Vision of another possible future, outside the established order; economic necessity, in the face of a lack of interesting alternatives; observation of latent opportunities that no one else has spotted; insubordination to the old figure of authority, in organizational charts based on positions of power; the will to make things happen differently, better than what is presented. Given these characteristics, am I talking about a punk band, a startup or a unique SME?

This analogy is potentially incendiary and sensitive because in the field of archetypes of the polarized and "canceling" culture we live in today we can simply say that the first side is in love over gold; and the second in gold over love. Or that we can't even try to compare one with the other. Understandable; but the fact is that I came across this theme as an amusing personal paradox, transformed over the decades from applied and studied experiences of these two concepts.

If to be universal you have to talk about our village, here we go. My journey into do-it-yourself (DYI) was much more due to the subculture of punk and alternative, underground culture, as it was called at the end of the 1980s - beginning of the 1990s in my Brazil, in my Porto Alegre. Something that emerged decades after the modern technical meaning of this concept. If we leave aside the fact that humanity has always had to be DYI in different ways to get where it is today, we can assume that the term as we know it today began to take shape during World War I (1914 - 1919). At the time, there was a need to continue (resume?) the act of making, building, adapting and reusing materials and objects by hand. This was not only an obvious response to a household's lack of money: it gradually galvanized as an ethic, a movement, community networks, ways of being and more. DYI is, in its broadest sense, a statement about the state of the world and of things; a way of being. It galvanized over the following decades and eventually became a business, as an extended response to an explicit pain point from its potential users in the wake of World War II: the modern concept of DIY emerged in the mid-1940s, and IKEA's international, multi-million dollar self-assembled furniture business - started in 1943 to sell everyday objects and items at low cost - only began to take shape as we know it today at the end of that decade.

My DYI awareness started from my socio-economic reality: a working middle-class kid, living between the current ideas of suburbia and the periphery, who listened to my mother's political sermons, my older brother's conversations about music, and my sister's teacher's lessons while dreaming out loud about everything the future could hold for me. And one day I struck up a fortuitous friendship with a group of people who regularly met on the bus on their way to school in the morning. And the gates opened: spurred on years later by the experience of university, where I graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism, my DYI materialized through the enchanted world of its behavioural subculture - of music, second-hand fashion, "unknown" venues for concerts and performances, paper zines, literature by email, publishing a book, demo tapes and music albums, promoting concerts and parties to raise the funds needed to take the next step... And suddenly, it seemed possible to sustain a critical view of the world and generate some scale to produce some wealth atthe same time.

And there was not a crossroads but a second road that ran parallel and ended at this one, along which we were moving. This curiosity of 'what if' led me to an MBA, two years after graduating, thanks to a source I interviewed who saw my potential - and gave me a scholarship. Everything went great; but immersed as I was in my position as a Professional Journalist, a DIY counterculture aficionado, the shock I received in my first Finance class was... unforgettable, even though I'd been writing about marketing and business for some time. With a naturalness that was shocking for my context at the time, the Finance teacher went into detail about the construction of a Business Plan and the possibility of asking for a bank loan to implement a project! The class, mostly from the Social Sciences and Humanities and paying zero attention to the subject of applied management, was stunned... to say the least. 

Two years later, and after the MBA, I didn't go from apocalyptic to integrated, as Umberto Eco would say; but from incomprehension to empathy. Not to the bank loan necessarily, but to the possibility of organizing and building plans from a financial, economic, and management perspective. I realized that I could have a business that was technically better built and managed based on my conceptions and ideas - and that there was no "betraying the movement" by doing it. On the contrary: I saw businesses coming from the subculture ceasing to exist (note that I don't mean "grow") because of these management failures, and I didn't want the same thing to happen to me. Here are the fruits of these wonderful things called Education, Knowledge, Empowerment, and Lifelong Learning...

And this is, and has been, the addition, optional, and not mandatory of a DYI way of being that has also learned to be entrepreneurial. And the reader might say: "but doesn't being DYI mean being an entrepreneur"? Undoubtedly, and that's why the concepts can be as far apart as they are close to each other. Because in a management and economic environment, an entrepreneur is invariably associated (in the most commonly accepted definitions) with a context that involves taking greater risks than usual to launch and grow a business; with a clear orientation towards scale and profit generation; with a clear foresight of the people and resources needed for its initial and future start-up; and with an intelligent eye for identifying opportunities to create perceived value (unfortunately, not always foreseeing its consequences - a topic for another article). 

Perhaps even more than a social entrepreneur, the concept closest to my "original" DYI, of a behavioural subculture, is that of the intrapreneur - someone who acts for change from within an organizational system. They are therefore subject to many potential losses and gains by taking a critical and personally genuine but hands-on stance towards transformation. And we're not going to define better or worse here. As the timeless Peter Drucker put it: "innovation is the specific function of the entrepreneurial spirit". Whether this will be used to generate wealth, to assert a different vision in the face of the established order, or both, will be up to each person and their context to decide.

This text is a republication of an article originally published by Exame - read it here.

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