lessons in mad genius and serendipityWhen Amy and I started offering elearning, we had a business plan full of charts, models and projections. We’d both come out of Fortune 100 companies so we knew the drill. Former bosses would have been proud.

While we were planning rich, the elearning business didn’t unfold as we had expected. The logic was undeniable, yet what we hadn’t counted on was serendipity.

Business planning is fairly linear. Risks and contingencies are accounted for, but their impact must be minimized. The outside chance needs to remain just that – the outside chance.

But for us the outside chance became the core—a “mad genius” (naming kudos to Amy!) happenstance that turned our biz plan upside down…and something we might have missed had we viewed our original plan as the be-all-and-end-all. What a positive learning experience all this “corporate detox” has been!

5 “mad genius” lessons

1)  Re-invention is both art and science.

And messy as all get-out. Get over thinking that all the debits and credits have to balance out. There’s a judicious mix of logic and emotion to consider and take into account. Don’t get so caught up in the process that you miss the magic. Leave room for some serendipity.

2)  Be open to possibility.

Sometimes we get so focused on our desired outcomes that we miss that we’re shooting at the wrong target. Amy and I had to hit the reset button, as Seth Godin calls it,  for “the reinvention that changes the game.”  You want structure and direction, yet you have to remain open to ambiguity.

3)  Cultivate patience.

Who can resist the lure of overnight success?! Patience may sound old-fashioned and quaint in these days of instant gratification and fast-everything, but it’s a great skill to nurture. As Winnie-the-Pooh reminds us, “Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” Be the water, as I’m fond of saying.

4)  Trust.

Amy and I trusted one another enough to face the bumpy (and uncertain) boat ride of our journey. Sure we wanted quick, positive results just like any other corporate refugee. But we’d had some bad experiences in the big biz jungle where trust was low and the big dogs were quick to eat the little dogs when plans went awry. Been there, done that, and don’t want to be that.

5)  Embrace exploring—and failing.

Sometimes you just have to throw the spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. It’s disorderly. It takes time. It requires rework. It produces outcomes you learn don’t/won’t work or aren’t what you want. And all this muck is OK. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the learning process was a failure. Because if you do, that’s when you truly have failed.

What’s your view of “mad genius” and serendipity?

Image credit before quote:  morgueFile