Random Brains, Controlled Chaos and Embracing the Mess

Random Brains, Controlled Chaos and Embracing the Mess

From Arlene | Posted by YouInc.com - November 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Entrepreneurs have what I like to think of as random brains. They can pull wildly disparate ideas and inspiration from the ether and they have an intuitive ability to apply those ideas in creative, imaginative ways. Their antennae are always twitching, tapping into everything around them, absorbing, synthesizing and storing what they discover for future use. It's an intuitive, holistic, improvisational right brain sort of thing.

If you're the kind of person who needs to connect the dots in a more linear, step-by-step fashion, and you had the chance to spend some time in an entrepreneur's brain, you'd likely find it messy and chaotic. You might even start looking for the exits. But entrepreneurs don't run from mess. They're comfortable with it. In fact, they embrace it. Many of them do their best work that way.

I gained a fascinating insight into the benefits that can flow when a random entrepreneurial brain embraces the mess (not to mention listened to a riveting personal story) when I watched Steve Jobs deliver his famous commencement speech to the students at Stanford University in 2005. You can watch it here.

Jobs tells the students that he had no idea what he wanted to do with his life when he went to college, and no idea how college was going to help him figure it out. Six months in, failing to see the value of a college education, he dropped out, sleeping on the floor in friends' dorm rooms, walking seven miles across town once a week to get a good meal at the Hare Krishna temple. But freed from taking the required classes that didn't interest him, he attended others that did, and much of what he stumbled on simply by following his curiosity "turned out to be priceless later on". One such discovery was a course in calligraphy, which Jobs found fascinating. While nothing about that course held out any hope of practical application in his life, ten years later when he and Steve Wozniak were creating the first Macintosh computer, everything he learned in that class came back to him and he put that knowledge to use designing the first computer to feature beautiful typography.

I love that story because it's such a great example of how the random entrepreneurial brain works. It's also the story of someone who can live with mess, who intuitively trusts that the dots will eventually connect, and who creates his own luck by putting himself in the path of opportunity.

You can find another interesting story about how great entrepreneurs think here. The Inc.com article, by Leigh Buchanan, focuses on research conducted in 2001 by Saras Sarasvathy, a professor at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business, on how some of America's most successful entrepreneurs handle business problems. Buchanan reports that Sarasvathy concluded entrepreneurs are brilliant improvisers who don't start out with concrete goals, but instead are constantly in motion figuring out how to tap into their strengths, resources, connections--whatever's at hand--to work out goals on the fly, "while creatively reacting to contingencies". Sarasvathy compares entrepreneurs to Iron Chefs, who are "at their best when presented with an assortment of motley ingredients and challenged to whip up whatever dish expediency and imagination suggest, while corporate leaders, by contrast, decide they're going to make Swedish meatballs, then proceed to shop, measure, and cook Swedish meatballs in the most efficient, cost-effective manner possible." It's not that entrepreneurs don't have goals, writes Buchanan, "only that those goals are broad and--like luggage--may shift during flight."

I love that analogy, too. I think I'm going to be referring to it a lot. So what about you? Are you an Iron Chef? Or a methodical measure-the-ingredients sort of person? And how important do you consider random thinking and a comfort level with controlled chaos to be if you plan to embrace the entrepreneurial lifestyle?

Tags: arlene dickinson, dickinson, blog, random, brains, entrepreneur, idea, inspiration, resources, connections, Steve Jobs

Anna Adamson
November 13, 2012 at 8:18 pm

I am definitely in the Iron Chef camp- prefer to deal with things on the fly rather than plan every little detail ahead of time.

When we operated our cleaning and restoration business I enjoyed the variety of situations we came across and learning about new things such as dough relaxers (bakery fire).  Little hammocks for bread dough- who would have thought!?

Life in general in Mexico means we need to be adaptable when ingredients aren't readily available.  'Just make it work' is my motto.  

In one way people who plan way ahead appear to be more organized than I am, but they don't cope well when the wheels fall off and they need to change their plans suddenly.

