Embracing Chaos – Do Troubled Times Favour the Bold?


When things look their bleakest is when mighty business empires are formed.

When the headlines are full of #GuptaLeaks, credit rating agencies, US President Donald Trump, taxi violence, the collapse of leadership at SAA, SABC, Eskom, SASSA, the NPA and almost every other state- owned entity, it’s tempting to reach into that editor’s much used bag of clichés and pull out WB Yeats’ description of post-war Europe from The Second Coming.

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”


If that’s how you’re feeling, you’re not alone. During the social upheaval of the 1960s, American essayist Joan Didion lifted the last line of Yeats’ poem for the title of her first book, Slouching Towards Bethlehem. Didion wrote that she had “been paralysed by the conviction that… the world as I had understood it no longer existed.”

When trying to read the tea leaves in times of trouble, it’s very easy to focus on the negative prospects the future holds. We can’t help it: as humans we’ve been programmed by our own evolution to overestimate the dangers of taking a decision and underestimate the gains.

“Those berries look good, but is there a tiger in the trees?” Extreme caution is what kept us alive long enough to invent fire.

We are, quite literally, born worriers.


In business, we find ourselves becoming increasingly risk averse when there are lots of apparent external concerns. We cost-cut, we sell our…

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Read this article by Jonathan Foster-Pedley, Dean & Director Henley Business School Africa as well as a host of other topical management articles written by professionals, consultants and academics in the August/September 2017 edition of BusinessBrief.

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