Chaos – a word defined in the dictionary as “complete disorder.” It is not something that companies would be particularly interested in experiencing. Luckily, that “state of utter confusion” will not be the topic of this discussion. We will be focusing on the opposite of stagnation and monotony. It’s something that can improve your revenue, and reduce costs. It will result in operational excellence. What everyone is seeking.

Instead of focusing on one idea at any given time, let’s take a multidisciplinary approach. This approach could produce some fantastic, though, far less intuitive results. You will achieve new idea generation by adding a measured dose of chaos into your work culture.

Seeing the Forest through the Trees

Many companies tend to compartmentalize to streamline operations and increase results. Employees function on a need-to-know basis. They work on a specific task that is usually part of a more massive project. They have no idea or understanding of other departments activities. They don’t understand how it all fits together.

At the 3M Company, they go by a so-called, ‘flexible attention policy’ as a catalyst for innovation. They are aware that walking, for instance, helps in generating new and creative ideas. And it’s not walking. It’s all sorts of other extra-work activities such as playing a game, taking a nap, or admiring the scenery. 3M’s policy doesn’t rely on ‘goofing around.’ It relies on rotating its engineers from one department to another every few years.

This rotation may seem wasteful at first glance. The logic is that it can help employees ‘see the forest beyond the trees.’ They can use their acquired knowledge in one field to innovate another. It is how Richard Drew, a sandpaper expert working at 3M during the 1920’s, came up with the idea of masking tape.

Implementation

Companies don’t need to rotate their employees to get the desired result. A more comfortable option would be to allow them the freedom to work on many projects at once. At different stages of development. This rotation uses the acquired knowledge in one field to advance another project.

Likewise, thinking about how to improve one project may generate ideas for the other. Having many undertakings offers relief when hitting an impasse on a specific task. Switching between various projects is far more productive than waiting for a new idea to pop up.

Drawbacks and Prioritization

This multitasking strategy can still be an added dose of stress and anxiety. Having too many projects to work on can degenerate and become overwhelming for some. Finding the proverbial ‘sweet spot’ of the best number of tasks is essential. To prevent going overboard you need some trial-and-error.

Prioritizing these projects can be a solution here. Give several of these tasks a higher priority. Then employees can focus here for most of the time and only if a new idea arises for the others, should they work on those. This way, you avoid the problem of too many projects at once. It still allows for a cross-pollination of ideas.

Conclusion

There is no one-size-fits-all approach here. Every company is free to choose the best way to approach the issue. Still, allowing your personnel to branch out into other departments opens up horizons. This branching out enables them to think outside the box. They innovate, improve your revenue, and reduce costs.

Philip Uglow is the President of Renshi Consulting Group. Renshi lowers clients costs by pulling ideas from your people in the moment, when they are most busy with real work. This is when they learn. This is when they change.