We all need to learn how to manage chaos these days. We live in turbulent times of disruptive change, and it’s not going to get any easier over the next few years.

The first step in managing chaos is to look for the patterns that provide a clue about the “organising system”. We label something ‘chaotic’ mainly because we don’t know the guiding and organising principles of the item we’re observing. For example, if you watch a sport without knowing the rules, the actions of the participants will assume to be random and senseless (or ‘chaotic’). If you observe interactions (for example, greetings) between people of another culture, their actions can appear meaningless and unusual (or ‘chaotic’).

Take a look at this video of a traffic intersection somewhere in Asia. A few years ago, my wife and I spent an idyllic 10 day holiday in Bali, Indonesia, and we learnt the rules of the road that govern this intersection. In fact, it is only one rule (with a sub rule for the motor bikes). See if you can work out the rule that governs traffic flow and right of way in this video (watch it before scrolling down – don’t cheat):

Available directly on YouTube if you can’t see the video embedded above

Now, read on to find the guiding principle of the traffic.

So, did you work it out? The guiding principle, which is actually a “rule of the road” in Bali, is “the biggest vehicle has right of way”. Go on, watch the video again and see how it works. The sub rule for motorbikes is that they have to “swarm” through the intersection in the wake of the largest vehicle moving at the time. Knowing this rule makes the scene seem a lot less chaotic, doesn’t it?

And that’s the first vital step in managing chaos. You need to look for the framework, the guiding principle, the “rules” behind the chaos. It was Einstein (in the context of talking about science, religion and God) who said that we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. That’s the point. We live in a world that is going through an evolution – a revolution even. And our current worldview needs to do the same – evolve (and maybe revolt).

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