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5.0 out of 5 stars How and why organizations need to create "little pockets of contained chaos" within which to generate disruptive innovations, 14 Sep 2013
Robert Morris (Dallas, Texas) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Chaos Imperative: How Chance and Disruption Increase Innovation, Effectiveness, and Success (Hardcover)
According to Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack, one of the most valuable lessons to be learned from the Black Death plague in the 14th century is that its destructive power "turned out to be the crucible in which the modern Western world was forged...Chaos creates white space, which in turn allows unusual suspects [i.e. iconoclasts, outliers, mavericks, oddballs, etc.] to sweep in. The result is a kind of organized serendipity, or what [they] call "contained chaos." Organizations need to have a workplace environment within which there is a constant flow of "unusual ideas," ideas that threaten what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."

The U.S. Army offers an excellent case in point. Like the medieval Church, it is "a massive bureaucracy with a power, entrenched, values-driven culture and a clear sense of purpose. The danger for an organization like is [and for any other] is that it can become too structured. It can eliminate all white space. Unusual suspects are given no voice, and new ideas are stifled. The overhanging canopy of an organization's structure can sometimes block out too much sunlight to allow new ideas to grow."

What to do?

1. Create white spaces for "contained chaos"
2. Insert unusual suspects in those spaces
3. Allow "organized serendipity" to occur

These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Brafman and Pollack's coverage.

Except where indicated, the prefix is "How and Why" (H&W)

o How and why the Black Death "turned out to be the crucible in which the modern world was forged"
o H&W Albert Einstein was able to develop his breakthrough theories
o The defining characteristics of "contained chaos," "unusual suspects," and "organized serendipity"
o How to recognize and support "unusual suspects"
o H&W "contained chaos" can be beneficial to disruptive innovation
o Ditto "unusual subjects" and "organized serendipity"
o How to create or manage "contained chaos" and "organized serendipity"
o How to recognize and support "unusual suspects"
o Why they may also need to be defended
o H&W the human brain is a "problem-solving machine"
o Why "contained chaos" benefits from profitable ongoing operations (i.e. the status quo)
o Why "contained chaos" and the status quo tend to be incompatible
o The significance of the coconut in the ecosphere
o The unique difficulties of creating "contained chaos" within a military service
o H&W "contained chaos," "unusual suspects," and "organized serendipity" can help improve the quality of [begin italics] learning [end italics] in public schools

It is important to keep in mind, as Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack suggest in the final chapter, the five rules they recommend "apply across groups and organizations, whether you're trying to change a multimillion-member organization like the military, attempting to transform a start-up, or hoping to make a difference in a school system. In fact, my own opinion is that these five rules are relevant to any organization, whatever its size and nature may be. They are: Avoid the seductive lure of data and measurements; Remember, it's called [begin italics] organized chaos [end italics]; Make white space productive [not merely "interesting]; Embrace unusual suspect s; and finally, Organize serendipity.

"In order to make our organizations more nimble, resilient, responsive, and innovative - in order to [begin italics] survive [end italics] - we have to accept chaos into our lives, even invite it"...and then take full advantage of all the opportunities it will create to accelerate personal growth and professional development for everyone in the given enterprise.
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