"This is a manifesto for managers who want to become leaders and leaders who are prepared to lead in an age of exponential disruption. Because whether you work in a traditional business…or are a government official…the best way to create fresh and innovative solutions is to think like an entrepreneur."
Mad Genius: A Manifesto for Entrepreneurs is not your average motivational business book. Best-selling author and keynote speaker Randy Gage unleashes a thought-provoking, sometimes uncomfortable but definitely inspiring guide, that explores the mysterious concept of genius, a perceived hidden talent he suggests too many of us credit to someone else instead of discovering it within ourselves.
Keeping it concise with just three core sections in the book, Gage argues the point that entrepreneurial success is not just to do with money, or the lack of it, rather that business failure is in fact due to “an idea shortage”. He also reveals how ideas are born and the role they play in entrepreneurial thinking, and why “challenges” offer enormous potential for innovation and creativity.
The process of genius
"The power of curiosity to drive innovation, critical thinking and creativity cannot be overstated."
Too often when we have a problem to solve we put our creative hats on, have a think-tank, brainstorm ideas and identify the best tactic to resolve the issue. Sound about right? Well, imagine if next time a challenge popped up, you and your team resisted developing strategies, and instead, stepped back and did some critical thinking? Take a minute.
All right. Gage dares us to think about how to develop a focus within our business and corporate endeavours that teach behaviour and mindset centred around “innovation, market disruption, break-through products, brilliant marketing, industry reinvention and iconic branding”, all of which he sees as essential aspects of Mad Genius thinking.
Just like artists, Gage believes true entrepreneurs have the ability to create things that have never existed before. They imagine big ideas that seize attention, attract large audiences and impact individuals because of the relevance it provides on a personal level. Mad Geniuses do this by revealing and creating possibilities.
Thought leaders Steve Jobs, Nicolas Hayek, Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield feature in Mad Genius, adding personal insight and experience to the idea that the process of genius centres around knowing what your customers want the moment they discover it exists.
You may be thinking “hmmmm, genius just isn’t my thing”. But, as an entrepreneur it is now your time to start thinking creatively by being curious, being bold and asking yourself:
- “What is the desired outcome here?”
- “Who is the real target market?”
- “What are the actual benefits for the people in the target group?”
- “What’s the big idea?”
- “What is the story that the will communicate the big idea?”
Of course, like all new processes, Mad Genius will definitely need practice. But get started with the confidence and belief from the author that “There has never been a goal worth achieving that didn’t warrant some failure along the way.”
"The smarter you are, the greater the likelihood you are intellectually lazy. Don’t be."
There’s no step-by-step process in the book specifying how we begin tapping into creative brilliance or unleashing Mad Genius. As a remarkable, critical thinker, Gage offers a vibrant storm of ideas that he believes will help people in “becoming amazing”, and within Book Three: The Age of the Entrepreneur, the importance of cultivating Mad Genius, and why we should, is compelling. So where to begin?
First, make it practice in your organisation that whenever a new idea is raised, the initial team response is positive, encouraging and cultivates the idea. Move automatic “no” from your team’s reactions and replace it with a “tell me more” mindset. Explain that this new rule will help change thought patterns, which, the more disrupted, the more likely Mad Genius will be unlocked.
Next, bring focus to the characteristics of creative people. Gage lists these qualities as being:
- Self motivated
- Delighted by novelty
- Risk takers
- Tolerant of ambiguity
- Deeply involved in their work
- Avid readers
- World travellers
Finally, introduce The Creativity Triad: three key elements necessary to foster ongoing curiosity and build creative genius:
- Experience – Through travel, learning a new language, studying other cultures or meeting new people, you build “a kaleidoscope of interesting and different experiences”.
- A Capturing system – Use a notebook to record ideas and creativity. With no interruptions or distractions from ever present smartphone and tablet technology, the action of writing on paper keeps you alone with your thoughts.
- Taking action – It’s not just enough to daydream it. Creativity requires you to actually do something about it.
The approach of world-renowned performance troop, Cirque de Soleil is a parallel reference in Mad Genius that highlights the success and achievement you will make when you rediscover your hidden child and the artistic genius you may have lost touch with. So get curious!
"Not everything you try will work, but that’s not the point. The point is that you’re in the game, doing things, moving forward. You’ll learn as much from your failures as from your successes. Celebrate it all."
It becomes clear through Gage’s ideas that empowering people to create a possibility leads to a completely different, forward-thinking perspective being established. Consider “why no is never the answer…and failure isn’t final until you quit”. I know, intriguing concept, right?
As we have seen, problem solving is inherently reactive. To create possibilities, Gage introduces The Possibility-Thinking Model discussed to help entrepreneurs
move from traditional “tactic-style” problem solving, towards a mindset for the future. That is, recognising and embracing challenges as opportunities that create possibilities.
To begin creating entrepreneurial possibilities, you will need to “stop living in the problem and live in the solution instead”, Gage says. Think about these questions and then ask more:
- What is the one development that could disrupt our industry and make our organisation irrelevant?
- What process could we change to make it easier for our customers to do business with us?
A word of caution. Do not fall into the trap of thinking about modifying or altering an idea that already exists in your business. By taking this approach, your creativity is actually being adaptive not innovative according to Gage. Instead, think about creating something totally new, something exclusive that has not existed before.
For real breakthroughs, and to really harness your Mad Genius, schedule “thinking time” or get out of bed earlier.
Sometimes in life and business, Gage has a valid point. We do settle. We decide it’s best to play it safe. Fortunately, this “manifesto”, a follow up to Risky is the New Safe, provides the inspiration to help us face challenges, modify our strategies, gain new knowledge, and begin practicing entrepreneurial character traits that we will eventually become great at. Mad Genius encourage us to take risks. “It’s never easy, but it’s worth it.”