Zulubear ~ Annette Young
November 13, 2012 at 11:29 pm

Where the ‘Iron chef’ meets in the kitchen with 'a methodical measure-the-ingredients sort of person’, one discovers that dill and chocolate taste great together, maybe even dipped in pear slices.

I began this life with an enormous right brain approach to the world. You know big picture, sorts for symbols, patterns and least amount of effort. Loves to play and have fun in all aspects of life. That place where the inner knower residesand has it’s own emotional guidance system. The one that rises to the occasion during a crisis. I fondly refer to this aspect of self as 'Zulu'. 

My left-brain took a while to development. In fact I did not speak until age 5 and believed wholeheartedly in Saints of all kinds, including Nicholas, until I was 9 years old. 'Bear' the left-brain methodical; sequential organized side of me was indeed a late bloomer. Yes, in grade 5 it seemed I  did a whole lot of 'volunteer' work in the ' primary opportunity' room. Suddenly by grade 9, I was in the gifted learner program heading to med school confused about whether or not I was smart.

The only thing I got out of medicine was an intense interest in the relationship between a thought an emotion and a behaviour.

Did you know there is a biochemistry to thought that depicts behaviour? Like really how are some your brains behaving during income tax season or other times of business related stress? Bet your neurochemistry is often a match for the child who has difficulty sleeping, is irritable with homework overwhelm and yet brilliantly finds ways to get around the task at hand.

 As a result I whole ‘brainedly’ believe that all classroom behaviour is a symptom of too much adrenalin and or cortisol and not enough fun hormones, and has very little to do with the student, the teacher, the parent or the system. I believe it is all about the relationship with Zulu and Bear. Sometimes all it takes to solve a problem is to let them work together.

I just love how Youinc provides the kind of kitchen we can all cook in.

Cheryl Bowman
November 14, 2012 at 5:45 am

Me - random chaos.

Dragan Cvijan
November 14, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Random that is pazzle to me.

November 15, 2012 at 11:16 pm

Personally, I think the truly amazing quality of an entrepreneur is that they have faith that things will work out. They don't know how, when or why, they just believe that it will and that's enough to keep them moving forward towards their dreams.

Cheryl Ayres
November 16, 2012 at 12:32 am

Adaptability and faith it will all work out ...

T Carey
November 16, 2012 at 2:41 am

Go with the flow; You can't stop the river. An intuitive approach, though it drives some other crazy, is the best for me. 

A quote I once read : "No one travels so far as the man who know not where he is going."

I took a lot of courses in university that I thought weren't practical, but ended up serving me well. Likewise, I dropped out of courses because I thought they weren't practical, and regret it to this day, because I am making a living in those impractical fields (art and writing). Good thing I dropped science in favour of a degree in English though. Did I mention, good writing is so important?

Keine Legrismith
November 21, 2012 at 12:01 am


Cory Conley
December 9, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I like the satellite perspective. Zooming out allows for the over all vision and from there, connecting the dots can bring the project together with the arrow pointed in the collective next direction. It's a schematic of the sum of energy, joined for forward motion and momentum.

Laura-Jean Bernhardson
December 22, 2012 at 2:35 pm

No doubt I'm random chaos.  I'm working on what's best for my business given that.  One thing for sure is that the business needs structure so I need to build a team of people who "get" me and can create the structure that supports my chaos.  And there are times when I need to buckle down and have the discipline myself to create order or rein in the chaos in some way so that it's workable in the business.  But I'm also very conscious of what an awesome skill I have- to envision and create the future, to see and recognize seemingly unrelated connections, to glean information from a situation and see with clarity what's missing or where an opportunity is and to connect to people because of all this and be a visionary and leader in my business and community. It's really quite awesome!

Jelena Pticek
March 18, 2013 at 8:55 pm

Come what may and I will deal with it. For me this keeps things more interesting and imagination alive. It really is the belief that things will work themselves out in the end that keeps me going but we also need put our best foot forward in order for it to happen. Positive energy always brings forth positive results.

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