This is not intended to be a political post. I find myself increasingly on the outside of political debate, waiting for a restoration of civility, statecraft and general good manners. That is where I will remain for the foreseeable future.
If asked to describe our current social environment in one word, I would choose chaos.
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During the 2016 debates it was suggested that our current President campaigned chaotically and that he would govern that same way. That’s a fair observation. It is also fair to say that current opposition to him has been and remains equally as chaotic. I’ll let you decide whether that is good or bad. To each their own.
There are numerous consequences to chaos. I suggest that there are three notable things generated by chaos.
Chaos removes order. It many cases it quickly results in the existence of a new order. The event bringing about chaos can alter the way things have always been done; perhaps even render obsolete the traditional. As a result, better ideas are generated. Growth can occur.
I recently heard Dr. Leonard J. Marcus of Harvard University share the concept of Meta-Leadership. He and fellow researchers developed and presented the idea of Swarm Intelligence as part of their study of responders during the Boston Marathon bombing. I highly recommend a review of their material.
Change is not always productive. Especially when it is done out of habit, without a specific purpose or to accomplish motives that are less than honorable.
Chaos can generate creativity, especially in situations such as the aforementioned crisis in Boston. I admire firefighters. One of my oldest friends is a battalion chief in the North Little Rock (Arkansas) Fire Department. He is a most organized individual and always prepared. People like Roger thrive on order.
Yet, when called to action, first responders know that each event is unique. No two are alike. Meta-leadership, as defined by the Harvard team, is the “ability to solve a problem by first understanding it.” Creativity must be applied in order to solve the most pressing problem.
Can a person survive in that environment on a continual basis? Probably not. I’ve been told that a fire house is a pretty boring place between calls. An environment that is permanently chaotic can lead to burnout and a loss of creative capacity. That’s dangerous.
Think about the things you find controversial. Was the controversy generated by a wrong being committed? Or was it brought about by a righteous action? There is a fine line between those two things.
I’ve watched with great interest as the people of Romania have recently protested against government corruption. They have every right to do so. They are one generation removed from despotism. Romanians understand the price of corruption. Are their protests controversial? Certainly – and depending on one’s point of view, they may be either right or wrong.
I like what IBM founder Thomas J. Watson once said, “Expose your ideas to the danger of controversy.”
Use chaos wisely, appropriately and in moderate doses.
NOTE: The terms “Meta-Leadership” and “Swarm Intelligence” are copyrights held by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. Authors: Leonard J. Marcus, Ph.D.; Barry C. Dorn, M.D., M.H.C.M.; Eric J. McNulty, M.A.; and Joseph Henderson, M.P.A. For details, see https://npli.sph.harvard.edu.