Totalitas Tiada Batas

Petang di Mexico tahun 1968. Para juara telah turun dari podium dan penonton mulai beranjak pulang, namun tiba-tiba para penonton berbalik arah seraya tercengang tak percaya ketika melihat seorang pria berlari pincang dengan kain membungkus lututnya yang terluka berusaha menyelesaikan perlombaan. Stadion yang hampir lengang kembali bergemuruh menyemangati pelari olimpiade terakhir tersebut. Dialah john stephen Akhwari dari tanzania.

Apa yang ditunjukkan John Stephen Akhwari? Ya, totalitas. Ketika seseorang sudah menerapkan totalotas dalam hidupnya, maka hampir pasti, apapun yang diusahakannya akan berhasil. Mengapa? Karena dengan totalitas dia akan mengerahkan segenap kemampuannya untuk mencapai apapun yang dia inginkan.

Totalitas. Apakah yang pertama kali terlintas di benak kita saat mendengarkan kita tersebut? Ada berbagai macam definisi mengenai istilah ini. Berdasarkan Kamus Besar Bahasa Indonesia (KBBI), totalitas artinya keutuhan, keseluruhan, kesemestaan.

Manusia adalah makhluk adaptif. Ketika dia mendorong dirinya sampai batas, maka dirinya akan beradaptasi untuk menaikkan batasan dirinya. Seseorang hanya mampu berlari 5 km, namun dia terus memberikan yang terbaik dan mendorong dirinya sampai batas. Hingga lambat laun jarak yang ditempuhnya akan terus meningkat. Dengan totalitas, dia akan menggali seluruh potensi dirinya hingga mencapai hasil yang memuaskan. Dengan totalitas, dia akan berjuang menumpahkan setiap tetes keringatnya hingga menyelesaikan apa yang ia cita-citakan.

Ketika seseorang menjadi seorang profesional, maka ia dituntut untuk emberikan segenap kemampuan diirnya untuk mengabdi kepada profesinya. Seorang dokter profesional tentu harus berjuang selewat tenaga demi menyelamatkan pasien yang sedang kritis. Seorang pengacara yang membela tersangka tak bersalah tentu harus mengerahkan segenap pikirannya untuk menyelamatkan kliennya dari jeruji besi. Seorang karyawan perusahaan profesional tentu harus maksimal bekerja agar mencapai target-target perusahaan tempatnya mengabdi.

Apalagi seorang profesional nasionalis. Ia dituntut untuk mengarahkan profesionalitasnya agar searah dengan perjuangan mengabdi kepada negara. Ia didaulat sebagai agen nasionalisme bangsa, agen penyelamat negara yang harus siap mendahulukan bangsa dan negara di atas kepentingan apapun.

Contoh konkretnya, seorang pegawai perusahaan Telkomsel yang profesional dan nasionalis tidak hanya diharapkan untuk bekerja secara totalitas demi mencapai target perusahaa, akan tetapi lebih dari itu, ia juga harus mengutamakan nilai-nilai nasionalisme dalam setiap keputusan yang diambil.

Manjadda Wajadda, barang siapa bersungguh-sungguh maka dia akan berhasil. Kiranya Tuhan juga menjanjikan keberhasilan pada siapa saja yang bersungguh-sungguhy dan memberikan segala yang dia punya untuk memberikan yang terbaik.

Tak ada yang memaksa John stephen Akhwari untuk tetap berlari. Dia bisa saja berhenti, namun memberikan yang terbaik dari dirinyalah inti dari totalitas.

Ketika seseorang menanyakan alasan john stephen Akhwari tetap berlari meski juara telah menerima trofi dan turun dari podium, dia menjawab,

“ Negaraku mengirimku bukan untuk memulai perlombaan, tapi untuk menyelesaikannya.”

Semoga kita sebagai insan Telkomsel mampu untuk menerapkan nilai-nilai totalitas di dalam setiap pekerjaan yang kita lakukan untuk mengabdi kepada perusahaan. Karena di pundak kitalah, insan Telkomsel, harapan bangsa dan negara diamantkan. Semoga Indonesia bisa mencapai masa depan yang lebih baik! Semangat Pagi semuanya!

Academic Entrepreneur: Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

Academic Entrepreneur: Can Entrepreneurship Be Taught?

Studying at university provides students with the necessary tools to become an entrepreneur and overcome common startup problems.

There has always been a fierce debate of whether entrepreneurship can be taught or not, and if an entrepreneur is made or simply born.

In the past, being an entrepreneur was not something “cool.” People who became an entrepreneur were usually those without a proper education, struggling to find a decent job. Becoming an entrepreneur was not the first career choice. Educated people would rather become a doctor, engineer, lawyer or accountant instead of heading through the pain of starting a new business.

But over the last decade, an entrepreneurship boom or “startup fever” has emerged. Being an entrepreneur suddenly looks cool, and out of the blue everyone wants to become the next Richard Branson or Mark Zuckerberg. Dragons’ Den-like competitions have become popular, business contests are everywhere, and a bunch of new startups are born in a flash.

Dealing with this growing public interest, educational institutions responded by including entrepreneurship in their curriculum. Universities designed specific degree programs in an attempt to nurture new entrepreneurs. All of a sudden, business owners, including those who had never attended university, have started to enjoy the privilege of being invited to hold lectures.

But there are questions that arise here. Is an entrepreneurship degree really worth it? Is it helpful or just a useless investment? Can universities produce real entrepreneurs?

entrepreneur1

ENTREPRENEURSHIP AT UNIVERSITY

As someone who holds a Master’s degree in Entrepreneurship, I feel an urge to answer those questions. What do I get out of an entrepreneurship degree? Could I be a more successful entrepreneur with an academic insight? Will these university assignments make my business survive and thrive?

Trying to find those answers is just like getting into a long debate over the correlation between theory and practice. But during my time at university, I learned something important: Theory does make sense if we know how to apply it in the real world.

When working on my final project, I realized that linking theory with practice was pretty hard to do. Diverse problems of the small businesses I interviewed seemed like a tangled mess.


To use an analogy, learning theory before practice is a bit like cooking with half the ingredients. You have the recipe, but you need to choose what to use and how.


But there are frameworks you can use, according to my supervisor. You don’t have to rack your brain to solve a business problem—scholars have already done it for you. They found the root cause and even created a tool to help solve it. It’s true that some theoretical frameworks cannot be directly applied, but with some adjustments, they can help entrepreneurs understand common startup problems such as when to seek external investment.

I remember one of my lecturer’s quotes: “Theory is a tool.” He was an MBA graduate and had a long marketing career at a number of companies. During his practical work, his academic education gave him an advantage as he had adequate tools to deal with business-related problems.

