Last week, Gene, Dawn, Tom Keane and I presided over a three-day session of the Mosaica Executive Leadership Institute in Atlanta.  Much of the time was devoted to the development of strategic plans and other cerebral pursuits, but a moment of clarity came for me came during a break, while I was talking about a less cerebral subject with Chad Carr, CAO of Columbus Preparatory Academy in Ohio.

Chad is a Kentucky horse-country guy, so I asked for his insights on Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.  I’d like to tell you that he gave me the trifecta and that I used the tip to clean out my local OTB branch.  But that’s not what happened.  Chad’s view was that none of the 20 horses in the race was enough of a standout to warrant being labeled the favorite.  Indeed, he said, the thoroughbred line has been so diluted by generations of in-breeding that mediocrity and fragility have essentially been bred into the gene pool.  There has not been a Triple Crown winner in 32 years, and if Chad’s analysis is right, we may not have another for a long time.  (Now that I’ve said that, you probably should put $2 on Looking for Lucky in the Belmont and Preakness.)

Chad’s observation about thoroughbreds is also relevant to organizations.  While stability, continuity and consistency are important, so is the need for fresh blood, new energy, and different ideas.  We are blessed at Team Mosaica with a good balance of veteran and novice members.  Look at the people who participated in the Leadership Institute:  Dawn and Gene, our co-founders, are here 13 years after the beginning of the journey; they asked me to join them 18 months later; Rita Chapin, our CFO, has been with us for a decade.  On the other hand, Tom Keane, John Q. Porter and TJ McGoldrick are still in their first month, and Geoff Fretwell and Stephanie Dunbar are in the inaugural year; Ebbie Parsons is coming up on his first anniversary with the company, but this was his first MLI as Chief Operating Officer.  Terry Gogerty, Kristin Jordison, Kinny Griffith and Dawn Linden have been senior leaders for several years, while Chad, Eric Dinnel, Lakita Little and Gareth Volz have recently been given new responsibilities in response to their exceptional performances as Chief Administrative Officers – and have brought new perspectives to our sessions.

The aesthetic is largely the same in our regional offices and our schools. We have schools we have managed for more than ten years, while Atlanta Prep and Mercury Online Academy just opened in September.  We have operated internationally for six years, are now seeking ways to bring the turnaround skills we’ve developed there to chronically failing schools in this country, and we’re starting a high school in Phoenix this fall.  Some of the Paragon development team members are old hands, while others are rookies, utilizing their skills to create an online version of the curriculum.

In other words, horse racing may be characterized by indistinguishable stables of horses and dingy betting salons that still smell of cigarettes smoked sometime in the 1970s – I walked by the paradigm of that kind of establishment, on Park Place near New York’s City Hall, earlier this week – but Team Mosaica is a dynamic work in progress, proud of its achievements but continuing to innovate and embrace new ideas.  Besides, the mood here is much friendlier than at the track, where, by definition, most of the people are losers.

Speaking of the improvements a fresh perspective and new energy can bring, Carol Bakst was kind enough to share this inspiring video:

Michael J. Connelly
Chief Executive Officer