The art of sensing one’s options

A few months back I heard the term ‘sensing’ for the first time when speaking to Kirsten Dunlop about Suncorp’s programme of experimentation. Since then, I have joined Tribewanted Bali where our gaffer, Ben Keene, has repeated the word fairly frequently.

It sounds a bit modern but I like it a lot and I suspect it is a similar concept to creating slack in organisations. For me ‘sensing’ is about having a good look around and being alive to seizing opportunities or, equally, binning off things that are under way.

I decided to write this post while riding back from Caangu on my scooter after watching Liverpool at Satu Lagi bar with my Bahasa Indonesia teacher, Handi. In the late afternoon hours prior to that while watching the sun set over Echo Beach, with Handi and my new friend Fitria, added to a text I received from Pak Dek Gun I sensed both a clear and muddied path.

Let me explain.

What is the problem I am trying to solve?

If this sounds negative, it is not meant to be – it’s simply me applying start-up thinking which, after all, if what this blog is meant to be about. A friend told me recently that I had nothing to worry about and I don’t, but it doesn’t mean I’m free of dilemmas.

The ‘problem’ for me is that there are so many possibilities. This fact was a massive part of the attraction of coming to Bali and I aim here to explain (indirectly through the words below) why this situation could not exist back in London.

I am starting to feel that my sensing needs to stop and that I need to move to a simpler focus. I knew I would get to this point which, perhaps, is why I called this blog ‘Thinking by Blogging’.

What I plan to do now is to group my current projects/ideas in some sort of logical way.

1. A local project, by Balinese for Balinese

A few weeks back I worked out, after my initial period of sensing, this was my real need as so many tourism-related activities are not ultimately for Balinese to consume. This feeling came after getting involved in a campaign to raise money for the families affected by the fire at Clear Cafe (the owner’s campaign is still open) which helped me get to know quite of a few very impressive Balinese.

Pak Dek, who was a major part of our campaignm was one of those, yet it has been the younger folk that have really impressed me.

  • Ibu Sari, for the Women’s Centre she has created in Tegalalang in less than a year, and which was visited by a group of students from Harvard this week
  • Eni, the owner of Jaen’s Spa on Jalan Pengosekan, for the four high school students she sponsors and houses
  • Wira, who recently quit his job to work on the Wirausaha Bali project that was launched at @SUWBali to support Balinese entrepreneurs
  • Fitria, who has spent the last three years single-handedly running a women’s project teaching valuable skills in Munti, a region of major poverty
  • Then there is Handi who is from Singaraja in North Bali where there is a big problem with farming becoming ‘uncool’ for younger people

Yesterday, after visiting the mightily impressive East Bali Cashews (see them on BBC from November 2014), I started thinking about the idea of a summit to bring these young leaders together and, ideally, lead to a couple of very important projects. I’m impatient by nature, and I see this as a way of ‘fast forwarding’ my aim of finding an idea that comes from the Balinese.

2. A village in need of a pipeline

A few weeks before Christmas I joined a team planting bamboo in the Songon village in the Karangasem regency. It was part of Pak Dek’s Re Green programme, with the direct aim of increasing the productivity of the land in the village (beneath Mt Batur).

My best memory of that day was sending Dek a text to say I had met his man on the ground, Ketut, and that I wanted to go back soon. What I really liked about Ketut (aside from him being 39 like me) was the fact he was self taught in bamboo and is now an expert that has travelled abroad to speak on the subject. It makes my MBA’s value feel questionable.

Tonight Dek sent me a text saying that he had been in Songon with Ketut and Michael Franti, the American poet, musician, and composer that has a deep connection with Bali. The immediate need is to construct an 8km pipeline from Lake Batur to Songon before the end of the wet season in April to give the bamboo the best chance of a good harvest.


The point with bamboo is that it is similar to rice in Bali – it is part of life each day, for building, cremation, ceremony, furniture. More importantly, there is a shortage and I’ve heard that the Balinese have had to import it from Java.

3. A startup blog for other startups

This is an existing project where I am working with Pieter Moorman on a early spin-off idea from Pieter’s new start-up, Leansites. The idea here is to share the thinking of a startup for other startups to learn from.

So far we posted five notes of Pieter’s thinking and our plan now is to ‘pivot’ (loving saying that!) to make our blog a series of lessons that a start-up can sign up for. Check out our ultimate transparency blog here.

4. A startup bank

I will happily say this is not my first choice idea, as shown by the fact it is last on this list. Even though I dislike my former profession because of all the unnecessary scandals, many of my friends are in it and people like my boss, Jamie Reichman, really try their best to make things happen. Because of this point, I am still attached and hopeful of change.

If there was some way I could lead a project to Reimagine the dirty ‘bank’ word using a Bali experiment, that would be way better than any start-up idea  I had in FinTech in London in 2014. And, this week in Singapore, when I met Rob Findlay, the gaffer of Next Bank, that exact idea emerged. They are genuinely looking to experiment here in Bali.


The difficulty I face is which option to pick when only one (Startup Bog) is active and I’m still not sure whether people get it or not. I doesn’t help that I am a novice in this domain or perhaps I’m just nervous.

Pieter has a clear idea of what he wants from the blog and I know I can make it happen, given time to connect, explain etc what we need. The point though, is that I can’t do it alone,which is where Tribewanted will come in really helpful.

So, if I look at my list I ask myself which of the four choices is the one I feel most suited to, eventually it’s either option 1 (local Balinese project) or option 4 (startup bank).

What do you think?

I really hope I hear from folks that get it and can help point me towards what makes sense. Vote with your thoughts and fingertips!


2 thoughts on “The art of sensing one’s options

  1. Probably the best way to decide is to pay attention to times and situations in the past that has given you feelings of excitement, security, growth, etc etc. Being more of who you are, effortlessly, in a supportive but challenging setting – most likely in the company of others. Go back to your childhood (or the childhood you would have liked) and do stuff that lets you reconnect.


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