To use an analogy, learning theory before practice is a bit like cooking with half the ingredients. You have the recipe, but you need to choose what to use and how. Likewise, practice without theory means you have to come up with the recipe yourself. And you probably won’t even know what ingredients to use or where to find them.

So, what does this mean for starting your own business?

Learning theory might shorten the time you need to scale your business. You don’t need to experience all the mistakes just to learn lessons. You can learn from other people’s mistakes—that’s why you study theory. It saves you time and energy that you need when starting any company.

Nevertheless, good theory is a base of good practice and a source to improve upon existing material. If business theory and practice are mutually exclusive of each other, you would never see a PhD graduate becoming a corporate boss like Eric Schmidt of Google and Jørgen Knudstorp of Lego. Those who say that theory has nothing to do with successful business practice probably don’t know how to use it properly.

[Repost] Land Mafia Fire Game Lights Up Indonesia

[Repost] Land Mafia Fire Game Lights Up Indonesia

The seriousness of the Indonesian forest fires can no longer be ignored.

As 40 million people gasp for breath and tens of thousands of hectares of forest are on fire in Indonesia, the world continues to revolve like nothing dangerous happens. When more than 500,000 people suffer from acute respiratory infection and wildlife habitat are exposed to damage, people across the globe have barely responded.

For the past two months, the sky of the Borneo and Sumatra islands has been blurred in smoke, just as hazy as the huge capitalism game behind this structured, man-made eco-disaster.

What makes matters worse is that mass media appear to be gradually slipping away even though, as George Monbiot said, it’s almost definitely the 21st century’s greatest environmental disaster to date.

Despite the fact that approximately 40 million people are breathing in noxious smoke day in, day out, the international community seems to care little, if not at all, about the situation. This is indeed surprising, considering that not only is there unspeakable human travail, with a large number of people ill and significant others dead, but the illicit smoke is also a considerable cost to the country’s economy.

Land Mafia Fires

In Indonesia, forests are intentionally inflamed nearly every year during dry season to clear land for commercial plantations, notably palm oil and the pulp industry. Fires are ignited in isolated zones, thus it is frequently hard to pinpoint whose land is burning. So, finding those responsible is a difficult thing to do—sometimes even impossible.

The worst part is that often, the burned area covers flammable peatlands with its ability to snare fire, subsequently festering underground for a long time making it impossible to be quenched.

Though this act of burning land is strictly allowed for up to 2 hectares only, landowners and farmers do not even care. In fact, together with local government and capitalist corporations, they are the ones who make profitable business over this hazardous fire game.

In Indonesia, there is something called “land economic fee.” Meaning, local farmers who sell their land to corporate plantations will get a much higher price if the land is already burned, since it’s considered “ready to be planted.” To put this in perspective, unburned land is worth $640 per hectare, while burned land is valued at $820 per hectare.

In fact, the sales fee is like a fresh pie. Landowners, land marketers, the farmers group and workers each get their own piping hot slice. Local governments even reserve a 10% to 13% stake of the fee to compensate their given authorities. In reality, this seemingly eco-disaster is indeed a man-made fire game. Nothing can stop this deadly haze without switching off the source of flame: the land mafia practice.

The public put the blame partly on increasing market demand for palm and wood commodities from these areas, as well as changing climate patterns that have helped in the worsening of fogs. This has been far worsened by the prolonged dry season, which speeds up blazing and makes it more difficult to turn off the fires once they are ignited. This endangers lives and has made this year’s haze the most destructive ever.

The drawback has been an increase in breathing problems not only throughout Indonesia, but also Southeast Asia, with official predictions hitting detrimental levels. Approximately 150,000 people have endured breathing conditions in different parts of the country. Educational institutions in Indonesia and in nations such as Singapore and Malaysia have been closed. It is estimated that the fires will cost Indonesia $47 billion, and neighboring states will also be affected, thanks to airport and business closures as well as increased health care costs.
 fire

Jakarta’s Response

The Indonesian government’s response has been varied and insufficient. Several provinces have declared a state of emergency. More than 20,000 personnel have been sent to assist, and some amounts of cash have been spent to repel the situation. Although Indonesian President Joko Widodo has ordered the Forestry and Environment Ministry to halt issuance of permits for peatland cultivation and to review all existing permits, his decision to refuse help from Singapore remains questionable.

Not to forget, approximately 200 enterprises and 100 individuals have been under investigation for the fires. But it is important to understand that many of these estates are owned by individuals or entities with strong political links, and it can be said that imposition of law has been desultory at most.

Overall, as Indonesians have argued, the government in Jakarta has been unable to exert strong resolutions over the situation, and many of these efforts have largely been insufficient. As Indonesia-based ecologist Erik Meijaard argues, the main reason behind the government’s limited response is that it still has not acknowledged how serious the situation is.

The best way to solve the issue is by eradicating the “land mafia” practice. This can be started by naming and shaming the individuals and companies liable for the fires. However, it is convoluted by the predicament in pinpointing the owner of particular plots of land; registries are not properly stored and are often out-of-date. The government is reported to have set out to relinquish entities allegedly liable for starting the fires. But neighboring countries must also chastise these companies by outlawing their goods and products.

In this case, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should play a more active role in putting an end to the situation. Unfortunately, it has not been able to help end the worsening situation despite the fact there is an instrument to do so: the Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, which was signed and ratified by all ASEAN member countries in 2002.

The seriousness of the current situation can no longer be ignored. It must end without delay. It is beyond obvious that many people are in dire need of concrete efforts by both the Indonesian government and the regional community to help alleviate the deteriorating condition.

The most crucial step that needs to be taken is to realize how critical the problem is and the implications it may bring about. Then, it is important to hit liable corporations. Not just by taking them to court, but by banning their products. There is no more point in applying a loose and weak approach to deal with these nature-breaker companies. As the former director of Southeast Asia Greenpeace stated, a “constructive engagement” with those companies is useless as we should take a firm position to fight against them.

In regard to a long-term solution, many scientists have proposed different “safer” methods to clear lands. Both governments and consumers must encourage the use of sustainable methods, especially those that are certified as “green.”

In the end, we can only hope that as the rain season comes and naturally extinguishes the fire, those criminals’ sins will not be washed away and that people will not simply forget about this disaster.

– See more at: http://www.fairobserver.com/region/asia_pacific/land-mafia-fire-game-lights-up-indonesia-21201/#sthash.7HjIEOdz.dpuf

Innovators, Customers and Things Between

Six months ago, in the beginning of Michaelmas term, my housemate once commented when I told him that I study Entrepreneurship and Innovation. “Innovation? What are you studying about? Something like—how to innovate?” I just laughed to that sarcasm, though deep down, yes, it got me thinking. He’s studying Finance, something very clear and concrete to understand. But innovation? It is an abstract notion. You can solve finance equation with one clear single answer, but there will never be one single answer to this unpredictable subject called “innovation”.

