“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

—Buckminster Fuller

There are plenty of amazing teachers and business professors out there. My sincerest apologies to them when I say the following:

Formal education is not the source of business wisdom.

In fact, commonly accepted business wisdom plays a big part in perpetuating the limiting beliefs that keep many businesses from fulfilling their potential.

Learning new business wisdom is important.

Unlearning bad business wisdom is required.

Most people touting their business innovations are repeating different versions of the same thing. However, the leaders who transform their businesses abandoned the typical business norms and left the comfort of certainty and control.

Dee Hock, the founder and former CEO of Visa, coined a term that I think perfectly encapsules true business innovation: he said it was a result of “chaordic leadership,” a word he got by combing “chaos” and “order.”

His explanation of the term goes as follows: “By chaord, I mean any self-organizing, self-governing, adaptive, nonlinear, complex organism, organization, community or system, whether physical, biological or social, the behavior of which harmoniously blends characteristics of both chaos and order.”

By embracing both chaos and order, Hock quietly created one of the most ubiquitous brands in the world. (Granted, it has since become like every other large corporate structure, but not until it scaled the heights of a massive worldwide business.)

Only the businesses that embrace chaord can change the world.

Getting an education in business is perfectly fine and can prepare you to fit into the business world. But it will only prepare you to fit into the business world as it is. Formal education is heavy on order, and weak on chaos. You need both.

The only way to get that chaordic wisdom is through experience. When we open up to all experiences, the source of all experience will reveal more than we could have ever known. By allowing natural wisdom to unfold, we default to using our intellect as a fluid tool rather than as a rigid guideline.

How to Be a Student of Life

Embracing chaord means you become a student of life, paying attention to all living systems, including yourself and those around you. In this state of constant wonder, you exist in the most complex classroom—an environment just waiting for you to interact with it.

You observe, inquire, connect, and disconnect. You debate, deliberate, test, and fail. You are curious and persistent, yet patient.

You come alive in a state of chaord!

This state of being present in the “isness” of life will exponentially improve your critical thinking, but only if you start to critically observe and play.

Unfortunately, most of us rely too heavily on the illusion of order and not enough on the chaos of the moment. The safety of order has defined generations of leaders. We’ve numbed ourselves into believing this is “the way things work.” Leaving the comfort of what we think we know for a taste of the unknown is not easy.

As exaggerated as it may seem, by prioritizing order over chaos, you are trading endless potential for certainty.

The only way to embrace chaord is by unlearning what you think you know about leadership. That unlearning process holds the most potential for your personal growth and, in turn, your business success.

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