Risk surfers: Organizational development and entrepreneurship

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Someone asked me this: “I think your service in OD is useful for corporates only. But, you said that OD is essential for entrepreneurship. How could that be?”

Some may think that is just irrelevant thing to talk about, but I think it’s a quintessential question. My answer was simple: “Entrepreneurship and OD is about taking and dealing with risks in a huge bet we call as future”. I see entrepreneurship and organizational development (OD) share similar essential reason: Taking all the risks to become something new and sustainable!

Consider these questions:
Why some people just failed at school and succeed in life after it? And, why some successful students ride a plain life with no glory and somehow ‘disappear from the radar’?

Well, of course it’s inaccurate to say that all successful people are school-failers. It would also be misleading to say that all top graduates failed in life and careers. There are many examples of succesful students turn to great entrepreneurs and public figures. So, how they did in school not always defining they entrepreneurial endeavor. But I think it’s also fair to say that school excellence is not an automatic leverage for success in business.

Nonetheless, it is easy to come up with this generalization: “Those who failed at school will become great entrepreneurs, while school top graduates will become employees in their whole life”. Such generalization shifts the focus from the actual distinction between successful entrepreneur and common employees: Courage to take risks and deal with them. Hence, I’m inviting you to discuss about dealing with risks; or, in a term I’m suggesting: risk surfing.

Risk surfing make up the distinction for entrepreneurship and OD, in comparison to other organizational activities. It is more about our guts, and what strategies we deploy to make our guts useful. Please be advised here, courage are about using our guts in smart way. It is not about doing crazy stupid thing. Entrepreneurship, as well as OD, are about this issue. Allow me to peel this ‘guts and strategy’ into three major risks:

  • Risk no.1- Both are trying to create a future, not waiting for it.
  • Risk no.2- Both are initiating change in the business environment, and change is risky for most people.
  • Risk no.3- Both are designing new ways of thinking and working, which are not yet proven to be reliable; and therefore, invite skepticism.

If you look at these three risks, you’ll see two typical response to them. First, those who do not believe there is a benefit in creating future, change and new business ways; will do nothing, or reject the whole idea. The second possible response come from who has the belief, but still skeptical. They will take ‘wait and see’ stand, not rejecting but not fully supporting either.

There is basic reason for this: The basic idea of OD and entrepreneurship is novelty, which equal to ambiguity, uncertainty abstract, complex, not-yet-proven, hypothetical and other names we use to name uncertain and unprecedented possibilities. But, the future is always unprecedented, because no matter it may resemble the past; it is never happen, well, not yet.

That’s where all the risk are.

But, as we all know, we can’t avoid our own future. We can’t deny that we have to surf on those wave of risks. OD and entrepreneurship are about visions, values, strategy, and implementation tactics to claim those waves, surf with them, and create state-of-the-art result from them. OD and entrepreneurship are about to be distinctive, creative and effective in dealing with risks of change. OD and entrepreneurship are about bring novelty to public attention, where new things transform into inspirations for many. And, when they succeed, we call them trend-setters.

I prefer another name for people who actually doing OD and entrepreneurship: Risk surfers.

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12 thoughts on “Risk surfers: Organizational development and entrepreneurship

  1. emm.. sir, kl mengenai entrepreneurship saya jd ingin menanyakan beberp hal..
    banyak PT2x yang menjual gagasan entrepreneurship sebagai simbol PT2xnya…membuat tugas-tugas perkuliahan yang aneh2x seperti membuka stan di mol2x, mengadakan event2x berkelas yang tidak murah, berpergian diluar negeri, dan segala macam yang mnrt saya hal tersebut kalau punya uang ya mrk akan nomboki sendiri atau mengandalkan relasi keluarga dari pada susah2x cari dana.. dan saya ga bisa melihat esensi dari tugas mata kuliah tersebut dan bagaimana hal itu bisa menimbulkan semangat entrepreneurship..
    yang saya ingin tanyakan sir :
    apakah ada bnr cara tersebut bisa mendidik seseorg untuk memiliki jiwa tersebut?

    1. Ya itu semua sebenarnya adalah metode. Kalau menurutku, apapun metodenya, selama experiential learning, dan kemudian mahasiswanya belajar reflektif dari pengalamannya, ya bisa membangun mental entrepreneur. Ini terutama terkait dengan nyali mengelola resiko dan intuisi dalam mengambil keputusan yang tepat.

