Have you heard of the Biosphere 2 Experiment? As business owners and entrepreneurs there are a lot of lessons to be learned from it. First let me give you some history on the Biosphere 2. Biosphere 2 is a sealed glasshouse complex near the small town of Oracle, north of Tucson, Arizona. It was completed in 1991, funded by a Texan oil billionaire, Edward P. Bass, whose vision was that it could be a step towards the colonization of Mars by humans. With this in mind, the complex was designed to be large enough to support humans to be self-sustaining, with recycling of all its components. It was designed to accommodate small teams of people who would live in it for periods of up to two years, obtaining all their food by growing crops or by eating domesticated animals, replenishing the oxygen by plant photosynthesis, and recycling of all their consumables. However, serious problems soon started to develop with the experiment.

My dad worked as a scientist at the same time as Biosphere 2 issues were being played out in the news. It often was a topic of conversation when visiting my parent’s home during this time. And then when my parents moved to Arizona in the late 1990’s, on my must-do list when visiting them was touring Biosphere 2 with my family. Because of the failure of Biosphere 2 in the early 90’s, University of Arizona bought it and began using it as a controlled environment research center for scientists worldwide and for anyone who would want to tour and learn from the facility.

While touring Biosphere 2 it was painfully obvious that the over-all problem of the experiment was the lack of a well-developed and effective plan. There was a plan. But what’s worse than not having a plan is following a poor plan. This poor plan that was followed led to many other fractures and problems which is why the experiment is considered a huge failure costing nearly two hundred million dollars to build with an additional cost of about one million dollars a year for fossil fuel energy to keep all the systems running.

Among the many fractures plaguing Biosphere 2, there was an evident one the minute you stepped through the entrance. The most obvious of my questions to our tour guide was why were all the trees creeping along the ground. They didn’t grow straight and tall like the trees you see in your neighborhood. Remembering my school days of being taught that it was the sun that made trees grow vertical; I witnessed plenty of sunlight within Biosphere 2 since all of the walls were made of glass. And still these trees were spreading horizontally, not vertically. It was explained to me that amongst everything that was not planned properly, it was forgotten that wind and the elements of nature were a necessary part of trees growing healthy. Since the complex was enclosed, the trees were never exposed to wind or the climate. Therefore, the trees were weak, creeping and low to the ground. With the trees weak and not performing as expected, all the benefits you would normally get from healthy trees were nonexistent which aided in the failure of Biosphere 2. In order to grow healthy and strong, trees need to withstand wind. The stronger the wind, the stronger the tree.

There are two important lessons that I personally took away from Biosphere 2 that I believe all business owners and entrepreneurs can learn from.

Create a Well-Developed and Meaningful Plan

First, the most important lesson, as a business owner wanting to see the vision of your successful business to fruition, it is imperative to take the time to create a well-developed and effective plan. A plan that matters to you – and because it’s meaningful will get you where you want to go when followed. It’s an expensive and probably fatal mistake to not have a plan or to follow a poor plan.  A good plan will help you stay focused and on track when you are being bombarded by distracting events and challenges that are inevitably going to happen.

Be Prepared to Withstand Challenges

Second, if you are not exposed to wind…or challenges, you will not grow strong and tall and able to withstand stronger winds, or stronger challenges that in time are sure to appear in your life and business. In order to build a bigger, stronger business, you must be able to withstand the struggles and challenges along the way. Have a well-thought-out strategy that you are excited to execute so your business will not be sabotaged by your challenges.

If you ever find yourself in Arizona check out Biosphere 2. It’s a huge learning experience on what not to do in your business in order to be successful.