Embracing chaos

Whyable is rapidly approaching its fourth year in existence, which also happens to be how old my daughter is and how long it has been since we moved into our new home. (Hello! Did someone leave an infinite improbability drive on somewhere?)

As we go from lolling about in our bed to crawling and now walking, we’ve encountered some rather interesting challenges and learnt some rather interesting lessons along the way. Interesting primarily because our work ethic and culture are non-conformist.

For example, given the transparency with which we function, a lot of our chaos is exposed as opposed to typical businesses. This, in turn, means, our team gets exposed to a lot more of the internal workings of the business; they know when the invoices for their work is coming in; they know if we have challenges filling in their work calendar and so on.

Our clients too are exposed to chaos, being early-stage entrepreneurs or medium-sized organizations that need to reinvent themselves. And just like with our team, the chaos exposure would be higher for our clients because they are not just looking to run businesses but looking to make an impact.

A result of all this is that unlike typical corporates where rows and rows of cubicles and layers of hierarchy protect teams and clients from the underlying mania (And trust me as someone who has worked for teams as big as Ericsson and Cisco, there always is huge underlying mania.) in our case, there is no protection which can easily lead to doubt and frustration.

The easy solution obviously is to build layers of control and abstraction. However, that is not our preference because that leads to an Orange organization which is rather passé! We prefer a more organic and intuitive solution.

And being an organization where the CTO identifies himself as a poet (and the sales leads a philosopher and the CEO as an anti-capitalist), our solution comes not from self-help books or management gurus, but from poetry.

There is no order without chaos, no growth without pain just as there is no shade without the sun.

John Keats, who filled many a summer afternoon of my teenage with fervid brows and pallid thoughts, speaks of Negative capability, “the poet’s ability to pursue a vision of artistic beauty even when it leads them into intellectual confusion and uncertainty, as opposed to a preference for philosophical certainty over artistic beauty.” To put it succinctly, what I think he means is the ability to accept and embrace chaos as the way towards your vision.

Now, an entrepreneur, an engineer, a designer are all artists if we go by Oscar Wilde’s definition — an artist is a creator of beautiful things. They all pursue the realization of a beautiful vision, be it bringing together the LGBTQ community, driving enterprises towards more human and purpose-centric modes of working or simply crafting the best Haiku there ever was. And in this pursuit, it is essential that we learn to love chaos.

At Whyable, we learn to love the chaos by a number of methods. We use order to love chaos by adhering to Scrum with all the mania of a religious fanatic. We rely on Agile to not just to adapt to change but to actively drive change ourselves. We communicate in unconventional methods to educate our team and our clients to accept this chaos more. For example, we do our annual salary reviews in a relaxed group meeting with the entire team, not one on one behind closed doors. We challenge our clients’ approach of purchasing an Apple enterprise developer license when we feel that money could be better spent elsewhere. We experiment continuously to the point where we become not just lovers of chaos, but we create chaos on our own terms to evolve.

Because when chaos is embraced and mastered, it gives out beautiful results, almost as if by magic. Things happen as if you never intended them to happen, effortlessly. Your vision unfolds, by a set of meaningless coincidences, like your company, your daughter and your home all turning 4 at the same time.

P.S. This long article is perhaps captured in a more succinct manner in this poem.

 

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