Now, after two terms studying Innovation in Practice (IIP), apparently my opinion is still pretty much the same. Innovation is somewhat a mystery. Whether or not a new product is going to be successful and whether or not a change in company’s business model will turn it into profitability are still riddles that business executives keep trying to find the answer. If innovation is an exact science, thing that is perfectly controllable and manageable, all companies in the world would have succeeded. All new products launch would be successful and all new business model would become more profitable. The thing is, it never is.

We can, of course, manage the innovation process. Tools like Osterwalder business model canvas, Kesselring evaluation matrix, project management charts, are all managers’ weapon to control innovation process into desirable result. But still, even though a company has painstakingly applied those tools, it doesn’t guarantee 100% successful innovation. As Clayton Christensen described in his phenomenal book, The Innovator’s Dilemma (1997), even giant corporations who applied sophisticated business management style, failed when dealing with something he called disruptive innovation. He bravely stated that “good management was the most powerful reason they failed.”

In IIP 1, we were told the difference between invention and innovation. Invention is new original thing we create, while innovation is the new thing that is succesfully utilised by society, market, or what we call customers. Therefore, there is a single factor distinguish innovation from a mere invention: innovation is accepted by customers; while invention never find its way to the customers—they still silently sit in innovators’ laboratory.

The prominent stakeholders are clear here. Innovators and customers. Invention will become innovation only if the two stakeholders are connected—what innovators create match with what customers need (or want). There is clearly a gap between what innovators perceive and what customers actually think. The question then, how can we fill in the gap?

The same question has been, I believe, asked by entrepreneurs, innovators, and innovation scholars over the world. Through my observation, it seems that there are two approaches used by innovators to answer that. The first group think that innovators should stay close to their customers, ask feedback, listen to what they want, develop product as they request, and become customer-driven company overall. The second group argue that innovators do not need to ask customers, since innovation is inevitable result of technology advancement and customers will eventually adapt to it.

Whether to listen or ignore the customers has been lifetime discussion topic among innovators. Dave Power (2013) wrapped it up by saying; entrepreneurs today debate whether innovation comes from technology breakthroughs or customer needs.

  1. Innovation comes from customer needs

This group is the casual giant corporations who always repeat their slogan “we listen to our customers”, “we are customer-driven company”, and other similar expressions. They are huge corporations with clever managers that apply great business management practice. They keep asking, “what do customers want?” as a base for their next innovation. They have gone through all the pain of marketing research, analysis of customers feedback and review, only to answer this single question.

  1. Innovation comes from technology breakthroughs

Contrastingly, the second group is those who never really listen to their customers. If the question “what do customers want?” is thrown to them, they will rhetorically answer, “Do they even really know what they want?”

Henry Ford, in his legendary quote, simply said, “If I asked customers what they wanted they’d have said faster horses.” In line with Ford, modern genius Steve Jobs stated in 1997 interview with Business Week, ““It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

 

Among all the things I’ve learnt in IIP course, I found that this debate about innovators and customers ‘relationship’ is the most interesting topic. I think it is the base of understanding how innovation works. Discussing this matter will cover other concepts too, therefore I will peel it off further in this essay.

Innovator vs Customer

Innovator vs Customer

Perspective 1: Innovators Should Listen to Their Customers

One great example of this kind of innovator is Lego. I still remember the Lego Case Study we’re given for preparation of IIP 1 exam. User-led innovation is something very important in Lego. They have released smart innovation like Lego Mosaic and Lego Factory (Lego Design byME) based heavily on lead customers’ input. They adopt ‘open innovation’ approach, recognise that ‘not all the smart guys work for us’.

Jorgen Knudstorp, the CEO of Lego, even indicated that somehow too many innovations negatively affect his company. In 2003, the disappointing year when Lego failed to perform financially well, there were lots of new products but no profitability. He then decided to take Chris Zook advise that “profits arise when companies focus on core products for clearly defined customer groups.” After that, Lego started implementing “back to basic” strategy, developing products with end user customer orientation. Lego clearly segmented their customers, such as kids, teenagers, AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego), and then using focus groups to each segment in order to test new product ideas during product development process. As John Ashcroft (2014) stated in his Lego case study, close to the customer became a Knudstorp mantra.

In this case, probably listen to customers was the correct thing because Lego was in the state of ‘lost focus’—they somehow look for ‘help’ from customers in effort of deciding what to do. But see what happened with that user-led innovation several years later? After running for 6 years, Lego Design byME was discontinued on 16 January 2012 due to its “struggle to live up to the quality standards for a LEGO service”. Lego quibbled that Design byME was “too complex for children”, but many of Lego fans believed the real reason was, of course, that it wasn’t profitable anymore.

The same thing happened with Lego Universe. It was multiplayer online game that released on 26 October 2010, but shut down on 30 January 2012 due to ‘unsatisfactory revenue’. Lego Universe was also the result of ‘stay-close-listen-to-customers’ approach, but what happened was, it failed.

The failure may be well explained by using Ulwick (2002) study. He stated that there is a danger in the common practice of listening to recommendations of a narrow group of customers called “lead users”—customers who have an advanced understanding of a product and are experts in its use. He argued that lead users can offer product ideas, but since they are not average users, the products that emerge from their recommendations may have limited appeal or too sophisticated for common users. I think this is what exactly happened to Lego Design ByME and Lego Universe. User-led innovation may not be completely right action to take.

This case of ‘listen-to-customers’ but remained fail I think also applied to the case of Dvorak keyboard. It once became discussion topic in IIP 1 class about ‘dominant design’. The current standard QWERTY keyboard that was developed by Remington was in fact inefficient. In effort of accomodating customers’ need, Dvorak then developed keyboard that was specifically designed for increased typing speed and accuracy. This keyboard was made through careful research in customers’ typing behaviour, but still, it couldn’t replace QWERTY keyboard leader position in the market. Again, why?

Of course there are many other examples of succesful customers-led innovation. Other Lego products like Lego Duplo also based on customer needs and they remain succesful. However, some of this failed ‘listen-to-customers’ approach got me thinking that, probably, Henry Ford and Steve Jobs were right—we should not (completely) listen to our customers…

Perspective 2: Innovators Should Not Listen to Their Customers

Once upon a time, a young man with his dark hair and black suit, stood ahead in a hall of audiences. Spoke confidently, he walked on the stage and took out something, apparently a kind of ‘box’, from his bag. When the ‘box’ was turned on, moving letters soon appeared and created the words “insanely great”. Loud applause suddenly filled in the hall. All people were surprisingly amazed. And after that, the world had never been the same again.

That day was 24th January 1984, that man was Steve Jobs, and that ‘box’ was the first Apple Macintosh computer.

