How to harness chaos to stay successful

Our world is a chaotic one – now seemingly more than ever – but we constantly try to predict and analyze forecasts that guide our business decisions to ensure success. So, what do we do when we experience a “black swan event” that completely changes our models?

For those not familiar with a black swan event, it’s commonly used in economics and finance to describe an event that is essentially impossible to predict, often coming with negative outcomes. The coronavirus pandemic falls into that category. We didn’t see it coming, it brought our economy to a standstill for weeks – and it is still imposing lingering consequences with its uncertainty as we attempt to balance health concerns with economic ones.

In times like these, leaders would benefit from approaching crisis through the lens of chaos theory. This article from Anita van de Vliet in Management Today explains the premise of the theory, which “suggests that management should place more emphasis on adaptability, initiative and entrepreneurial creativity to cope with a future that is inherently unknowable.”

I’ve long encouraged leaders to prioritize adaptability in their business models. If your organization is bloated, it’s harder to change the direction of the ship. A crisis like the coronavirus pandemic underscores the importance of being able to quickly adjust your operations when the way you’ve typically done business is thrown out the window.


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