Tag: perspective

The Order Of Chaos – Dealing With Complexity

chaos order complexityChaos, disorder, entropy – it always seems to increase. To try and make sense of this fact, organisations put in place more and more elaborate structures. We simply cannot tolerate chaos, either as individuals or as organisations.

We grow up listening to the mantra ‘You can only manage what you can measure’, or at least manage what you can grasp hold of or touch! Our endless creation of structures, procedures, and hierarchies has been a fruitless task, like repairing earthquake damage with sticky tape.

As many scientists know, entropy always increases, we can do nothing to stop it, and I do not propose that we try. Here I talk about chaos, which is what we feel and observe and which causes physical reactions such as stress. This we can do something about.

Is chaos simply a matter of perspective, a product of where we make our observations from, and how far away we are?

If you sit inside an atom and watch electrons whizzing around your head like flies around a picnic, you might think this is chaos. Step up a level and our atom now seems to have some order.

We see electrons moving around the nucleus of the atom, rather like planets orbiting around the Sun.

Step up again and you might see molecules or even real objects such as chairs or tables. It’s all about perspective. We can now see patterns, there is no random motion, BUT we do appear to have lost some detail.

Changing perspective is the backbone of creative or alternative thinking. Think of a time when you were reading house particulars. One family member sees a games room with bar, another sees a well-equipped kitchen whilst some simply see comfortable bedrooms and tranquil bathrooms. Everyone is, however, looking at the same thing but from a different perspective.

By shifting perspective we can bring order to chaos, but is this what we need (or want). I shall examine this further in upcoming posts. Stay tuned!


Newsletter – Which way does your banana bend?

Dear Reader,

The autoresponder on my website should now be working as intended but if you signed up at the tail end of 2017 and you never received your free download then please let me know.

I have been busy recording a series of short videos which I am gathering together under the title ‘Rough Cut Creativity’ because they were created and uploaded on a whim. More titles are on the way soon but for now, there are four. They will soon appear on my website but readers can access them now via YouTube by clicking here.


Tesco – helping you spend less every day. Pay attention Tesco. By spending we are giving you money, so we can only spend more, not less. Unless of course you are going to give us money!


This week I seem to have spent a lot of time in traffic staring at the rear end of another car. Do some manufacturers really think about the badges that they stick on the back? I know that Skoda, like Lada, have been a laughing stock in the past but they have improved quite a bit. Even so, do they think that the two words ‘Skoda’ and ‘Superb’ together will not cause laughter? Also they have a small car which they have crazily named ‘Roomster’. It might be like a Tardis inside but I immediately thought ‘hamster’. Maybe thats just me!

How much thought do you give to the words and phrases that describe your business?

Which way does your banana bendBack to the subject line of this email. I have asked the question ‘Which way does your banana bend?’ to many different groups in workshops that I have taken. Most people seem to freeze and you can see a thought bubble coming out of their head with WHAT? written in it. Once a chap did reply that his banana no longer bent because he had eaten it.

It is, of course, a trick question for us adults but maybe not for children. A child would see a banana laid out on a table in say ‘left’ or ‘right’ whereas an adult would just think ‘stupid question, it depends on how you are holding it’. The issue here is of course perspective.

What if you had been taught how to remove the skin from a banana but only if it bent round to the right? What would you do when confronted with a banana that bent round to the left? You could flip the banana over so that it appeared to bend the other way, or you could walk around the other side of the table which would have the same effect.

We do similar things when repairing cars or decorating. When something is the wrong way up we turn our head sideways, or even upside down to be able to see the problem clearly.

So why is that when we are confronted with business issues that we don’t try and look at problems in a different way before trying to solve them? Note that this is slightly different to the ‘Missing Sock’ issue from last month. Then we were concerned with doing the same thing and expecting a different result. Now I am posing the question of whether it is advantageous to look at a problem from a different viewpoint in order to get a different (and maybe better) solution.

So the answer to the question is maybe to the left, to the right or even straight depending on how I choose to look at things! Enjoy that banana.

Please do get in touch or provide feedback by replying to this newsletter, or using any of the contact methods listed on the website derekcheshire.com.

Happy reading,

Derek Cheshire

Can I help you to find the difference that makes the difference?

Derek is a Fellow of the RSA, a speaker, facilitator, award-winning radio presenter and Adjunct Professor at VIT University, Chennai. He has been working in the field of Business Creativity and Innovation since 2002.

Creativity And Chaos

Chaos and creativityAccording to an anonymous quote I read recently “Chaos is not merely a mindless jiggling, it’s a subtle form of order”. Chaos theory is closely linked to creativity so I will provide a brief introduction. In reality there is no chaos, just different levels of order!

There are some fundamental concepts which I first need to point out:

  • The key for us to perceive or observe order is perspective
  • There can be order in apparent randomness
  • It only takes a very small change to move from a chaotic system into an ordered one and vice versa. Such events have been labelled as a ‘strange attractor’.