Steve Jobs has always been portrayed as a classic example of successful innovator—that didn’t listen to customers. His Apple creatures are for sure one of the world greatest phenomenon in recent decades. And as any other major trends, sometimes it is difficult to tell exactly, how and why that innovation becomes such an epidemic trend.

Honestly, I myself have never been one of those ‘Apple fanboys’. MacBook, iPad, iPod, iPhone, and their fellow Apple siblings for me are imperious ‘aristocratic creatures’ that refuse to connect with ‘common people’ gadget tools. They don’t compatible with certain softwares. They do complicated file transfer via iTunes. They do not have certain input/output ports. Aren’t those facts just making things more complicated? I can’t understand why people keep buying Apple with all those difficulties. For me, I prefer usual Windows laptop and Android phone that much more flexible with the same, sometimes more superior, quality.

Jobs has never listened to his customers. Yet he manage to create phenomenal innovation and bring the world under his feet. If only Jobs asked customers like me, “Do you want a mixture gadget between laptop and mobile phone? It can’t be used to work properly, may be too big to call someone, but you can use it only for playing games and read e-book.” Of course I would say no—and iPad would never been born. But Jobs never asked that kind of question. So iPad was born, and it was huge success that other electronic companies trying to copy.

Similar case happened to Instagram, a social media created by Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger. If people were asked, do you want new social media? They will be more likely to say no. I already have Facebook, Twitter, blog, why should I create another online account? Especially when this social media only allows you to upload no more than pictures (and 15 seconds videos).

However, out of curiosity I created Instagram account in 2012, though I never use it. It was actually a very simple thing. You took a picture, alter it with some effect, and then post it. What’s so special? I just didn’t find anything interesting about Instagram. I can share my pictures on Facebook and get better respond. However, just recently few weeks ago I re-activate my Instagram account and…voila! I found new pleasure. I realised that it’s more comfortable to share my photos on Instagram since it won’t be ‘spamming’ my friends’ timeline—as I may do on Facebook with over posted pictures. Instagram also offer ‘hashtag’ that allows my pictures be discovered by other people looking for the same hashtag. Most importantly, the pictures posted look a lot more sophisticated that you feel like ‘professional photographer’.

The interesting part is, after actively engaging on Instagram, I found that somehow it changes myself. It influences my style of taking photos. I would prefer taking photos with my phone rather than (even a DSLR) camera, since it can be instantly uploaded on Instagram. I also tend to take shot of objects in such a way that it will be ‘instagrammable’, fit with the square-crop requirement and prettify it with ‘professional-look’ image editor. Systrom and Krieger didn’t even ask something beforehand about ‘what kind of social media I wanted’. Instead, they just made up things and pushed it on to me—which surprisingly I accept. It even dictates me. It gets me addicted. Seems that it wasn’t because they knew that I liked taking pictures so then they create Instagram. It’s because they create Instagram that I turned to like taking pictures.

Now that the approach of ‘not-listen-to-customers’ happened to be successful with Apple and Instagram, what about something like Segway? It is nevertheless one of the most original invention in history, yet it failed to be successful breakthrough innovation in the market. When I saw Segway failures video in IIP 1 class, I thought that it’s actually a cool product. I mean, I would rather try that than an iPad. But why it didn’t become a huge trend? What makes it different with Apple?

The answer is, I guess, pretty much explained by Malcolm Gladwell in his bestseller book, The Tipping Point (2000). Gladwell described how ideas, products, messages, and behaviours spread like viruses do. Tipping point, in my understanding, is an event of change when something that previously nothing suddenly become popular trend. In Everett Rogers (1962) Diffusion of Innovations graph, tipping point may be the critical mass or ‘breakeven’ point when an innovation cross the border from ‘early adopters’ category into ‘early majority’.

Gladwell proposed three rules of tipping point, which are the law of the few, the stickiness factor, and the power of context. From all those three, I think the difference between Apple and Segway lays heavily on the first factor: the law of the few. Gladwell stated that “the success of any kind of social epidemic is heavily dependent on the involvement of people with a particular and rare set of social gifts.” He named this kind of people into 3 categories: connectors, mavens, and salesmen. Connectors are people who have large numbers of friends and acquaintances. Mavens are people that become main source of information. Salesmen are people with highly persuasive skills.

Apple has Steve Jobs, which apparently, a man with combination of those three powerful personality traits. He’s a connector, a maven, and a salesman all at once. Probably that’s why he can turn all his (or Steve Wozniak’s) inventions into phenomenal innovations. He can make cutting board-shape gadget like iPad looks cool. Unfortunately, those kind of traits may not be possessed by Segway’s inventor Dean Kamen. No matter how brilliant his invention was, apparently it ended up looks ridiculous…

Regarding this exceptional charisma of Steve Jobs, people uniquely called it ‘reality distortion field’ (RDF). This sarcastic term was coined by Bud Tribble at Apple Computer in 1981, to describe Steve Jobscharisma and its effects on the developers working on the Macintosh project. He said that the term came from Star Trek. Andy Hertzfeld (1981) described it to be Steve Jobs’ ability to convince himself and others to believe almost anything with a mix of charm, charisma, bravado, hyperbole, marketing, appeasement and persistence. RDF was said to distort an audience’s sense of proportion and scales of difficulties and made them believe that the task at hand was possible.

In the case of Apple customers, I think this term reflects the ability of Steve Jobs and his fellow Apple warriors to convince (or hypnotise) customers to buy the product they may not need in expect of labeled as ‘fashionable technology trendsetters’. Somehow it creates delusion to its devoted customers that Apple products are the most original, innovative, and high-tech futuristic gadgets one could have now. Anything other than Apple is simply unworthy. Steve Jobs was, probably, in the stage of almost becoming new prophet, with Apple as his bible. I may sound too cynical but that was my reflection through all innovation theories I have learnt until now.

 

Finally, from those two perspectives of relationship between innovators and customers, I think none of them can serve as single truth—as it will never happen in subject like Innovation. My conclusion would be pretty much similar with what Christensen (1997) said, “there are times at which it is right not to listen to customers.” It means that sometimes you should listen to customers, sometimes you should not.

The first approach of ‘listen-to-customers’ will be applicable in the case of sustained innovation. Customers are of course a great source of information in terms of refining and developing existing products. If an innovator want to conduct incremental innovation toward his/her product, then it is right (and a must) to listen to customers.

However, when it comes to disruptive innovation, it isn’t proper to ask customers about what they want. If an innovator feel that the invention is something completely new, he/she can’t fully trust customers’ feedback since they never knew and experience that new product. Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that innovators should completely ignore customers. There is an art for innovators to capture true message from customers.

