The case for chaos

by Daniel Batten on June 2, 2011

I’m sure you’ve noticed that cliches are a dime a dozen.

But have you ever thought that there was a time that a cliche was like hen’s teeth?

– rare, original and compelling.

Then what happened?

Because it was rare, original and compelling – everyone from here to Timbuktu started “wow – this phrase is the best thing since sliced bread” until those same words that once made you feel like a box of birds, became old hat.

It’s funny – you don’t think of cliches once being interesting do you?

The life cycle of a phrase from original-to-overused is the same as the life cycle of any successful formula or system.

That could be …

– the way you learn

– the way you train

– the way that you present

– the way you sell

– the way you present your product to the market

– the way you write copy

Think of NLP for example. I have been in business meetings where a decision was made not to do business with someone because someone in the room “didn’t like all the NLP techniques they were using”.

That is not an inditement of NLP. That is evidence of its brilliance. Aspects of it have only become old and familiar to us because it was so brilliant that everyone in business wanted to use it.

Think of most sales pitches. You may agree with 95% of what the person says, but at some point, the style of communication starts to sound familiar to you and you go “oh – hang on, I’m listening to a sales pitch. I know what I do here – I tune out and put my shutters up.” Even if you liked the product, and it would have benefitted you.

A very recent example: one of the world’s leading thoughtleaders is a guy called Matt Church. He teaches a brilliant way to present your ideas. Because it’s brilliant, a large percentage of professional speakers in Australia has done it. Because of this, many conference speakers now have a similar style. Because of this, people have even terms speakers who’ve gone through the program as people with a “Matt Finish”.

Most people decide to throw out the entire system at this point. But that’s like saying “I’m sick of the color of my house, we need to move house.” All you need is some new paint.

What you need to do is keep the system, but introduce controlled tweaks. That’s where chaos, or more specifically “chaotic compliance” comes in.

“Chaotic compliance” is what enables you to keep doing the 95% of what you are already doing, that is already working for you, and yet make it new and exciting to people.

This works because the single most impressive experience you can give someone is something unexpected.

Think of it like a randomiser for a drum machine. Drum machines used to be very popular, but then people got sick of the non-human precision. So software developers developed controlled randomisation so that the result sounded organic. The end result was something much more palatable to the ear’s tastebuds.

The key thing is that chaos itself has rules about how you implement it – if you want the result to be a work of art: unique, compelling and something others will want to tell others to come see/ hear/ talk about.

“Chaotic compliance” is the best way for lazy people to rescue any system they are using that doesn’t seem to be working – from the corporate boardroom to any area of any relationship that might have become routine.

People who understand this are as rare as banana juice, but leaving room each time for chaos could be the best thing since the XL spreadsheet.

So if you are not scared of being a tall daffodil, you’ll probably want to throw reticence into the raupo-swamp, and learn more about it…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Matt June 21, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Great band from the 80’s that ‘Mat Finish’ band…

Too funny.

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