makers. Raw, unfiltered and opinionated.

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Jun 28th, 2024 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Let Chaos Reign Supreme

Are you optimizing your systems? Keeping a tight ship and making sure the trains run on time? Have your OKRs and KPIs been closely tracked?

You might want to rethink this…

Reed Hastings, the uber-successful founder of Netflix (and disruptor of the status quo in the entertainment industry—a true heretic), once remarked:

Most companies overoptimize for efficiency… The nonintuitive thing is that it is better to be managing chaotically if it’s productive and fertile. Think of the standard model as clear, efficient, sanitary, sterile. Our model is messy, chaotic, and fertile. In the long term, fertile will beat sterile.

We live in an increasingly complex, uncertain, and ambiguous environment—one where a premium is placed on adaptability, innovation, and resilience. The old paradigms of rigid control and optimization might be holding you back more than propelling you forward.

Consider this: What if the key to thriving in our rapidly evolving world isn’t about tightening the reins, but about loosening them? What if the secret sauce isn’t in perfecting your systems, but in creating space for chaos to breed creativity?

Reed Hastings’ insight cuts to the core of a counterintuitive truth: fertile chaos often outperforms sterile order in the long run. But how do we harness this chaos without descending into anarchy?

The answer lies in embracing a new organizational paradigm—one that balances order and chaos, structure and flexibility. It’s about creating an ecosystem where ideas can collide, mutate, and evolve freely, while still maintaining a sense of purpose and direction.

Here’s what this might look like in practice:

  1. Cultivate purpose, not just processes. Ensure your team is aligned on the ‘why’ behind your mission, then give them the freedom to figure out the ‘how’.
  2. Encourage dissent and diversity of thought. The most innovative solutions often emerge from the friction between differing perspectives.
  3. Create permeable boundaries. Allow information, ideas, and talent to flow freely within and beyond your organization.
  4. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity. A ‘failed’ experiment often teaches us more than a ‘successful’ one that merely confirms what we already know.
  5. Foster self-organization. Trust your team to form and re-form around challenges and opportunities as they arise.
  6. Lead through influence, not control. Your role is to set the conditions for success, not to dictate every move.

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate all structure—it’s to create a framework flexible enough to adapt to change and robust enough to withstand shocks. It’s about finding that sweet spot between chaos and order where innovation thrives.

So, fellow Heretics, I challenge you: Dare to loosen those reins. Embrace a little productive chaos. Create an environment where ideas can collide, combine, and create something truly revolutionary. In this new world, it’s not the most efficient or the most optimized who will survive—it’s the most adaptable.

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