“Voicing” through social entrepreneurship.
A recent article by Malcolm Gladwell about the life of Albert Hirschman and his most famous work, “Exit, Voice, and Loyalty” brought back to my memory concepts from the international development field and my days at LSE that I have applied to my current work as a social entrepreneur. “Exit”, Gladwell explains, is the vote of your feet, the more passive form of showing a demonstration of disfavourment. “Voice” is staying, it's the courage that helps manifest change that brings the possibility of a reform from within. While, Gladwell states that voice is the option that can create progress, he also suggests “voice” is the child of ignorance, of not-knowing the result of our planned actions, of underestimating the challenges a specific task might signify in our lives. After analyzing a series of examples of where planning lead to unintended consequences and perverse outcomes, he playfully asks the question of whether “ignorance [is] an impediment to progress or a precondition for it?”
Pondering upon the question, and reading through many of humanities greatest innovations, that same component of “innocence” seems to underlie the fountain of creativity. Gladwell quotes Hirschman saying,
“Creativity always comes as a surprise to us; therefore we can never count on it and we dare not believe in it until it has happened. In other words, we would not consciously engage upon tasks whose success clearly requires that creativity be forthcoming. Hence, the only way in which we can bring our creative resources fully into play is by misjudging the nature of the task, by presenting it to ourselves as more routine, simple, undemanding of genuine creativity than it will turn out to be.”
It is perhaps that same self-preservation instinct that makes us easily forget the more difficult and challenging moments in life, and enhance the beautiful and easier ones. Constantly, yet erroneously, we believe that a specific “task looks easier and more manageable than it will turn out to be.” This “entrepreneurial delusion” is what makes you get up, start again, and instead of exiting, voice your stance in a different way. Each time you propose a “better” solution, more often than not, it turns out differently than planned.
In 2010, after plunging into the labyrinth of understanding incentives, the role of the market in complex emergencies, and humanitarian disasters with hidden agendas, the fate of “voice” took over four LSE MsC students. We set out to discover our truth and try a possible solution through a social enterprise called “Bloom Microventures” that we considered could change something. The greatest lesson I took from the experience was that voice was not just about the reform, but about digging into that innocence and passion and reconnecting with the “why’s”, the right questions. If you base a project on questions, the answers can always change, your work becomes your experiment, and the world, your laboratory. The unplanned parts of a project seem like they were part of a path.
That first experience was part of a semi-permanent delusion. Since then, I have returned to Europe and have been working in awakening questions within people. Questions that would make entrepreneurial projects seem less risky through lean startup canvases and design thinking focuses through AnoderWold. And now trapped mid-mountain of the hike, instead of turning back I am “voicing” for educational reform through TeamLabs and a change in the financial industry by connecting local entrepreneurs to financing through responsible tourism in Authenticitys. There comes a point when what you are doing is almost a search for the unplanned and the failures. When you find these, you unveil innovation. Take that innocent step towards a more creative way to continue the unexpected path. One thing you will surely find is a more authentic you.
Howard Gardner visited Barcelona
Logical: Mathematical, scientific.
Spatial: the aviator, the navigator, the sailor
Bodily-Kinesthetic: Dancers, athletes, crafts and surgeons.
Interpersonal: Religious leaders, salespeople, politicians.
Intrapersonal: Understanding yourself
Naturalist: Botanists, biologists, anthropologists
Existential: the one that asks the big questions, of faith and the spirit.
Pedagogical: Professors, teachers, sensei
“Intelligences are most useful when we mobilise them towards good ends…and good work: Ethics, engagement and excellence.” This research you can find in his most recent project.
Quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson he concluded that “Character [after all] is more important than intellect”.