An article by Anthony Ulwick (2002) in Harvard Business Review perfectly illustrate how innovators can take the essence of customers’ input to create proper innovation. He said that there is significant difference between asking customers about solutions of their problem with asking about outcomes they actually expect. Instead of taking customers’ feedback “I’d like a picture or video phone”, innovators should dig deeper until they get an answer like “I want to feel a closer bond to people when talking on the phone.” Picture or video phone is a solution, while closer bond is an outcome. It is not customers’ job to come up with solutions, it is the innovators’ job. Therefore, as Ulwick perfectly said, “when desired outcomes become the focus of customer research, innovation is no longer a matter of wish fulfillment or serendipity; it is instead a manageable, predictable discipline.”

I believe that the key to understand innovation, to predict whether a mere invention will turn into breakthrough innovation, lies in bridging the gap between customers and innovators. Innovators should master the art of knowing when they should listen to customers, and when they should ignore them.

***

This article was submitted as reflective essay assignment of Innovation in Practice 1 & 2

23 April 2015

Coffee, Dreams and Global Start-Ups

Coffee, Dreams and Global Start-Ups

I just read an interesting article on last week’s The Economist, and tingled by this idea of how disruptive start-ups like Uber, AirBnB, and Amazon Cloud Drive reinvented not only how the business works, but also how the company made.

Today there is this start up’s privilege: “go global without being big themselves”.

As a small entrepreneur, you don’t need to permanently employ international experts, just hire foreign freelancers on Upwork. You don’t need to list publicly to get FDI, just raise crowdsourcing fund on Kickstarter. You don’t need to roam in trade fairs to get off-shore suppliers, just search on Alibaba. You get basically everything you need to start a global business, just by few clicks under your fingers.

With that kind of privilege, no wonder today’s start-ups made their way above so unbelievably fast. WhatsApp was only 5 years old when Facebook bought it with USD 19 billion deal. AirBnB is just 7 years old and Uber is 6 years old when both companies, respectively, reached USD 25.5 billion and USD 50 billion valuation this year. FYI, as new player in hospitality industry, AirBnB valuation is even nearly the same as Hilton Hotel and four times higher than Hyatt Hotel, which have been on business for decades.

Some people argue that those crazily high-valued tech start-ups might just be ‘bubble’ forming. No one can guarantee the upcoming commensurate reward of such huge investment. But those apps users’ base are proven to be remarkably growing each year. Guess this is how disruptive business works, isn’t it? They always come quick, unexpected, and ruin the whole game rules.

So now if a young man brag about building global company in a flash time, don’t doubt it. He might do. It’s easier now for small entrepreneurs to dream bigger–and realise it faster. As the article put it, today’s start-ups are simply “fuelled by coffee and dreams”, then they are ready to conquer the world…

The Unicorn Club

The Unicorn Club

 

The Expense of ‘Being Nice’ in the Workplace

The Expense of ‘Being Nice’ in the Workplace

Everybody loves nice people. Nice people won’t hurt you. Nice people will always help you. Nice people can even be the vehicle you use when you need to go further.

Oh and everybody likes to be liked. Even before Facebook invented the ‘Like’ button and utilised this as psychological tool to deepen its users engagement. And it is so understandable that in order to be liked by other people, a person would behave nicely. Yes, you are being nice in expect of being liked. A simple basic rule of social interaction.

But what happen if you’re in a situation that will harm you to be nice? What happen if your expectation to be liked is failed? What happen if your nice behaviour is being used by other people at your expense instead?

Well I’m talking about professional and business environment. I just came across this interesting article about three types of personality in workforce: takers, givers and matchers. As obvious as it sounds, taker is someone who continuously taking advantage for himself and neglect others’ benefit. Giver, on the other hand, is that ‘nice guy’ who care about your need and try to offer help. Matcher is someone who constantly maintain the balance of ‘taking’ and ‘giving’.

People will naturally (well, mostly) be a giver in terms of close relationship like family, friends and lovers. But in workforce, it is normal that you will tend to be a taker. Especially in the business world with ruthless rule: eat or being eaten. Being a total giver certainly won’t benefit you, since it equals to surrender yourself to be a ladder other people can step on. Most people, however, will fall in the category between: a matcher. It’s a basic rule of reciprocity: you get what you give and vice versa. You help people in the hope they will return the favor if someday you need them. As Adam Grant (2013) put it:

“If you’re a taker, you help others strategically, when the benefits to you outweigh the personal costs. If you’re a giver, you might use a different cost-benefit analysis: you help whenever the benefits to others exceed the personal costs. Alternatively, you might not think about the personal costs at all, helping others without expecting anything in return.”

That typical nice guy: always smile and ready to help

That typical nice guy: always smile and ready to help

My dad is an example of natural giver. He’d rather walked himself away from a company than having to fire his innocent subordinate. He’d rather suffered himself than having to see other people suffered because of him. He’s a brilliant man–it’s just he helped other people too much that he forgot to care about his own self.

It’s probably not surprising then if research suggested that givers are the least successful people in their careers. Compared to takers, on average they earn 14% less money and 22% less powerful. Being nice in professional workplace is, scientifically proven, not helping you to reach successful career.

If so, then why some people still thrive to be a nice guy in workplace?

It’s because, eventhough some givers succumb to the bottom of career ladder, surprisingly some other givers are also those who occupy the top position. In short, “both the worst performers and the best performers are givers; takers and matchers are more likely to land in the middle. Givers dominate the bottom and the top of the success ladder.” Being a giver means you can either be exteremely failed or extremely successful.

How could it possibly happen?

Well, a giver is simply generous in sharing time, energy, knowledge, skills, ideas, and connections with other people who can benefit from them. Apparently, every time you help others with your skill, you learn something from it. It’s like that simple philosophy of educator: by teaching you’re learning. The more you help, the more you learn, the more you get expert, the more you make valuable relationship, thus the more likely you are to succeed.

Still, if all givers receive those benefits; then why some of them fail while others succeed? Vicki Helgeson suggested that one of the critical distinctions between self-sacrificing givers and successful ones is the willingness to seek support. They do not hesitant to share the ‘help load’ by asking support from other people, thus expand the ‘helping spirit’ itself. Moreover, succesful givers also help with careful consideration of when, how, and whom to help.

Grant put the conclusion of his theory very well:

“Givers, takers, and matchers all can— and do— achieve success. But there’s something distinctive that happens when givers succeed: it spreads and cascades. When takers win, there’s usually someone else who loses. Research shows that people tend to envy successful takers and look for ways to knock them down a notch. In contrast, when [givers] win, people are rooting for them and supporting them, rather than gunning for them. Givers succeed in a way that creates a ripple effect, enhancing the success of people around them.”

At the end of the day, it is our right to choose our own reciprocity style in workplace; a taker, a giver, or a matcher. If we identify ourselves as that ‘nice guy’ though, then make sure to be kind in the right way.

