Embracing chaos

As we settle into the New Year, commentators continue to declare the present state of flux to be the ‘new normal’. In the wake of increasing globalisation and atomisation, humanity is simultaneously more connected and more fractured than ever before – how can brands manage in this new era? The tension of our age lies between an inherent desire for stability and a necessity to adapt to the new chaotic world order.

At Borkowski.do, we believe in being ‘20% Maverick’ – using well-honed human instinct to create spaces in which creativity can flourish. Over the last year, I have seen that more and more brands want to understand how to manage risk effectively as we adjust to living in a less stabilised world.

Clients are approaching us as they need a consultancy that offers robust advice on manageable risk. In the 24-hour world of instant communications, brands constantly face challenges and are experiencing elevated exposure to reputational risks. Often, they do not have the resources to respond quickly to these issues and need help in order to manage their reputations more diligently. We offer our clients intelligent counsel. They derive value from our knowledge base and our understanding of who influences the influencers.

The problem for businesses is this: the bigger they come, the harder they fall. If the saying is true, no wonder the age of big business is so risk averse. Whether it’s an advert for a dating website promising the perfect love match, or American politicians talking about “zero dead” wars and “collateral damage”, it seems that our world has developed a love for cotton wool in reaction to our fear of change.

Where George Orwell’s 1984 vision of Big Brother has become increasingly manifest in recent decades, it is now the soma-sedate, anti-chance society of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World which is starting to blossom (though it was probably first conceived in the McDonald’s hamburger).

The new world is defined by speed, co-ownership, engagement, subjective truths, polarity, and stories. In this Now! Economy nothing is certain and everything is up for grabs. To engage with this world, you need to understand stories, and no discipline does this better than PR.

Global businesses struggle to create environments that foster creativity and thought as they are stuck genuflecting to process to maintain the order and uniformity needed to drive international expansion. However, in a world where consumers have more access to choice and more capacity to communicate than ever before, such gigantism isn’t enough to earn the trust of a consumer base.

While dealing with local challenges, regional business needs to remain creatively sharp. You have to let the little voices in, as these are the ones that are best at doing the disruptive thinking; they carry the maverick gene in a world that is becoming increasingly entangled in a dangerous obsession with safety-first culture.

However, to do this well, we must embrace the chaos – as opportunity lies within an element of risk. As Alan Rappeport recently pointed out in an article on Seth Godin’s latest book, The Icarus Deception, we need to “embrace a philosophy of fearlessness, where sorry is better than safe, and to break out of … the ‘industrialist’ mentality”.

A truly creative environment needs to breed challenging opinions. In order to do this, a business needs security. This security is negated when companies forget to respect the word ‘no’ and dedicate precious time and resources to chasing new business and expansion. Thinking cannot turn into true point of difference if it is not given time, space and investment to do so.

Consider taking small steps and developing a genuine working practise. Give your business time to develop and don’t create a culture based around chasing business for its own sake.

It’s important to understand your brand and your working style. One of the first things to suffer in businesses that expand too quickly and lose sight of this is investment in talent. The market is saturated and we are not training and turning people out. When you get new joiners from bigger agencies, they invariably come with bad habits as a result of this lack of investment.

I hope that I’m producing something more intelligent; I recruit from an area where bright folks who would have previously gone into journalism come here instead – I invest in agile minds that I can train and work.

The success of any PR campaign is based on simple lateral thought: picking up on the details within a brand that can be fashioned into the kind of stories that get people talking. It isn’t about logos or slogans or encouraging clients to spend money on tools such as surveys. It is about anecdotes and characters. In order to discover and create these stories however, a company must foster an atmosphere that engenders such creativity by allowing space in which it can flourish; a space where individuals feel able to offer up disruptive thought and where brands feel comfortable with taking proportionate risks.