In a Chaos. There Is Creativity. Welcome to VUCA MAX… Part 1

Welcome to the Innovative Leadership Newsletter brought to you by the Innovative Leadership Institute, where we bring you thought leaders and innovative ideas on leadership topics each week.

This week’s interview on Innovating Leadership, Co-creating Our Future is titled Expecting the Unexpected:  VUCA in Action at Red Roof.  The interview is with George Limbert, President of Red Roof and aired on November 8, 2022.  

Short clip from the interview:

Link to the entire interview:

This week’s article is written by Chris Nolan, a multiple Emmy Award-winning director, creative director, marketing strategist, branding story expert and author.  It is part one of a two part series.



Brian Eno is a brilliant musician and producer of some of the most seminal rock ‘n’ roll albums of the last 40 years, He worked with David Bowie on “Heroes,”. U2 on “Achtung Baby” and “The Joshua Tree,” His work spans rock genres from DEVO to Coldplay.

His secret to catalyzing the greatest musicians to expand themselves and reach creative heights is “creating chaos”.

He is also famous for his Oblique Strategies: Over One Hundred Worthwhile Dilemmas” that shake up the creative process.

It’s a deck of cards invented by Eno and painter Peter Schmidt. Each card offers a unique, disruptive strategy: “Honor thy error as a hidden intention.”, “Look closely at the most embarrassing details and amplify them.”, “Make a sudden, destructive, unpredictable action. Incorporate.” Even, “Change instrument roles.”  That’s right –– drummer on the piano.

Eno found the more chaos the greater the creative breakthrough and the greater the masterpiece.



A McKinsey & Company survey of executives found that more than 70 percent anticipate innovation will be a top driver of growth for their companies.

Yes, McKinsey also found that most of these executives have been disappointed by their company’s innovation efforts.

Now granted creativity is an enigma, and innovation can be a dilemma, so maybe chaos can tell us more about how to get under the hood of creativity.

As a film director for over 25 years and a former Creative Director at the some of world’s most prestigious advertising agencies, I’ve been at the helm of a wide array of diverse extremely talented, creative teams.

Yes, some people are just innately innovative, but I agree Edward de Bono and Steven Kotler that creativity and innovation–– the ability to connect different ideas in a novel way –– is also a learnable skill.

But it is more oblique than obvious.

De bono, regarded by many as the world’s leading authority in the field of creative thinking, also tells is that problem solving is an indirect process involving ideas that may not be attainable using step-by-step logic.  This mean embracing chaos, disruption and the unknown in the creative process.  de Bono called this “Lateral Thinking”. It deliberately forgoes obvious approaches in favor of oblique, outside the box ones.

Lateral Thinking also calls for leaders to give people the permission to contribute and the freedom to explore alternatives to problems without criticism.



Disney is one of the most innovative companies in the world. And when I worked with Disney on innovative initiatives, we’d always included people outside the project team as part of the innovation group, even some contrarians, disruptors or people at different levels.

In his Ted Talk. Tim Hartford talks about the need to disrupt in the creative process and role of what he calls “the awkward strangers”. Eno deck of cards plays this role.

So, one of the ways to jumpstart robust ideation is diversity and different perspectives You want awkward strangers to disrupt the process.

Which is why. the world’s top business experts from Peter Drucker to Marshall Goldsmith tell leaders to flatten the pyramid and get more bottom-up ideation.

A more inclusive “leave no one behind” mindset that includes front line people.

it creates what we call Hero-Archies versus Hierarchies. And deliver Great Loyalty instead of Great Resignation by giving people more purpose and investment in the future.

After all, C-Suite does not stand for crystal ball. No leader can predict the future alone. To innovate for a future moving faster than we can think, we need all the help we can get,



Brian Eno made creative magic happen by busting comfort zones, flipping familiar habits and taking people to strange, unknown, chaotic places.

He immersed the rockers in adversity.

Now you may think that Adversity Immersion causes stress and stress thwarts creativity when in actuality –– it’s feeling out of control in a situation and not having creative choices causes stress. The key to avoiding stress is to accept that the creative process is chaotic, but you always have choices.

The stories of the greatest accomplishments always great conflict, obstacles and adversity, and they challenge us to make decisions.

In Star Wars, after the introduction of Old Ben Kenobi (the awkward strange), Obi Wan challenges Luke Skywalker to make a choice –– between the complacency of his dull planet and the call to help the intergalactic rebellion.

In innovation like stories, an unexpected inciting incident always disrupts the status quo and upends the familiar, leading to new challenges, problems and bursts of opportunity.