 

La Armonía de Cordoba

La Armonía de Cordoba

As soon as the sun slipped into the horizon, red tinge appeared on the sky. Its flaming colour blended perfectly with bone-like whiteness of Old Town buildings, while the green water of Guadalquivir refclected the light. Bewitched, we stand on the Roman Bridge with a dazzled look–enjoy the perfect moment and feel like never ever want to go home. Cordoba was showing its beautiful twilight to us, and that scenery was frozen forever in our memory…

Night view of Roman Bridge with Mezquita-Cathedral in the background

Night view of Roman Bridge with Mezquita-Cathedral in the background

Going to Cordoba was part of spiritual journey.

I still remember the day when I was in junior high school; sat in my class listening to my teacher’s lecture. He told us about magnificent Andalusia, Spanish region that was once conquered by Muslim rulers. Cordoba, the capital of Andalusian caliphate, became center of civilisation during Islamic golden age. It was the place where all greatest minds gathered, knowledge was developed and wisdom was reaped. It was the residence of famous Muslim scholars like Ibn Rusyd (Averroes), al Qurtubi and Ibn Arabi. It was, in short, the proof of glory of Muslim medieval civilisation.

At that time, my little mind was so fascinated by the story that it became a lifetime dream to visit Andalusia. However, when I actually reach the sacred city eleven years later, I knew that my mind has evolved. By the time I finish this journey, I no longer view Cordoba only as ‘the lost treasure’ of Muslim. It is, afterall, a living witness of how multiple civilisations clashed and tried to defeat each others.

Statue of Averroes (Ibnu Rusyd), great Philosopher who translated the lost Aristotle works into Latin, re-introduce it to the West

Statue of Averroes (Ibnu Rusyd), great Philosopher who translated the lost Aristotle works into Latin, re-introduce it to the West

Mezquita-Catedral de Cordoba is the prominent icon of this city. Originally built as Catholic church, it was turned into a mosque in 8th century when Muslim caliphate conquered the region. When Christian kingdom reconquested the city, the building changed back into cathedral. Thus, today it uniquely becomes a kind of ‘sandwich’ architecture; Christian decorations are stacked upon Muslims ornaments and so forth. In one side, you can still see a beautiful Mihrab that shows direction of Mecca where the Imam used to lead the pray, but on another side you can see a fully functional chapel with its mass preparation. Christ sculptures are everywhere but indeed you walk through the mosque pillars once used as praying rows. The church tower was once a mosque minaret but now is occupied with huge bell.

Seeing through those intertwined ornaments, it becomes clear that this building reflects how religion was used as a symbol of power. Still, isn’t it so beautiful to see how different cultures blend together?

Jesus sculpture with Moors ornaments background

Jesus sculpture with Moors ornaments background

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Once mosque pillars

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The Mihrab

Lely and I spent two nights in Cordoba. We stayed in a nice backpacker hostel where we met Gul Yoo, a funny Korean guy who lives in Russia and was in the middle of his one-year-travel-around-the-world. He was a keen fan of Renaissance art and told us bunch of interesting stories (and suggestions) about our next destination: Italy. Unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to walk around Cordoba together but still we manage to keep contact via Facebook. I think the best part of doing (semi) backpacking trip is that you always end up with new friends after 😉

Apart from Mezquita-Cathedral, another must-visit spot in Cordoba is of course the Old Town! It just feels amazing to stroll around those medieval buildings with its exotic corridors. Wander around. Get lost in the maze. For every entrance always lead you to another unexpected exit point. For every narrow street always surprise you with enchanting building in. And one typical charasteristic of this place is that that you can find ‘hanging flower pots’ arranged symmetrically on almost every wall of the buildings, especially the garden. Oh I really love the sensation of getting lost in Cordoba Old Town!

Cordoba Old Town seen from Cathedral Minaret

Cordoba Old Town seen from Cathedral Minaret

Strolling around the city corridors

Strolling around the city corridors

Typical hanging flower pots of Cordoba

Typical hanging flower pots of Cordoba

Another beautiful spot in Cordoba is Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. It is basically a palace for Christian king who visit Cordoba. I like the wonderful gardens and flowers and ponds and how we can spend the day taking pictures from any angles here 😉

Gardens of the King

Gardens of the King

Also, do not forget to enjoy the Roman Bridge of Cordoba. The twilight (and night) scenery was just unforgettable! The bridge was always busy; it somehow connects the old town with the new city of Cordoba. From this point you can see Mezquita-Cathedral, Guadalquivir river, and Calahorra Tower all in one scene.

Calahorra Tower on the end of the Roman Bridge and the Guadalqivir river flowing under

Calahorra Tower on the end of the Roman Bridge and the Guadalquivir flowing under

Not only church and mosque, Cordoba also has a Jewish synagogue, which is one of the only three synagogues left thorough Spain. Not many things left in this small synagogue but still it’s interesting to see that this city has a trace of three religions. At a glance it may look like a miniature of Jerussalem; a holy place for Abrahamic religions with their intertwined history.

The Synagogue

The Synagogue

Afterall, Cordoba might be the witness of some religious wars in the past, but still it maintains religious diversity in harmony. As written in the small handbook I got in Calahorra:

“Oh my Christ/ who welcomes Christian, Jew and Moor/ provided their faith/ is directed towards God”

“Let the Moors (Muslims) live among the Christians while preserving their own faith and not insulting ours.”

(Alfonso X, The Wise)

“My heart has become capable of every form/ It is a pasture for gazelles/ And a convent for Christian monks/ And a temple for idols and the pilgrim’s Kaaba/ And the tables of the Torah, and the book of the Koran/ I follow the religion of love/ Whatever way love’s camels take/ That is my religion and my faith”

(Ibn Arabi)

*) This post is part of my Euro Trip series. Cordoba, 6-8 September 2015.

La Belleza de Barcelona

La Belleza de Barcelona

Before coming to this city, Barcelona in my mind was just one of European football capital. And ex-Olympic Games host. Never thought about its marvelous Gaudi architectural design, its hilly contour alongside beaches, and its Catalan culture blended in the red-yellow buildings.

Three days and three nights in Barcelona were simply amazing.

Lely and I got wonderful host (via AirBnB), Isabel, a young artisan living with her two adorable cats. Isabel was a woman with very warm personality, typical Southern European people. She was genuinely friendly and lovely! Her parents originated from Andalucia but she was born and raised in Catalunya—thus she was able to tell us about how North and South Spain were totally like two different countries 😉

We also unexpectedly got new travelmate, a guy who also stayed in Isabel’s flat for a week vacation. His name was Ramin—a half Persian and half German. Ramin, Lely and I ended up exploring Barcelona together for three days, and it was really wonderful time 😀 Here are some highlights of our visit!

Sagrada Familia

If Gaudi is the God of architecture, Barcelona is simply his throne on heaven. All his beautiful works are spreaded over the city, with a single incredible masterpiece under spotlight, Sagrada Familia. This cathedral was built on 1882, but until today, the construction has not even finished yet. Ha! Just wait until 2026 when it will be done……….they said.

