Chaos and Order

“We adore chaos because we love to produce order.”

M. C. Escher

The battle between chaos and order, progression and stabilisation, complexity and simplicity is one that happens every day. In your personal life, work life, community, and society, and has done since the beginning of time. It is so ingrained into us as humans, and yet so often we fail to find the balance between these two ancient aspects of existence.

The philosophy of Yin Yang

Consider the symbol of yin yang. There is a reason it is not a clean divide splitting the circle – white on one half and black on the other – and it is because this split would be far too, even detrimentally, simple. In the symbol for yin yang, there’s always chaos in the order, and order in the chaos.

In life, chaos and order both play their parts, and both must be respected and used appropriately.

We may decide to push for new clients, change up our business philosophy and approach, hire new employees, create new habits and standards, implement new rules, branch off into creating “super profitable” NFTs based on our cats, and open 25 new offices in 7 new countries. While that would be “growth”, it would also be chaos, and if too much chaos is introduced too quickly, without being properly balanced, we’d lose all our progress and then some. We’d need a little order.

Too much order, however, could stagnate us. We may develop a considerably well managed life where everything is scrutinised and routinised, with strict rules and order in place. But we’d have no new ideas. We’d have no innovation or creativity. We wouldn’t expand and we’d start to fall behind. We’d need a little chaos.

We should welcome both chaos and disorder to a certain level, and order, routine, and repetition to a certain level. The optimal battle is one in which order is always winning, but never wins, and chaos is always losing, but never loses. We need both in order to survive and, more specifically, to succeed.

Delegating Chaos and Order

One of the great things about people is how different we all are. Not only in personality, but also in temperament. Just because we should have a chaos/order balance, it does not mean (and in fact, should not mean) each and every person within a company should be perfectly balanced.

This synergy often happens (although not always) between CEOs and COOs. CEOs are typically more chaotic. They love ideas, innovations, and risk taking. COOs, on the other hand, tend to be more orderly (typically). They turn fantasy to feasibility, and make sure everything is running like a well-oiled machine. They are the practical ones. This combination is extremely powerful, and is a key reason why a lot of companies are successful. Let the creatives go a bit wild, and invent, imagine, and innovate, as they do best, and let the orderly ones sort it all into boxes, trim the edges, and translate it all from beautiful fantasy into tangible reality.

As we’ve learned, too much chaos sends us spiralling out of control, and too much order stagnates us, so what are we to do?

We put people in the position that best suits their temperament and allows them to perform optimally. We invent, we innovate, we push ourselves, then we allow those ideas to be stabilised and ordered into reality. Order is the rungs of a ladder, and chaos is the space between them, and – without both – we’d just end up with a very tall piece of wood.

Coaching Question

Think about how much chaos (changes, new habits, etc.) you’ve introduced into your life lately. Ask yourself if you’re maintaining a good chaos/order balance. (Do the same for order.)


Life Review:
What side of the chaos/order coin do you think you naturally land on? Has this changed over the years? If so, why?