Chaos? Great – Just Sit There

chaos just sit thereHave you been part of a team that was faced with a “What shall we do now?” dilemma as the result of a significant change (chaos) introduced into their system?

Perhaps it was a really messy problem. Some team members wanting to rush forward and do something, anything. Some felt like they had little to contribute and were willing to defer to “whatever the team thought was best.”

Tangential ways of attacking problems can be more interesting than the direct head-on approach. Click To Tweet

Was there no clear “right path” – as is the case with complex emergent systems?

Maybe the best thing to do is just sit there, observe the chaos for a bit, and then shake it up even more.

Interject with a question that encourages some oblique or tangential thinking.

What would a simple and a complicated experiment look like?

There’s an almost inexhaustible list of such value pairs.

Pick a pair and have the team come up with both kinds of experiments. What will they see then?


best/worst
simple/complicated
easy/difficult
nothing/anything
random/deliberate
quick/slow
friend/enemy
child/adult


create/destroy
inside/outside
ambiguous/specific
comfortable/extreme
consistent/inconsistent
angels/demons
laughter/tears
old/new


Oblique Strategies for Chaos

What’s the point? Simple: Breaking a creative block. Brian Eno explains nicely:

“… Oblique Strategies [changing a point of view] evolved from me being in a number of working situations when the panic of the situation – particularly in studios – tended to make me quickly forget that there were others ways of working and that there were tangential ways of attacking problems that were in many senses more interesting than the direct head-on approach. If you’re in a panic, you tend to take the head-on approach because it seems to be the one that’s going to yield the best results Of course, that often isn’t the case – it’s just the most obvious and – apparently – reliable method. The function of the Oblique Strategies was, initially, to serve as a series of prompts which said, “Don’t forget that you could adopt *this* attitude,” or “Don’t forget you could adopt *that* attitude.”

More on Messes

Thanks, Voranc Kutnik for sharing this video link:

Oblique Strategies

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