The first time I saw this church, honestly it looked a bit spooky. The gothic exterior seems like ancient building you saw in horror movies. But when you get into it…the  view was breath-taking! Sagrada Familia was purposedly designed to imitate tropical rain forest. When you’re inside the building, you’ll feel like standing in the middle of jungle. The pillars vined to the ceiling as if trunks of gigantic trees tried to scratch the sky. The colourful window glasses reflected outside light as if sunshine pass through colourful leaves. The roof itself was formed like dense vegetation covered a huge forest. It was just…..beautiful :)

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A building across three centuries

Gaudi was apparently an architect with deep interest to nature, and he applied this natural form into his masterpieces. Who thought a hive or a form of plants can be embedded in construction? Sagrada Familia is a must-visit-object during your trip to Barcelona (and of course because it’s kinda ‘signature building’). Still, I think EUR 15 is probably too much to enjoy this masterpiece. I mean, I can even observe the whole archeological site of Italian Pompeii ruins all day long with less than that…

Another notable Gaudi work was Park Güell. However we didn’t get into this park since we (Lely and I) didn’t want to spend more money 😛 So we just walked around another free park nearby and eat chips…

Parc de la Ciutadella

Have you ever been to a place where you feel like you can just spend the whole day there? Where you can just enjoy yourself and have serene ‘me time’? Where you can just wander around to chase after some inspiration? Parc de la Ciutadella is, for sure, one of this kind of place. If I live in Barcelona, this park will likely be my ‘runaway haven’ of daily stress. I don’t know, it feels so comfy just to walk around and enjoy the company of the crowds. The voice of street musicians, performance of street artisans, people doing sports, reading books, family hangouts, amazing fountain monument, beautiful pond with boats…..oh I simply fall in love with this park :)

Parc de la Ciutadella

Parc de la Ciutadella

Not far from the park we can see Arc de Triomf, the Barcelona version of Paris’ Arc de Triomphe. It’s like seeing its Paris sister painted with Catalan national colour of red and yellow. Afterall, this zone can absolutely be interesting choice for ticket-free tourist spot!

The Paris counterpart

The Paris counterpart

Montjuïc Hill

When I went to Edinburgh, I was fascinated by how the hilly contours of the city fits perfectly with its coastal line. Barcelona was, apparently, possess similar charm with the Scotland capital. This city was also surrounded by hills, and Montjuïc was one of them. This hill has actually been shaped with many enchanting buildings on it. My favourite was Palau Nacional (National Palace), in which you can watch fantastic Barcelona view from the top. Its design was simply fascinating; a palace on high place with gradual waterfall on the way up. Perfect photo spot :)

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The National Palace, home of National Art Museum of Catalan. However the entrance ticket was EUR 12, quite expensive I think, considering that all museums and national galleries throughout UK are completely free.

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Fabulous Barcelona from top

There were also many other interesting spots on Montjuïc Hill, such as the ex stadium for 1992 Olympic Games, a castle, Spanish village, parks etc. Walked around the hill can be quite exhausting but it’s totally worth it considering the wonderful spots–you can probably spend the whole day to explore each of them.

CosmoCaixa Science Museum

If it wasn’t because of Ramin’s idea, I wouldn’t probably end up in this place. Why would one go so far to such a romantic city like Barcelona only to visit science museum…? 😛 But apparently this museum was being underrated. It’s actually pretty impressive spot! Well, especially if you love science of course–like Ramin does. During the whole trip I’ve never seen him become sooo excited, so passionate as when he’s in CosmoCaixa. He enthusiastically explored those science models, and tried to explain to me how the model works………which made me look like an elementary kid tried to understand a professor’s lecture of Physics theory 😛 I was enjoying the moment though :)

Nevertheless, the museum was great and some of the models were really worth it. My favourite was the tropical rain forest imitation! It’s totally awesome, something you can’t find in other science museums (oh like I have visited so many :P) I just wonder how they brought up all the vegetations and well, eventhough I’m not sure if some of the fishes actually live in real rain forest river, afterall the whole design was fairly attractive. There are also aquarium and planetarium. CosmoCaixa is, I think, a perfect place for family recreation with kids. The entrance ticket was also quite cheap, like EUR 4.

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Tropical rainforest imitation: top view

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Tropical rainforest imitation: side view

Flamenco Dance

‘To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love’ (Jane Austen)

Under the dim light of Los Tarantos bar, three men were sitting on the chairs; a guitarist, a percussion player, and a clapper-vocalist. The audiences filled up the room, took their silence as the show was about to start. When the sound of guitar strings reached our ears, a slender woman entered the stage. Her frilly dress swayed beautifully as she moved her ankles. Loud applause soon filled in the air, welcomed the performers with excited feeling. This was it, a Spanish Flamenco :)

Flamenco was actually an Andalucian gypsy tradition. I have wondered about watching Flamenco since the Cordoba visit, but apparently the show was quite expensive (like EUR 25). Fortunately we found an affordable one here in Barcelona, only EUR 10 for around half hour performance. The seat was limited but luckily we came just in time to get one, eventhough it was in the back row. I was, uhm, quite short to look over other audiences’ heads on the front seats so I kept straining my back to be able to see the performance clearly.

Shot of stage

Shot of stage

The woman, she danced so brilliantly that I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Her ankles, her feet moved so fast; each slams fitted in harmony with the music beat. It’s like watching ‘ladylike’ version of  tap dance, which I believe took more effort since you have to do it with high heels and under long tight dress.

In contrast with typical red colour associated with flamenco, the dancer’s frilly dress was black with big yellow polkadot accent. She occasionally swayed the dress with her hand, revealed her agile skinny legs. As the show reaching its peak, the guitar and percussion beat got quicker, the vocalist shouted and clapped louder, and the dancer moves were getting incredibly vivacious. Her facial expression reflected her impressive effort as I can see the sweat streaming down her skin. We were so absorbed by the show, as if the whole energy was transferred and the room was heaten up. It was totally unforgettable moment!

The dance came up in two parts in which the woman dancer had duet with a man, and when she danced solo. She changed her dress between the parts and while waiting for her, the guitarist played an absolutely stunning piece of Spanish instrumental. Overall this show was very very good value performance, but still, I will not refuse the next chance to enjoy Andalucian Flamenco in Granada 😉

Barcelonetta Beach

Visiting Barcelona certainly isn’t complete without going to the beach. Unlike most of British beach, Spanish beach is of course that kind of ‘proper beach’: blue water, white sand and sunny sky. And rows of tanned bikini bodies. Barcelonetta were also completed by diverse range of restaurants and bars along the shores (eventhough the seafood ones were quite costly).

