In his 1907 book The Education of Henry Adams,
Adams sharply criticizes 19th Century educational theory and practice.
Writing that "chaos often breeds life, when order breeds habit," his
views on formal education as an inert collection of facts suggest that
learning must extend beyond the classroom. If education is to be
worthwhile, it must "breed life" rather than habit.
view that "chaos breeds life" is as applicable today as it was a
century ago. Whether classrooms, business or personal achievement, it is
through chaos that all things thrive.
The lovechild of efficiency, habit directly opposes chaos. In fact, organizations stuck in habit cannot thrive.
wait a minute! Isn't efficiency an important element of productive and
prosperous organizations? Yes, but over-efficiency can be a killer.
In his book, Driven,
Robert Herjavec recounts the story of the U.S. Marine Corps' use of
high-speed computers to simulate battles and determine best strategy on
the field. The result? The plan failed miserably-not because of the
computers or the people involved, but the nature of the battlefield
itself. Where computers are linear and logical (i.e., working within
established rules), battles between groups are illogical and
Herein lies the quandary: Success in business and in life lies in that "narrow space between stability and disorder."
that grow do so with minimum rules and maximum
opportunities-organizations mired in regulations and habit cannot
thrive. And if truth be told, organizations mired in regulations and
habits are that way because they don't trust their systems and processes
in the first place. They have too much chaos.
the chaos that spins creativity into new ideas that helps organizations
thrive is for fearless leaders, those who are inspired by the
possibilities of chaos. If you fear chaos in your organization, consider
getting into a different line of work.
As a footnote to The Education of Henry Adams,
the book won the 1919 Pulitzer Prize, after Adams' death. The irony is
that no publisher wanted the book while Adams was alive-Adams
self-published in 1907. You can read the book here.