In defense of the Chaos Muppet

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Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor
Elizabeth Newman, McKnight's Senior Editor

Family lore has it that as a child, wherever I was, be it the bed, bath or yard, I'd run sprinting to the television when I heard the theme song from “The Muppets,” and then I'd start dancing.

So you can imagine my thrill when Slate's Dahlia Lithwick alerted me to a philosophy that represents a new way to see the world: Muppet theory.

Essentially, the idea is that there are two types of Muppets: Chaos Muppets and Order Muppets. Cookie Monster, Animal, Miss Piggy, the Swedish Chef, Crazy Harry : these are your emotional, id-driven Chaos Muppets who embrace imagination and creativity, especially when chasing a mugger who has stolen her purse.

Bert, Kermit, Sam the Eagle, Telly Monster: these are your high-strung Muppets, but focused types who excel when they are running the show; just don't lose their favorite paper-clip collection.

I spent a good long time contemplating what type of Muppet I was, although my best friend, an Order Muppet, said, “Is this really hard for you? Because it's kind of obvious.” The truth is, no matter how organized I am with my social calendar, work or even bill-paying, fundamentally I am the person who can't say no, literally or figuratively, to cookies. (Thank goodness I married an Order Muppet who bakes). If I didn't work in a field that had hard and fast deadlines, my quippy one-liners would be written only in my head for years to come.

While society may celebrate my fellow Chaos Muppets in artistic fields, business leans toward preferring the Order Muppet. Healthcare organizations are filled with Order Muppets, and there are some positions where this is a necessity. Having an MDS coordinator who is a Chaos Muppet would likely lead to disaster, and it's entirely possible that you have become an administrator or director of nursing by being able to keep all the trains running on time.

But for those of you making hiring decisions, I would argue that mixing Chaos Muppets into your organization or facility has value. These are the people who can provide a dynamic spark or energy to your organization. The Chaos Muppet may push for a new vision for your company, or be the employee who reminds you of the importance of resident interaction. They can balance out Order Muppets who are tightly wound and obsess in an endless feedback loop about competition and regulations. Your Chaos Muppets employees may flip out occasionally, but they are also the people who say “this isn't working; let's try this,” or promote relationship building that make many long-term care facilities successful.

And of course, when you find the right balance in your organization, you will find a Rainbow Connection.

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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editor's Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor on Monday and Friday; Staff Writer Tim Mullaney on Tuesday, Editor James M. Berklan on Wednesday and Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman on Thursday.


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