Disrupt Your Harmony

Author: Justin Mass | Source: HCI | Published: November 28, 2012

"Disrupt it."
Wait, say what? Whatchu talkin' bout Willis? Harmony is amazing, are you kidding me? Why on earth would I want to disrupt it?! I mean, it's something we all work really hard for. Harmony requires skill, agility, planning, smarts... maybe a little luck, too?
"Disrupt it." 
Sounds crazy, right? Yeah, I thought so, too, until I had an enlightening conversation (aren't those the best?) with Libby Laveson and Melissa Daimler from Twitter at HCI’s annual Learning & Leadership Development conference in NYC in early November. 
I had always said to myself and others, when you find harmony, don't screw with it! Like, hello, do not touch that, ever! But fresh off a most-killing-it preso the day before, Melissa said, "Disrupt it." Libby and I, sitting on both sides of her, recalibrating our positions together in nearly near real-time, responded, "totally." Totally? Really, totally? Well, let's explore this a bit and then discuss, knowing it should stir some debate in the comments and I'm openly hoping it will. I can at least give you a chance to change my mind back. 
Harmony is a musical term, but one we use regularly to express a feeling of unison in our lives. Harmony is a positive state we try to achieve, but it can also become an expectation once we have a taste. After all, harmony feels soooo good. It feels good to reflect on the success of orchestrating everything in our lives so perfectly that we create a most luxurious layer of introspective, open space. Susan Cain would be proud of those who find harmony. So why disrupt it intentionally? 
Here are three intentionally disjointed insights I've been meditating on which I actually hope don't answer anything for you, but rather leave you with your own, further self-exploratory questions. This way we can commiserate together about the lack of resolution. Fitting, right?  
Is it worth the payoff? Just getting to harmony is exhausting. Think of everything it takes to achieve a state of harmony in the first place, the cognitive effort required to get there. Have kids? You've already compromised with yourself on a new definition of harmony. And what really beyond the "sense" of it do we actually get? What does it afford us? If you say it affords a 'peace of mind,' great, how else might we get there with less effort? Or is part of the enjoyment of harmony the effort it takes to arrive at it?
Make a mess... on purpose. My kids do this... ALL the time. I'm no longer convinced it's accidental. Kids break structure through play in everything they do. While I reset their playroom every night thinking maybe they prefer a clean play-slate each new day, I'm probably wrong. Any science out there on this? What am I right about is that (a clean room) is what I think they want each new morning. But maybe, just maybe, we enjoy mess. Dare I say we need mess? I've learned, like many of you I'm sure, I should get organized and stay organized; to start with a clean, tidy slate. On what premise do we make that assumption? I've seen my kids start playing in absolute disasters - think Lego's in bare feet like rusty nails. They have no concept of tidy, they understand play first. Are they making a mess on purpose? Is it better for play? Is a mess a purer state of play?
Harmony will be disrupted anyway, so why not make change the victim this time? Harmony is something we're lucky to achieve, but it ebbs & flows, often abruptly ending, often when we least expect it, sometimes with varying degrees of trauma. Were you paying attention during the presentation on Extreme Leadership by Yale professor Brigadier General (Ret.) Thomas Kolditz? A crisis is coming soon to a theater near you, and it's not a matter of if, but when. If you start practicing disruption intentionally, starting with your own comfort, your own routine, with your own harmony, you might be better prepared when you're facing it. We hear everywhere how important disruption is to innovation. Think of this as self-disruptive innovation.
So choose your own adventure on this one, folks. I'm a big believer that better questions are better than better answers, so in addition to the many I've raised in this post itself, consider these as well:

  • How are you disrupting your own harmony?
  • What about at work? How & when might disrupting harmony be appropriate?
  • Is harmony an illusion?

Looking forward to intentionally disrupting any harmony that emerges in the comments below!
Justin Mass works for Adobe where he spends time thinking about the intersection of learning, technology and design. Justin has taught for the instructional technology graduate program at George Mason University and holds a master’s degree in educational technology from the University at Buffalo. If you've enjoyed his post, consider following his terse provocations on Twitter  and his blog. Justin welcomes your connection on LinkedIn but cannot promise anything will come of it.