Wednesday, June 30, 2010

When order breeds monotony, chaos breeds life !!!

Processes: The same old word which has created the most efficient corporations of this world. Organizations which are believed to be lean, agile and dynamic to respond to any change in the business environment. And they seem to have built this through a strong focus on standardization, one that has created a huge network of replicable (or replaceable) products, systems, technology and even people…!!!

Though we all recognize the fundamental strengths that order of any form can bring to life, what we will try to explore here is exactly the opposite: What lack of order can create for us. We have all heard stories of the greatest pieces of art (poems, painting, novels etc.) being created at airports (when flights are delayed), in war zones (where people are fighting to survive), in famines / earthquakes etc. Take the example of Vincent van Gogh…the genius (but completely unorganized and eccentric) Dutch painter…a person who defied all order, exhibited little monotony and created masterpieces in complete chaos.

Chaos fosters new learning…opens avenues to dimensions usually neglected under the assumption that the best solution always rests in an orderly display, a structured approach and (apparently) logical thinking. Innovation is so often linked with burning the bridges (in an attempt to force people to think differently), but the next step would be to create chaos. And controlled chaos would be the best stimulant for generating a non-linear approach to viewing, understanding, analyzing and implementing solutions…

With this as the base on chaos, lets try to understand what this chaos can do for the industry that we operate in, i.e. IT or more accurately IT services. We all believe that innovation is a key enabler to success in this industry. Our processes have delivered the order and certainty our customer desire. The key here is to strike the balance between the two. Now think of all the chaos creating elements in IT…can be everything which can, potentially, in our opinion make systems fails. List down all such enablers (yes, I call them enablers here because it is this fundamental chaos that will be used), their attributes and impact areas. For example, a bug in the code has an impact on the failure of the program / procedure. Create a detailed list of such chaos elements at different levels…at technology level, architecture level, methodology level, approach level etc. Now categorize these chaos elements into different categories in which they can create problems. The next step is very crucial. Try to check if a chaos element is introduced in one layer / category, can we come up with another chaos element in another layer to counter this chaos element (this is like two negatives lead to a positive)…and bingo, you have another way to get the same thing done, by creating chaos in a well defined process (oh, are we back to our good old processes!!!)…are we onto some innovation now??? Let’s call this form a inter chaos counter approach.

Another way to look at chaos elements is even simpler. Try to introduce a chaos element, and try to find out a way to counter the chaos element without using any other chaos element or an existing process to counter such elements. For example, try to introduce a bug in the system, and debug it without using a debugger, which is a standard processes when such tools are available. Using a tool is nothing but following a well set process for solving a problem, usually associated with a chaos element. This approach will lead us to the second form of innovation which I would call constrained chaos counter approach.

This post may seem chaotic, confusing and unorganized…but it is intended to be that way… :-)…new insights usually emerge from the least sought after sources, and typically when they are least expected…the idea is to create such conditions…!!!

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