In the midst of chaos dwells opportunity. This may seem contradictory as we typically seek stability, known processes, and security when there is turmoil. However, relying on what is safe and familiar can lead to stagnation, perfectionism, and a reluctance to look for new possibilities.
Ed Catmull, the founder and former President of Pixar, felt his greatest task as a leader was to get his team members to make mistakes as soon as possible. He stated that he never worried about the people who made mistakes but was very concerned about those who didn’t. He understood that to innovate and accomplish new objectives you have to be willing to fail.
Many leaders prefer to take a wait and see attitude when it comes to implementing new initiatives. They wait for the right timing, for processes to be well defined and clear, and for people to all agree on the right way to do it. In short, they play it safe! Therefore, when things are uncertain or chaotic they look for ways to reduce risk instead of exploring the ways they could innovate and grow.
For example, there was an entrepreneur with operations both domestic and abroad. One location was in a small third-world country with an unstable government. One day he received a phone call telling him that the government had seized his business and he was no longer in operation. He had a choice to make–panic and give up, or pivot and innovate. He decided to do the latter and put his team to work raising sheep (they had been designers) which was something needed in that country, until he could come up with next steps. He then found a new location for his business and reopened there with his same team. This leader found opportunities to succeed when many would have said it was time to quit.
Opportunities are all around us if we are willing to get creative and risk potential failure. No innovation comes with guarantees. We have to make the best decision possible, trust our judgement and know that we can pivot if things work out differently than planned. The real gift is the learning and knowledge that will be ours should we step out to seize the moment.