Edge of chaos

Emergence is a fascinating idea I've recently discovered. It's not a new idea from what I've read. Emergence is the idea that complex and seemingly sophisticated objects and patterns can arise from simple interactions between simple and relatively dumb actors or units. It's closely related to theories around chaos and complexity. Like the theories around memes, emergence is an idea I'd like to explore through further reading.
This active essay on emergence is one of the more clever and fun pieces of interactive content on the web. Rather than presenting emergence in a long text, this essay uses a clever applet to demonstrate some of the basic principles of emergence.
An example of emergence? As noted in the book Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software, the global and seemingly organized intelligence of ant colonies arises not from central control but the interaction of many dumb individual ants, operating autonomously. The path that an ant trail takes from a food source to home base is almost without exception the shortest distance between those two points, yet no single ant is holding a bullhorn or flying overhead to coordinate their movements. Other examples of emergence include the patterns of life and traffic that emerge in cities (most famously modeled by the incredible computer game SimCity) and even the sophisticated recommendations engines of Amazon.com.
More on emergence in the future--I want to study the idea because I'm curious about what it can teach me about optimizing organizational design--but one of the principles that jumps out at me immediately is the idea of the edge of chaos. It's the simple yet powerful idea that designed sloppiness or structured chaos is a positive thing. That a somewhat messy desk at work is the sign of a productive worker. That to improve something like an organization one must push it towards the frontier of chaos. Not over, but as close to the edge as possible. Why are command-and-control models of management not effective? Why do reward systems like stock option plans fail to incent the best behavior in employees, despite all the talk of making every employee an owner?
It's encouraging because I have a hard time keeping my room or even my desk at work perfectly neat, and I've realized that it might not be such a bad thing. If they were always perfectly neat, I wouldn't be nearly as productive as I am. This is probably an abuse of emergence, but recently at work my life has been chaotic and complex, and I'm hopeful that that's a good thing, not a bad thing. It feels right--I've always known that I'm heading the right direction in life when everything has felt a little out of control, a little too hectic.