      Jadi menurutku ya tergantung kontinuitasnya, plus bagaimana desain dan fasilitasi proses belajarnya. Kalau tanpa desain yang tepat, entrepreneurship bisa mbleset dan cuman jadi teknik marketing dan retail sales. Itu mungkin yang bisa dibilang aktivitas aneh2 tapi esensinya nggak jelas.

      Salah satu hasil observasimu yang menarik adalah bahwa banyak dari mereka sebenarnya tinggal menggunakan duit orangtua dan/atau meneruskan kerjaan orang tua. Nah untuk yang begitu, saya ragu jiwa entrepreneurship benar-benar terbentuk. Jangan lupa, trend pendidikan entrepreneurship juga banyak dikarenakan supaya ada ijazah untuk orang yang bisnis pribadi. Jadi kalau orang tinggal nerusin kerjaan warisan, kan nggak enak kalau dibilang sarjana ilmu X atau Y, kok ujung2nya buka toko. Dengan adanya gelar sarjana entrepreneur bidang X dan Y, kan bisa lain kesannya, karena kemudian bekerja entrepreneur. Begitu yang kulihat 🙂

      Personally, yang penting ketika kita bisa gunakan intuisi dengan berani untuk menciptakan bisnis yang menghasilkan, ya berarti kita entrepreneur. Makanya, risk surfer!

  2. I once attend a public lecture here in Widya Mandala. The committee is graduate school. One of the speaker there, PhD holder, argued the same thing with you, that the essence of entrepreneurship is risk taking. I have one little question about this argument, what’s new in it? Our batagor seller in front of Widya Mandala already done the risk taking thing, far before this argument raised.

    This argument also only confirms the old argument, life is a gamble. What is the breathtaking insight from this argument? Maybe one, namely that the risk surfers is living life with clear values and strategies based on that values. But that’s also old insight right?

    1. Hahahahaha……..Yes, I think that is the very essence of entrepreneurship is nihil sub sole novum, nothing is new under the sun.

      As you can see, entrepreneurship is starting point of any economic vehicle. So, it is a very old thing in human history. Before there was economic, entrepreneurship was already there. In fact, when human started to hunter and gather, and they learned how to do exchanges among each other; they started economic transaction, and they became the first entrepreneurs. That was centuries before we discussed capitalism, inflation and other bits and pieces that makes life more complicated.

      So yes, the essence of entrepreneur is back the very old framework that is already in existence since the early age of humankind: put your life as a bet 😉 Perhaps, the techniques are different and more complex, but the essence stays the same.

      I however see the funny, not breathtaking, insight on this idea entrepreneurship. When this very old idea is offered in a seemingly new packaging, people cheers about it. It tells me how the people see this very old (and perhaps obselete) idea as an enlightening new age idea. So, is this actually old? Or perhaps science and education have failed to teach even such an old ideas to society, so when they hear it, they take it as a enormous discovery? The very basic problem is that this old idea is only old for thinkers, but not for the world. When there is a huge dissonance between science and society over such a simple and old idea, obviously there is a problem 😉

      1. Ya. I read one article concerning contemporary education in Indonesia. It said that too much science and business to teach, and forget about basic subjects thats include the old ways to perceive the world, or the old wisdom from our ancestors. I don’t want to say that we have to be old fashioned. But the old values have its own wisdom, especially if we can put it in the context of our globalized world.

      2. Precisely! The essential meaning of growth and development is creatively reframing wisdoms to new practices that fits with future development, not leaving all of them behind 🙂

  3. Hi James

    Great post! I came across your blog when it came up as a suggestion via my Zemanta plugin which I use to enhance my blog-writing.

    In over a decade of OD consulting, I have come to realize that my most fulfilling engagements have been with entrepreneurs and not with corporates. The empowerment to drive change, as one works with an entrepreneur is far higher than in a corporate. I believe this is because an entrepreneur is fundamentally capable of taking risks, and is not afraid of change. Also, entrepreneurs, by design bring a skillset or specialization in a particular area of business and are not well rounded general managers with a deep ability to understand the complete domain of organization building. Hence their need to work alongside an OD professional is much higher than, say the CEO of a professionally run corporate.

    I enjoyed read this post and it resonated strongly with me. Cheers!

    1. Thanks, Gurpriet!

      Yes, I agree with you. Risk taking is an embedded quality of an entrepreneur. On the other hand, corporate world have their own unique risk: the illusion of invulnerability. This particular risk often times leads to denial, which jeopardize the organization’s sustainability.

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