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Breezy breezy beach

Plaza de Catalunya

It is the heart of Barcelona city so of course we must come here! 😉

Senorita!

Ola Senorita!

Barcelona was, after all, a bit like Spanish version of Edinburgh; only with a lot more lively atmosphere and of course a far better weather 😉 Stunning architectures, strong art and cultural nuance, also hills and beaches in-one. Three days were absolutely not enough to reveal all the beauty of this city. If I have a chance, definitely I’d be very willing to explore this wonderful city again and again! 😀

 

*) This post is part of my Euro Trip series. Barcelona, 8-11 September 2015.

For the Greater Good

I am currently standing on the most unclear, ambiguous, indecisive period of my life (so far).

I’ve always been hopping from school to school, university to company, without this long “unemployed” period between. Ha, but I guess this was something I asked for. When I can stay free and think about what I really wanna do in my life. So I should be grateful for this chance, actually *sigh*

Somehow I know what I really want. And I guess Universe has sent strong signal to me that I’m gonna succeed at this. It’s just, probably, I’m not prepared yet to do any significant sacrifice to take this decision firmly. I’m just not ready for the opportunity cost I have to spend. I’m just too greedy to choose one—and keep wanting for all instead.

Sometimes I just wanna scream loudly to myself: where did your brave soul go? Where did your unbreakable spirit disappear? Since when you become so cautious, so fragile and so worry?

Probably because I’m about to be twenty-five and this whole quarter-life crisis kinda hold me up.

On previous weekend I went to Glasgow for attending Palapa Project, an exhibition of Indonesian creative products. My team wasn’t actually selected as finalists, but I’m so proud of all the exhibited products. All of them were created by students in cooperation with local SMEs, with simple-yet-stunning design…and they deserve a spotlight!

I didn’t participate in the exhibition…but I sold some handmade crafts of Pelangi Nusantara :) It wasn’t huge sales, but it made me happy when the non-Indonesian people turned their head on our products and praise them genuinely. Especially that I knew personally the women’s hands that created these stuffs…And when I told them about this they become very happy too, so it’s double happiness! 😉

After that I updated my shop on Etsy. But yeah…selling online needs continuous marketing and SEO effort too before it pays you. I didn’t put quite much effort on marketing my Etsy shop; my mind was pulled by another petty problem—like how I’m gonna survive living in UK for the next 3 months.

So I guess, I have to take firm decision on this. Because no decision is made over no sacrifice. And as Dumbledore said, it has to be done for the greater good…and perhaps, for a bigger dream.

Entrepreneurship: Finding Overlap between Theory and Practice

Why would you even take a Master degree to be an entrepreneur? Why didn’t you just do it? Do you really have to study all those business theories before becoming a business(wo)man? Will it be really helpful in real business world?

Those questions keep sparking out during my study here in Lancaster University. While my classmates and I have studied this Master degree of Entrepreneurship and Innovation for a year, none of us decided to directly jump down into real business world as full entrepreneur (yet).

 

I’ve never really wanted to be an academia. I can’t stand reading long journal papers with complicated sentences that, sometimes, actually only tell simple common-sense idea. And apparently I didn’t get proper understanding of academic paper back in undergraduate thesis. So when I started my master dissertation project here, instead of full academic paper, I opted for writing business plan with complementary academic piece (which is considered more ‘practical’).

I’ve also deliberately chosen Ian Gordon as my supervisor, who’s been known for his SMEs development program and a business practitioner himself. I was hoping to get more ‘practical insight’ during my dissertation project. That’s why I didn’t really pay attention to my academic piece, since I thought “I’ll just conduct interviews with SMEs and relate it to whatever theories say.”

In fact, it turned out to be tough.

So tough that I scolded myself for being too arrogant and underestimate it…

The Practice

My dissertation topic was about SME e-commerce adoption and Absorptive Capacity (don’t worry it’s also the first time for me to hear this term). I interviewed 10 (ten) SME owners in Indonesia and to be honest, I got amazing experience and valuable insights from them.

I’m glad that many of SME owners I interviewed were kind of progressive entrepreneur, who pay attention to latest business trend and pursue higher goal to, for instance, exporting abroad. We talked a lot, sometimes out of the interview topic, or till an hour more, that I can feel the entrepreneur’s passion, dream, and even worry.

Nevertheless, I have decided since the beginning that I must interview SME owners for this project; either British or Indonesian (actually wanted to do both). For one simple reason: I like listening stories–real stories, from real people doing the real thing. I’ve conducted similar method for my undergraduate thesis, thus I’m pretty sure that this won’t be really hard.

It wasn’t full academic paper, so my initial My emphasise was solely on interview result. I interviewed 10 (ten) SME owners in Indonesia in the hope that, if I get various-interesting result, then I can create good stories. At that time I didn’t realise (yet) that I was writing a news report instead of academic paper.

Yes, I read theories before conducting interviews, but it was only some ‘popular papers’ that explain my topic definitions–rather than critical opinion about it. I have always belittled literature review. I thought that these theories will be superseded by the real field data I was about to gather. Nothing beats real knowledge gathered from practitioners, right?

But then, I realise that my data didn’t speak as strong as it supposed to. I got the pieces of different stories but it just couldn’t make up into one whole coherent novel.

()

The Practice

 

Honestly, during my study period, I felt that my intention to be an entrepreneur was even somehow diminished. I was too overwhelmed with the papers and theories about entrepreneurship that I forgot how to think like a businessman. However, near the end of the program, I’m glad that I learnt something valuable during my final dissertation project.

To be honest I have never really read a scientific academic paper before this MSc program. It’s true that we conducted academic research as requirement for our bachelor degree, but when I looked back to what I wrote that time, most of the sources were taken from public article instead of academic paper in the acknowledged journal. I relied much on the interview results with some SME owners.

This time, for my Master dissertation, again I conduct interviews with SME owners. But yes, it’s a lot different experience compared to 3 years ago.

I met incredible entrepreneurs and small business owners. It is kinda different to listen hands-on experience from them. I’ve interviewed some SME owners previously but this recent experience was more thoughtful one. I was probably lucky to meet some full-spirited entrepreneurs. With some of them I talked a lot, even an hour.

Why, then?

The common excuse is, no adequate capital. While most of us are young people around 25 without stabilised professional career (yet), starting a business from scratch might be too risky–no, we’re not prepared yet to lose any money …

 

When those two pieces of dissertation have finally been submitted, I feel so so sooo relieved as if a huge burden has been lifted up from my shoulder. Feels that all the hardwork is paid off, and this 50 weeks learning journey has finally reached the peak (or so to say).

I learned quite a lot during the dissertation project. I have always wanted to

I know there will never be a peak of learning journey. Period of study might be over, but there will never be an end in learning period. Coz learning is a lifetime experience.