Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

Can Entrepreneurial Thinking Make us Safer?

By Nate Garvis, Social Innovation Fellow at The Lewis Institute and Founder of Naked Civics, LLC.

What do you do when you’re faced with an ambiguous and unknowable situation; one where the old playbook doesn’t quite apply? You stop planning and get into action. Or, in Babson speak, you jump into Entrepreneurial Thought & Action®.

That just so happens to be a great description of the environment that surrounds the arena of safety and security today. Our institutions were designed for a different day and age and we are facing dramatically different landscapes. Everything from terrorist acts – both foreign and domestic – to large-impact natural disasters has significantly different dimensions than was the case just a decade or two ago.

This past week I’ve been out at the Aspen Institute’s Security Forum with my old friends from Target. Target? Why would Target want to spend time focused on global security concerns, running around with the top thinkers in the field and the top brass in our national security agencies? Why would they show up in a place where the usual greeting is “why are you here?” And why would they be looking to change how this well-established and powerful community thinks about our challenges?

The answer is because Target knows that it doesn’t do well in communities that are not healthy. They could sit back and complain that it is someone else’s (read: the public sector’s) job, but for nearly two decades they’ve decided that a better approach is to roll up their sleeves and get into partnership with first responders in the 1,800+ local communities in which they operate. That’s what good neighbors do.  Even corporate neighbors.

It may surprise you that ET&A could be attached to this particular subject matter of global and national security. And it may even strike you as odd to put an ET&A tattoo on a company with $70 billion in revenues and somewhere around 350k employees. But that is exactly the mindset that we are trying to employ out here in the mountains of Colorado.

When you’re faced with an environment of change, volatility and ambiguity, ET&A is an incredibly valuable mindset to have in your arsenal no matter your sector. It never ceases to surprise and delight me how many different places you can apply these powerful tools that Babson utilizes as a core practice. Marrying an orientation of common good civic outcome with the nimbleness of ET&A promises to bring true value to our communities and also broadens the impact, brand and reputation of Babson well beyond the traditional definition of a business school.

Yes, it may at times seems like Washington, D.C. is broken and that our political environment is increasingly incapable of producing functional responses to our ever-changing landscape. While that may be debatable, here is something that’s not: it’s time for a new playbook and there’s no existing recipe for it. We’re going to have to take smart actions together and begin to learn what to build next.

It’s time for a dose of  ET&A.