Chronos, Kairos, and Creativity

International authorities responsible for keeping time precise announced that today, the first day of yet another New Year, we were given an extra second of time. How often we hear in our work that there is simply not enough time! Yet time hangs heavy for many these days – the uncertainty of a failing economy is more than a passing moment.

The ancient Greeks had multiple words for “time”. Chronos refers to chronological time – the quantitative nature of time as before and after, time which is always scarce. Kairos on the other hand refers to a qualitative attentiveness, time as significant rather than dimensional. Kairos is a passing instant when an opening appears, offering a unique transformational moment for those who see it.

Too often we gauge our productivity in terms of “chronos” rather than training ourselves to be attentive to “kairos”. Recently published research, “Time and Organizational Improvisation” argues that improvisation is an ideal basis for a synthesis of chronos and kairos, “blending conflicting concepts such as planning and acting, discipline and freedom, control and spontaneity.”

Focusing on time solely as chronos distracts from the creative power of kairos. I look forward to discovering the kairos of 2009 in ways we have not yet imagined.

Happy New Year!