Hug the Chaos

Three of the five companies I’ve advised in the last month are dealing with chaos with regard to the structure of their content teams. We would all be wise to heed what they’re going through. Chaos is coming; we just don’t know when.

For example, in one of the three companies – a big organization specializing in technology services for small businesses – there were rumors that the new digital marketing VP, like Solomon with the proverbial baby, was going to rip the content group apart and give the pieces to other parts of the business: a couple of people to PR, a couple of people to product marketing, a couple of people to the brand team. The rumor turned out to be untrue. Still, people panicked and acted irrationally.

I find that we typically respond to impending chaos in one of three ways: we freeze, we get chaotic ourselves, or we move forward.

When we freeze, we seek safety in inactivity. We say something like “I’m not moving forward on that cool, interesting new initiative. I’m keeping my head down. I’ll wait for chaos to strike, and then I’ll figure out how to deal with it. Meanwhile, I’m taking no risks.”

At the other extreme, when we get chaotic ourselves, we seek safety in hyperactivity. We try all kinds of new things in anticipation of the chaos, as if to say, “What do we have to lose?” We flail around, moving in every direction at once and making a lot of noise. We hope that people will see us as productive and leave us alone.

The most helpful response – moving forward – requires us to embrace chaos, accepting that it will come again, and again, and again. We get in the game. We keep our sanity. We seek ways to contribute strategic value through our work.

As content practitioners, which is to say as storytellers, we are well equipped to embrace chaos. Every great story starts at a place where we don’t know how things will turn out. When you create a story, you face the unknown. You bring curiosity, creativity, and skill to bear as you piece together what happens next, and what happens next, and what happens after that.

The next time you sense a reorg coming, and you know that you’ll have little control over the changes about roll over you, what will you do? Will you seek safety in inactivity? Will you seek safety in hyperactivity? Or will you summon your imagination and your wisdom – in the face of the unknown – and create plot twists that inspire you and those around you?

In other words, will you help create a future that you want to be part of? I suggest this third option. Hug the chaos. It just might hug you back.

Robert Rose
Chief Strategy Officer at The Content Advisory
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS.

Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.
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Author: Robert Rose
As the Chief Strategy Officer of The Content Advisory, the exclusive education and consulting group of The Content Marketing Institute, Robert develops content and customer experience strategies for large enterprises such as The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Oracle, McCormick Spices, Capital One, and UPS. Robert’s book, Experiences: The 7th Era of Marketing was called “a call to arms and a self-help guide for creating the experiences that consumers will fall in love with.” For the last three years, he’s co-hosted the podcast This Old Marketing, with Joe Pulizzi. It’s frequently a top 20 marketing podcast on iTunes and is downloaded more than a million times every year, in 100 countries around the world.

1 Comment

  • Mike Myers

    Hi RR. I’d like to suggest that your three alternatives are really a spectrum of reactions that evolve as their experience to dealing with change grows. People new to change (or chaos) tend to hesitate. People who have seen the change ‘movie’ before have a more visceral reaction. And those who go to the proverbial theater three times a week learn to move forward. It’s all about learning to be (more) comfortable in the chaos.

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