Understanding that chaos and adversity are essential catalysts for breakthrough innovative is important for leaders to understand as we enter the most disruptive era that humanity has ever experienced.

An era we call VUCA MAX.



In the documentary IT’S VUCA: THE SECRET TO LIVING IN THE 21ST CENTURY, we set out to explain this critical inflection point in human history.

It’s a pivotal time when we literally face the possibility of two futures: A negative one with colossal consequences or a positive one with transformative opportunities. VUCA is also negative and positive.

The film features some of the world’s greatest VUCA experts: Generals, elite Navy SEALs, Delta Force commanders, Blue Angels, NY Times best-selling authors, neuroscience experts, leadership gurus, and world-renowned futurists.

VUCA is an acronym for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity. It was coined by the military in 1987 to explain the uncertainty of the 20th century and is a very apt way of explaining the conditions and environment of the early part of the 21st Century, in which we were witnessing Moore’s Law – every 18 months the power of technology was doubling –– and transforming the world.

It’s why the smartphone in your pocket is now a million times faster, a million times cheaper, and a thousand times smaller than a supercomputer on the 1970s.

When we started filming IT’S VUCA in 2020, a phenomenon predicted by Ray Kurzweil, Google’s head on engineering started to kick in –– creating Massive. Accelerating. Exponential change.

To give you an idea just how fast the future is moving:  In the next 10 years, we will see 100 years of change. In the next 80, we’ll see 20,000 years.

VUCA is now on steroids. It’s VUCA MAX.

As futurist Jane McGonigal at the Institute for the Future, the world’s leading futures organization, tell us: This is a time for both urgent optimism and urgent innovation.



On the flip side, when leadership pursues innovation in a haphazard, piecemeal, one-off fashion it is detrimental to creative efficiency. It has no plan and distracts from innovative momentum.

As Gary Hamel and Nancy Tennant said in their Harvard Business Review article, “IIt takes a systematic approach to build a systemic capability — whether that is Amazon’s logistics prowess or the near-flawless service you receive as a guest at a Four Seasons hotel. So, it is with innovation.”

Systematizing innovation means embracing chaotic principals, which beings a method to madness and the outcomes.

Companies cut their R&D and innovation budgets during the last great recession missed key opportunities. Companies that embraced VUCA and continued to invest in innovation 10xed their businesses and took a front seat in the post-recession economy.

Again, investing in innovation calls for leadership that thinks beyond genetic creativity and playful workspaces. It calls for a deep bench of innovators across your entire organization.

Yes, some people are innately more creative, but a surprising amount of people get more creative when they have intrinsic motivation.

When they think their ideas matter and they have permission to be creative. What’s most important is –– Purpose.  Purpose skyrockets innovation. It calls for strong leadership seeking transformative ideas with greater meaning for humanity and for the planet.

Stay tuned for part two of “In Chaos, there is Creativity”, we’ll explore “Messiness” and “Effective Serendipity”



Chris Nolan is a multiple Emmy Award-winning director, creative director, marketing strategist, branding story expert and author. He brings 25 years of branding, writing, directing and production experience in both entertainment and marketing to his content production company, 90,000 Feet –– working for clients such Disney, Google and Toyota.

He recently directed and co-wrote with Mike Schindler, the documentary “It’s VUCA: The Secret to Living in the 21st Century”. Chris and Mike have followed up the film with a book and an extensive leadership and executive coaching program called VUCA MAX.

To preorder the book or for more information on the VUCA MAX program go to or contact Chris at



George Limbert is the President of Red Roof, an award-winning leader in the lodging industry with over 670 properties in the United States, Brazil and Japan. George joined Red Roof in 2013 as the company’s in-house counsel. Recently, he led a financial and strategic transformation of the business and was appointed President in 2021. George guides an organization that serves millions of guests each year, delivering enhanced experiences and unmatched value. He is the cornerstone in driving long-term strategic planning, improved operational and financial performance, and greater value for Red Roof stakeholders, business partners and guests. George fosters collaboration in communicating brand values, driving business growth and profitability.

George is an Ohio native. He received a degree in business from The Ohio State University and earned his law degree at the University of Dayton. George is also an adjunct professor teaching Franchise Law at The Ohio State University, Moritz College of Law. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the American Hotel and Lodging Association and the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association, and a member of the Ohio Bar Association. In 2021 he was appointed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine to the TourismOhio Advisory Board. He lives in Lewis Center, Ohio with his wife and daughter.



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