Sunday, July 26, 2009

Embrace chaos and succeed!

I read this article about Ashok Amritraj producing his 100th Hollywood film. Something about his achievement rang a bell regarding an idea I have been tossing about for some time. I will come to that in a moment.

Ashok Amritraj’s is an amazing journey from pro-tennis to the world of films which he entered in 1981. Being one of the mainstream Hollywood producer and a ‘brown skin’ at that, success was not easy to come by. Hard work, daring, perseverance are some of the traits that Ashok lists as essential to make it big in films and in Hollywood. No doubt about that. The traits he mentioned holds true even if he were to be an Indian Film producer. What is remarkable about his achievement was that it happened in Hollywood.

Hollywood in 1981 must have been an unknown quantity for the young Ashok. He was to my mind entering an area which would have been the edge of chaos or chaos itself. Chaos or madness that exerts enormous pressure on a person’s mental limits. Greater the unknown, greater the level of chaos and therefore mental pressure. For example, the level of chaos in Hollywood would have been far greater than the level of chaos in India for Amritraj.

Ashok Amritraj embraced chaos and succeeded. Likewise Ismail Merchant.

Neuroscience has an answer to this. According to this very amazing and insightful article about the functioning of brain, there are moments when the brain moves away from a stable state to the edge of chaos or madness. The article goes on to state that “the near-chaotic states maybe crucial to memory, and could explain why some people are smarter than others”. Of course, if the brain completely flips into the chaotic state it would lead to madness. The statement that there is a fine line between genius and madness holds true.

What holds true for Amritraj, Merchant and individuals like them in various fields, holds true for companies and brands.

The ability to embrace chaos is one of the reasons why some companies and brands are truly great. The example that comes to my mind is Google. The internet (dotcom) madness was at its peak with search engines popping up every nanosecond. Google dared to enter with its own definition of search engine into this madness and the rest is history. I am not for a moment discounting factors like good product, service, hard work etc. I take that for granted.

Closer home I think the IT majors entered the zone of chaos when they first made their sales pitch to North American clients. Please remember that in the ‘70’s and 80’s ‘Made in India’ was a joke and more so in the high-technology space like IT. They won and how.

In addition to the various P’s of marketing, companies should ask the level of chaos they are operating in. It might give them an indication of the degree of success they are likely to achieve.

It is also very likely that companies mistake edge of chaos with their own operations and marketing. In this case the dividing line between reality and chaos are truly blurred.

I would rather back Don Quixote on his charge!

(Image courtesy: Audringje)


  1. It is a well articulated piece. Being successful in an unstructured environment like movie industry is not easy. Taking chaos by the horns does really ring a bell

  2. Thanks for the visit, Jai, and your kind words.Every industry/field has its zone of chaos. Research cannot map it nor logic explain it. One has to plunge or at least slip into it!