Random Acts of Initiative

As a young first-year student at the Stanford MBA program (most of the other 300 students had wasted a few years working at a bank, but he came straight from undergrad) Chip Conley picked out four other students–strangers to him and to each other–and invited them to a weekly brainstorming session. He explained to us that once a week we’d meet for four hours and brainstorm business plans and entrepreneurial ventures.

A year later, we had compiled more than 500 great ideas, countless lousy ones and  had figured out how to think about the structure of a business. I think the five of us would all agree we learned more in that room in the anthropology department than we did in the classes we were paying for.

The extraordinary thing about Chip’s little bit of initiative in setting up the group is how rare it is. Successful people have this in common. It’s not the giant breakthroughs, it’s the willingness to take little chances.

Chip has gone on to be the most successful of our team, running one the largest independent hotel chains in California. We had a deal… I agreed not to open hotels, he agreed not to write books. Well, once again, he broke his end of the bargain.

Even if you don’t have an anthropology department nearby, there’s no doubt that there’s some small piece of initiative you can grab a hold of tomorrow.