I believe that what looks like chaos to some is often creativity at work.
Creatives often embrace change. Sometimes they challenge the status quo because they sense their might be a different way. Possibly a better way, but they will rarely know what that is or how it ‘looks’.
It’s a tension I’ve regularly observed when a creative individual is inside an established system or framework. If the creative asks to do something new it is normal for others to want to know why and where they are heading. What is the target? What will the outcome look like?
These are rarely questions the creative can answer when initiating the idea of exploring ‘the new’. They can’t see the endpoint yet. And the process can be uncomfortable. It often involves tearing down or dismantling what exists to see how something new might be constructed.
Even when only asked to do this dismantling intellectually many will resist with all their might.
For the creative, it’s an intriguing process, even fun or liberating. But for others, it can be a very difficult and immensely challenging experience.
Albert Einstein said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun!”
Creativity is intelligence having fun!
Fun, or play, is often chaotic to the outside observer. But it is the very randomness or chaos that leads to creativity. New connections, new ways of seeing, new ways of doing.
In my career, I’ve helped many organisations to ’embrace the chaos’. I’ve led many business leaders and management teams through the uncertainty and soul-searching of establishing their brands. Exploring values, company culture, corporate personality, and your core ‘why’ can be difficult. It can even be quite painful for some personality types – at least whilst in the midst of the process. For people who like certainty, like a clear ‘road map’ and a defined destination, brand exploration can feel like every foundation they have relied upon is suddenly in flux.
However, I’ve generally found that even the most resistant or uncomfortable, when they do commit to the process by the end share a sense of liberation and excitement. I’ve often been told that people feel released. This is not surprising to me, after all the aviator and writer Anne Morrow Lindbergh said it with her oft-quoted line “The most exhausting thing you can be is inauthentic”.
It’s a truth that hits home to me regularly when working with clients.
Individuals hiding core aspects of themselves to fit the corporate world or the organisational culture they work in. Or entire organisations and companies who seem to ‘follow the herd’ of corporate thinking when their core essence sits at odds with the norm.
We need permission to play
Embracing and leveraging uniqueness is a fundamental pillar of building an effective brand. There are countless case studies that illuminate this fact so I won’t go into those stories here. They are so well known that I regularly hear company leaders talk about leveraging brand values and uniqueness all the time. However, I see it manifested far less often. People have learnt the words but not how to do it.
In my experience, the corporate world, the business world, the grown-up world even, does not really embrace ‘play’. And positively shuns anything that remotely resembles chaos.
Trying to get business owners and board members to move beyond their neatly ordered world into a state of creativity – where no signposted path through to a recognisable end-point is immediately evident – is challenging, to say the least.
If those leaders want to establish companies that rise above the competition and connect with their audience in a more authentic, emotional and engaging fashion – then diving into the chaos is often what’s needed.
You will most likely find it challenging (it generally needs to be).
I suspect you’ll find it somewhat frustrating too.
I would hope you’ll find it fun as well.
Play follow the leader
But if you are working with someone who is experienced in taking that walk through the creative chaos, who knows what to look for and which tracks to follow, then I’m confident you will emerge with a new understanding of who you are and why you do, what you do. And you’ll have a fresh way of expressing those insights that should feel more natural and authentic.
I was recently asked how I define what I do.
I have a few answers that I’ve used over the years, depending on the person I’m talking to and why they are asking.
To some, I’m simply a Graphic Designer.
To others, I’m a director of a brand strategy and design firm.
If it’s a deeper conversation I used to say that I ask difficult questions to help companies understand who they are to improve their audience connection.
On this occasion, given the background of the question and the questioner, I answered:
“I’m a peacemaker – but not in the anti-conflict way. I actually embrace change and conflict, if it is creative and driving towards a resolution. But I mean peacemaker in the way of leaving people’ ‘at peace’ with their own uniqueness and in expressing that in an authentic and genuine way.”
His response was that he “F***ing love that”. So I picked the right expression for my audience on that occasion!
All of the answers I use are true. Some just hold more value and resonance for the questioner than others.
Perhaps now I’ll add a new answer to this list:
“I help people and companies embrace and navigate creative chaos to discover and express their own uniqueness.”
I think creativity and chaos do go hand in hand. Within the chaos, we can find new connections, new meaning, fresh expression and revitalised vigour.
Chaos can be good. Let’s embrace the chaos. Let’s play a little – even when we don’t know the rules of the game or what the outcome will be. Let’s get creative.
Let’s make peace with play and start really finding creative connections.
Here’s a article from Psychology Today about creativity and chaos. It’s worth a read if you are interested.