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“General Stanley McChrystal experienced a reinvention challenge of his own when the threat of Al Qaeda emerged and the U.S. military had to rethink its assumptions. ‘We thought we knew the rules, that we knew what it took to be successful,’ he says. ‘But the sport we had been playing wasn’t good enough for the sport we were required to be effective at.’ McChrystal, 58, speaks with the stentorian assurance of an old-school leader. But what he has to say doesn’t fit that profile. ‘We grew up in the military with this [classic hierarchy]: one person at the top, with two to seven subordinates below that, and two to seven below that, and so on. That’s what organizational theory says works,’ he explains. Against Al Qaeda, however, ‘we had to change our structure, to become a network. We were required to react quickly. Instead of decisions being made by people who were more senior—the assumption that senior meant wiser—we found that the wisest decisions were usually made by those closest to the problem.’”

General Stanley McChrystal experienced a reinvention challenge of his own when the threat of Al Qaeda emerged and the U.S. military had to rethink its assumptions. ‘We thought we knew the rules, that we knew what it took to be successful,’ he says. ‘But the sport we had been playing wasn’t good enough for the sport we were required to be effective at.’ McChrystal, 58, speaks with the stentorian assurance of an old-school leader. But what he has to say doesn’t fit that profile. ‘We grew up in the military with this [classic hierarchy]: one person at the top, with two to seven subordinates below that, and two to seven below that, and so on. That’s what organizational theory says works,’ he explains. Against Al Qaeda, however, ‘we had to change our structure, to become a network. We were required to react quickly. Instead of decisions being made by people who were more senior—the assumption that senior meant wiser—we found that the wisest decisions were usually made by those closest to the problem.’”

An interesting way to look at the difference between pivot, reorganization, and panic is to think about this in context of your own career or even your education. For example, you might be in school and you realize that you don’t like your major. You might pivot into something else, restructure by going to a different school. Or even panic as you realize that you’ve spend too long on something that you’re not passionate about (e.g., failing slow). The same goes with careers. Pivot to another role, restructure by going back to school, or a panic.

DJ Patil 

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Companies and people tend to look at chaos as an obstacle, a hurdle. We look at it as an opportunity: Get on the offense.

Nike CEO Mark Parker.

"It’s irresponsible not to use the tools of the day," he charges. "People say, Oh, if I master Twitter, I’ve got it figured out. That’s right, but it’s also so wrong. If you master those things and stop, you’re just going to get killed by the next thing. Flexibility of skills leads to flexibility of options. To see what you can’t see coming, you’ve got to embrace larger principles."

Generation Flux: Baratunde Thurston

"It’s irresponsible not to use the tools of the day," he charges. "People say, Oh, if I master Twitter, I’ve got it figured out. That’s right, but it’s also so wrong. If you master those things and stop, you’re just going to get killed by the next thing. Flexibility of skills leads to flexibility of options. To see what you can’t see coming, you’ve got to embrace larger principles."

Generation Flux: Baratunde Thurston