Organization and chaos are at two different ends of the spectrum, where one is good and the other is a disaster. When you think about chaos you think: destruction, mess, impossible to find memos and lost notes buried under weeks of useless papers, coupons, and broken pencils. Organization, on the other hand, is a clean desk, sticky notes arranged by color, coordinated file folders. One helps you, one hinders you. But, I like to think that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. That may be because I tend to fall closer to the “chaos” end of the organizational spectrum and I want to justify my messiness. However, there are benefits to organized chaos…professionally, anyway. So, how does organized chaos benefit you as an employee? How can you use your comfort with chaos to be more competitive in the workforce?
Before digging into the benefits of organized chaos, let’s give it a definition. Most would say that “organized chaos” refers to a complex situation or process that appears chaotic while still having enough order to achieve progress or goals. I’d agree. The idea of organized chaos is more than saying you know where everything is in your messy bedroom or office, even if no one else can make sense of it. It’s also the idea of a looser set of rules and giving yourself a little more freedom to find your own success at work. You have a map to success with the end goal marked with an X, but there are several different ways to get yourself there from your starting point. It’s up to you to decide a path and move forward.
This isn’t for everyone. I’ve worked with a few people who are terrified of chaos, who need to have a clearly defined order and rigid protocol in place to be happy and successful at work. To each his own! But acclimating to a slightly chaotic environment can help you at work. We’ve talked about the soft skills needed to excel in the workplace in 2017 and adaptability is a big one. When you’re given the opportunity to figure out what to do on your own, you’re forced to continually learn and try new things. Besides giving you more experience and more talking points you can leverage in a resume or interview, you eventually become comfortable with the chaos and are less likely to be thrown off track when surprises come up.
And when a surprise gets in the way and you’re not sure how to handle it, you learn to collaborate with everyone in the office. Collaboration is another one of those soft skills that can give you an edge at work. Effective teamwork can make or break success. In an organized chaos situation, you learn to collaborate with as many different people as possible. I have a few decent skills, but if I need to provide data in the form of a clear and concise spreadsheet, I’m going to crash and burn. So, I reach out to someone I know who excels at Excel. They help me put together a nice spreadsheet and, when needed, I’ll help them with something I’m more skilled at.
Organized chaos, again, isn’t for every company and every employee. But for those it works for, it’s more than letting papers pile up on your desk. Organized chaos allows for employees at all skill levels to learn and develop their soft skills and their technical skills. It gives you the room to grow as an employee and a teammate. Organized chaos encourages engagement and leadership. Maybe I’m biased because I’m naturally a mess, but don’t be afraid of working in a company that allows you freedom to get the job done how you feel most comfortable. Even if you find yourself leaving that chaotic company at some point, you’ll do so with a new set of skills and the confidence to use them to your advantage on your resume.