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Making order out of chaos in a crazy world

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By Kevin Roberts

It’s evident we’re living in a crazy world. . . Where machines talk back to people and cars are learning to drive themselves. . . Where 5000-1 outsiders Leicester City wins the Premier League and Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for U.S. president. . . Where the price of oil keeps dropping and each year is the hottest on record. . .

How does one learn to lead — a business, an organization, a life — in a world that’s always changing, always unpredictable and often just plain nuts? Following are five indispensable tips for creating order out of chaos in a crazy world:

  1. Embrace the Crazy! Accept that we live in a crazy world. Rather than fight that unseemly fact at every turn, embrace it, run with it, get a little crazy. Enthusiasm is fundamental to organizations in a chaotic world. Companies don’t just need change managers today — organizations need people who understand and enjoy chaos. In turbulence, hire some rule-breakers, iconoclasts, people who love chaos, revel in mayhem and fly into the storm.
  1. Discover Your Purpose. I’m staggered by how many companies, brands and individuals don’t know where they are going. They have strategies and plans around the yin-yang, but aren’t driven by a purpose. Winning starts with purpose, is powered by it, is sustained by it. To win in a crazy, upside down, and ever-changing world, the purpose must be clear and must be embraced by everyone. A leader must create the appetite for the relentless pursuit of purpose, which creates belief, belonging, and direction. This propels a team on a winning path. An organization with no purpose goes backward in the Internet Age.
  1. Find the Right Language. Change the language and you can change anything. The right language can create higher orders of relationship, business, product, service, design, and performance. In fact, a premise of Lovemarks, the groundbreaking branding concept, is that you change the world with one word.
  1. Get into Flow. Most people, at some time or other, experience being “in the zone.” That’s You feel unbeatable. A sense of control over actions, extraordinary awareness, confidence, and power takes place. Flow can happen in all kinds of spaces: homes and offices, basements and studios, stages and screens, fields and arenas. Flow attacks chaos. Training counts, but flow allows you to “play what’s in front of you.” In organizations, it is about focusing passionate energy, together, every day, on purpose-driving activities. By increasing the amount of time that people are in Flow, organizations energize dramatic increases in productivity, creativity, and performance.
  1. Call the Plumber. Remember Winston Wolfe, Harvey Keitel’s unflappable, tuxedo-clad character in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction? Wolfe’s job description: cleaner. He’s the guy who, when you’re knee-deep in it, comes in and cleans up the mess. Mr. Wolfe is a model of efficiency and grace under pressure. A top-notch manager able to respond to any crisis with focus and elegance. A colleague who you can trust beyond measure because you know the value he places on discretion and confidentiality. Every organization needs someone to be the fixer, the cleaner, the operations ace who clears the blockages and potential clogs.

The world isn’t getting less crazy any time soon. Leaders — the ones who know how carve swaths through the chaos — know how to embrace instability, identify and name their purpose, stay in the flow zone, and when to call in support to clean it all up!

Kevin Roberts is chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi, head coach of Publicis Groupe and the author of 64 Shots: Leadership in a Crazy World.