Friday, April 16, 2010

Going Forward with No Plan

There are a lot of how to books out there that claim to get your life in order or help you found a successful business. What most of them have in common is a list of 7 or 12 or 50 simple steps that, if you follow, will supposedly guarantee a better result. But as poet Robert Burns noted after watching mice shout "Who Moved my Cheese?" Those plans gang aft agley.

Today on Free Range Humans, Marianne Cantwell shares an interview with Ian Sanders who is on a mission to spread the gospel about "unplanning your business."

A consciously unplanned business--or life for that matter-- is flexible enough to respond to change.

This was the guiding principal of The Guthrie Center in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, a not for profit founded by folk singer Arlo Guthrie. Ten years ago (how time flies) I interviewed Guthrie for a book I wrote on the history of the building that began as the Trinity Church, morphed into the setting for the song and film Alice's Restaurant and later became a community center.

"A lot of people, when they set up an organization to save the world are convinced that if you only do what I know, everything will be fine," Guthrie said. "Well, that's just another guy with another plan to save the world. If I knew [what the community needed] I would just go do that. What I want to do is be responsive. It means I don't know in advance what needs to be done. What I want to do is set up something where, if somebody needs something, they can call up and say, 'I need this,' and I'll have a group of volunteers and say, 'Who can take care of this?' And someone will say, 'I can.'"

Having a plan may be great, but knowing when not to follow it is even better as Ian Sanders explains in this clip: