The Beautiful Complexities of Organized Chaos

Cole Brennan, Columnist

Beautiful, enjoyable, life-changing, ever-evolving and personality-defining. Those are only some of my interpretations of what chaos can encompass. 

The word chaos is often hurtful to the heart and reminds us of things that are discombobulated and scattered. But chaos has external and internal interpretations. Overthinking, low self confidence, insecurities. The internal chaos of the mind. Worldwide disasters, Italian family dinners during Christmas time, A University president asking the student body for five dollars. The external chaos of the world. But what if we were able to look at chaos from a different angle? If chaos was a coin that had two sides, what if we were to flip the coin, let it bounce around on the table for a couple seconds and wait for it to land upright? 

Organizational Communication is a class running at Hamline this semester taught by adjunct professor David Lapakko. A professor with a long history at both Hamline and Augsburg Universities, he is a man that knows more about productive communication than most. 

In a recent class he posted a slide that listed the differences in communication between a mediocre organization and a good one. He emphasized that something a good organization does is to make sure that their employees are being coached and are being told if they should be doing something a different way. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum there is the idea of scorekeeping cultures. This means that organizations take time to count up their mistakes and are unaware if they are doing the job correctly or not. 

Now it may seem like there is a clear choice as to what method of management is the most effective to the growth of an organization. And that’s because there is. It is the option where the employees are coached and informed of poor decision-making. If you disagree with that, you will probably never get a job anywhere on earth. 

But what if organizations found a way to prioritize a scorekeeping culture and continued to not grow? What if they became an organization that moves “stagnantly quick” meaning that the organization is quickly moving at a pace that is unproductive and showing little to no improvement. Now keep in mind that the term “stagnantly quick” isn’t something I learned in my Organizational Communication class, but just as a made up reference.  

This may sound like a terrible organization to be a part of. There is no opportunity for growth, no accountability for mistakes and no point in trying to change the trajectory of it because it is moving too fast for you to do so alone. But believe it or not, this may be one of the best organizations to be a part of. 

In order to break down why a “stagnantly quick” organization can be a positive environment you must first look at the organizational climate and organizational culture. 

Organizational climate asks “What kind of place is this?” and organizational culture asks “How does it feel to be in that place?” Whether it is a poorly run organization or the best run organization they both must be able to answer these questions. 

When someone is in a poorly run organization, how are they supposed to know if it is good or not when they enjoy being in that place? If the culture of the “stagnantly quick” organization has people on the inside who enjoy being a part of the organization then why does it matter whether it’s mediocre or good? Those people don’t know that. It goes back to the old quote of ignorance is bliss. 

If people are pleased with where they are at then we should let them stay there. That isn’t to say that they can’t look for a better environment that will help them grow, but who is to say that this dysfunctional organization isn’t helping them grow? 

Sometimes organizations where you aren’t being coached are the best kind of organizations because it forces you to reflect on what you can do better. As we get older there isn’t always going to be a parent, professor or boss looking over our shoulder making sure that we get everything done. A philosophy some cultures can get away with is that as long as people are doing their jobs good enough to keep the organization afloat, who is going to complain? Being in these kinds of environments forces us to become bigger people. It forces us to acknowledge what is wrong internally, and it may even ask us to try and change that culture. 

The only way that culture can be changed is if those who are contributing to it all take a moment to stop it from moving quickly towards stagnant oblivion. Because if everyone in that organization doesn’t stop to take a look around and correct the internal issues then all they are doing is working in a place of stagnantly quick organized chaos. Sooner or later, the coin of chaos will tip over. It will no longer stay in between the sides of organizational growth and complete chaos. 

The beauty of it all is that the coin can tip in your favor or go against you and all it depends on is those that are a part of the organization. So if you ever feel like your situation is impossible to change or your circumstance is irreversible, just remember that no one is in control of that but yourself and those around you. 

If you don’t have any idea what I’m trying to say … stay ignorant.