Chaos is Sometimes the Order We Need


The Köln Concert is a concert recording by the pianist Keith Jarrett of solo piano improvisations performed at the Opera House in Cologne, Germany on January 24, 1975. The double-vinyl album was released in the autumn of 1975  to critical acclaim, and went on to become the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album, with sales of more than 3.5 million.

This is astounding because on the night of the concert Keith Jarrett discovered, almost at the last minute that the piano was not the piano he was originally planning to play and the substitute was hopelessly out of tune and in fact in such disrepair that many keys did not work at all.

The concert was a sell-out and Keith decided to play despite the circumstances. What resulted was an improvised masterpiece.

Fast forward to 2016 and London was sent into chaos as a 48-hour strike bought the London Underground (The Tube) to a halt. Thousands upon thousands of Londoners had to adapt to using other forms of transport such as buses, above ground trains and even London’s famed bicycle share scheme introduced by Boris Johnson when he was London’s Mayor.

Economists investigating the costs and effects in the aftermath of this strike stumbled upon an interesting fact. Roughly 1 in 20 commuters stuck with their new found route or method for getting to work. That’s 5% discovering an improvement as a result of chaos.

Habits or procedures sometimes are not always the best way. If only we were forced into making the change earlier it would have proved better.

Complex problems can be solved using algorithms, step-by-step solutions which incrementally get better, but sometimes they don’t get better quickly. However, introducing chaos to the algorithm (Keep knocking it off course) introduces improvements that may have never eventuated as a planned progression.

So, Like Keith Jarrett and London’s commuters, sometimes the onset of an emergency can introduce improvements that may have evolved very slowly or oftentimes not at all.

So think about that for a moment. An emergency may cause a dramatic improvement in your future. I am not advocating you deliberately start causing mayhem to see what happens and I deplore incidents where people are injured or killed. However, no matter the damage or aftermath, we owe it to those affected to improve.