Imagine you are inside a system which appears chaotic, for instance an atom. You will observe electrons whizzing around your head like insects in a random fashion. Step up a level and you will notice that everything appears more ordered. If you step up to the molecular, you should notice that things will appear more ordered still.

In science lessons at school we have all observed Brownian motion. Here molecules apparently move in a random fashion when heated. Later we discovered that they conformed to a mathematical formula after our teachers conducted a random walk experiment.

It seems that if we can attain a high enough vantage point then we can indeed ‘separate the wood from the trees’. Slip low down and once again we become lost in chaos.

How can we make use of this knowledge within our organisations and businesses? Well layers of hierarchy do remove those at the top from the apparent chaos. At each level those within the organisation must learn to recognise the patterns of the adjacent level.

Insert too many layers and you cannot see what is happening, and if we insert too few will result in brains frazzled by complexity. For an organisation the implications are profound. To improve the performance of an organisation we must do a little pruning. We must remove some of the layers that build up over time that merely act as sticking plasters.

Too many attempts to interpret or understand is a little like Chinese Whispers, and then to make sure we have it right we begin writing everything down as procedures and red tape takes over. We then restore order, but we may lose creativity forever.

We must learn to walk that fine line between complexity and order that allows us to both implement a strategy and make use of chaos at the same time.

This is the key principle of the creative organisation.

Creativity – It’s All About Perspective

As Albert Einstein noted, a problem cannot be solved within the same frame of reference in which it was created. This does not mean that we have to employ Einstein’s methods and shift ourselves into outer space or become time travellers, it simply means that our problem must be reframed or looked at in a new way. You can get someone else to look at your problem or just change your own perspective.

My good friend Gerardo Porras, based in Mexico, created a very useful metaphor for this very situation. We are inside our house looking out and what we see is governed by the shape of the window and the colour of the glass. To add to this metaphor, our view through the window is also governed by the laws of physics, we can only see what is in our line of sight so to look in a different direction we must choose a new window.

We could, of course, leave our ‘house’ and take in all of the scenery by turning around and looking in every direction. If we were exploring then that is exactly what we would do, but within organisations we need to make decisions and too much information can make those decisions difficult to take. So whilst we might need to change the way we look at a problem in an organisation, generating too many options or business ideas may be unhelpful.

So how can we change our perspective in a simple way? There are many creative techniques that you can use, many of which are known by different names but you can use the some of the approaches below:

  • Random stimulation – introduce a random or bizarre objector thought which will give your brain a shock (what happens if I paint it yellow?)
  • Experience the problem – create a model and walk around inside it
  • Look at the problem boundaries and then change them or blur them
  • Increase or decrease the amount of knowledge available – introduce your problem to older people or even children

Once you get the idea, you can soon work out your own ways to change your perspective.

Innovation – There’s a head in my shed, starting out from scratch

Many fledgling businesses do actually start out from a shed at the bottom of the garden. Hewlett Packard started this way and many other technological breakthroughs too (remember Marconi?). The shed is, however, just a metaphor for that inappropriate and often cluttered place that we find ourselves in with our good ideas. We are simply a head in a shed!

It does not matter whether you are a lone inventor who really does have a shed at the bottom of their garden or you work for a large organisation and your ‘shed’ is your office or laboratory. You have the same problems either way.

Take a look at this news article. The student in question is obviously talented but so what? She has very neatly illustrated our problem but in reverse. We are so familiar with the appearance of our shed, its contents and immediate surroundings that we see nothing else. We need a fresh perspective, new glasses (ditch the rose tinted ones) and a new mode of thinking. To go back to the first article in this newsletter and the concept of putting animals in places where they are not supposed to go – we have an elephant in our shed with us. It is an idea that has barged in and seems too big and well formed to be moved. We must replace it with a giraffe, something more suited to the marketplace, but how? And why a giraffe?

To continue using metaphors for a moment, the elephant is the easy option. Our minds often conjure up ideas that our egos build up into great and unbeatable business opportunities. These then take over our lives and we try to turn them into reality at all costs. These have barged into our lives like a stampeding elephant into our shed. In the world of inventors, elephants are ten a penny and we find them difficult to shake off. The giraffe is altogether more elegant and not so common, but how do we replace one by the other?

Here is a list of questions that we might ask ourselves:

  • Do I really want to do this or am I just running away from something else?
  • Is my idea well formed?
  • Is this really different, does it solve a problem, has it been done before?
  • Do I know what I am talking about, do others get it when I tell them about my idea(s)?
  • Do I really understand the target environment/marketplace?
  • Do I wish to retain ownership, am I willing to share?
  • Have I sought views/opinions from others?
  • How will I put this into practice/production?
  • Have I got the right skills?
  • Have I/we got the right environment?

Unlike the case of the disappearing car in the news article, you should now be more aware of what you are trying to do. Your grey elephant should have turned into something more elegant and more well formed. Why not take a look at some past newsletters and use some creative techniques to help investigate your new ideas in case you have missed something?

Good luck with your transformation!

Business Creativity and Innovation
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