By Michele Cempaka, Published in The Jakarta Post
How did two teachers from Australia end up leaving their former careers and lives behind to develop a positive vision for international organizations? Andrew and Gaia Grant, the co-owners of Tirian, a successful company that offers professional development and management training, shed light on how Tirian came into being.
"We'd taken a year's leave from our jobs working in education in the community sector. After a year of living in Bali, we wanted to be able to remain in Indonesia and use it as a base for our work, so we looked at ways that we could use our skills in the region, and we ended up connecting with corporate groups who were coming into Bali for conference programs, so we were able to start doing workshops, keynote talks, etc. for those companies. That immediately connected us with international and multi-national countries worldwide; after that, we were invited to go back to their headquarters and deliver training programs or consult to them," says Gaia Grant.
Andrew and Gaia freely admit that they have a great connection with the Indonesian culture, and that it has been their inspiration and a foundation for the work that they do. They had little difficulty breaking into the Indonesian market, because most of their clients are multi-nationals that are Asia-wide. While these companies aren't necessarily Indonesian, some are international companies which are based in Indonesia.
"We don't often work with just purely Indonesian companies, but I think we've got a cultural awareness of the issues in Indonesia and the issues of western corporate management to be able to help an expatriate from overseas manage a company in Indonesia or in Asia," says Andrew Grant.
Tirian programs differ greatly from other management training and professional development programs, because both Andrew and Gaia have a background in education which enables them to engage their participants with innovative techniques such as doing business theatre or constructing a building to get the participants to experience learning, rather than just intellectualizing about ideas.
"You have to bring your ideas to life in a way that the average cynical person in the room sits there and says, 'yes that applies to me; yes I can change my behavior as a result of this course or I can learn to develop a better attitude," says Andrew. "What we're trying to do is make it interactive and facilitated based, so we're leading people through a discussion where they can discover their own answers, rather than the expert up front telling them this is the way they have to do it, take it or leave it. Through that discovery process, they're much more likely to remember it or do something about it."
"We also have an integrated approach," says Gaia Grant.
Some companies just do team building or keynote talks, but Tirian offers a three stage approach: the first dimension deals with people's experiences and assists people with opening up and understanding what their issues are and what challenges they are facing. This is done through Tirian's simulation exercises, business theatre or outdoor activities.
The 2nd dimension consists of workshops and keynote talks that are designed to drive home the outcomes. Once the outcomes and specific needs have been identified, then these are connected with the organization's needs. "Tirian will then find technical solutions, techniques or whatever is needed to help the organization make those changes," says Gaia Grant.
Finally, the 3rd dimension deals with extending this learning back into the organization. At this level they include consulting, coaching and business facilitation to ensure that the employees are practicing what they have learned and can reflect on this.
All of Tirian's programs are connected to a theme, which helps people remember the whole experience. One example of this is their program 'On Thin Ice', which involves the participants by taking them on a simulated expedition to Antarctica.
When asked how Tirian's training fits into the Indonesian market Gaia says, "What we've discovered here in Indonesia in general and also across Asia, are that a lot of people have grown up with an education system that doesn't encourage discovery learning, so some people haven't learned how to problem-solve or innovate. It's a challenge with organizations here, because they aren't competitive and they can't keep up with the ever increasing requirements of an international organization. You need to be ahead of the rest."
"The Balinese are naturally brilliant at warm customer service and making people feel comfortable, but it's the middle management and executive management that I think is struggling as they go beyond just positive personalities. Indonesia has to learn to be competitive on a world market, because you can't hide from globalization any more; it's going to happen. If we aren't offering something at a high level of standards, then people will pick up their companies and they'll move somewhere else," says Andrew.
The goal of Tirian is to help people develop an international standard, so that they can run a globally competitive company in Indonesia, which is no small feat. For Andrew and Gaia Grant, it's not just about companies focusing on earning the big dollars, but also about educating companies in how they can be more culturally aware and socially responsible.
"We're not just bringing the latest management information into Indonesia," says Gaia Grant. "We're also providing the opportunities for clients to take away important lessons from the Indonesian culture - we're helping people to rediscover community values. For example, the experience with 'Gotong Royong' - when people are really connected to each other and help each other, is our way of trying to bring those traditional values back into the modern context, to make sure that modern organizations aren't alienated from their real roots."
Gaia Grant stresses that organizations should embrace traditional values and not leave them behind; through the rediscovery of these values, companies can find the significance of the connection for today, and be proud of them while at the same time understanding what needs to be international at an international level.
One program, 'Building the Corporate Village', puts forth the idea of the importance of community and Indonesian values. Through the experience of constructing a building together and reflecting on how the team interacted during that process, the participants are given tools for proactive management change rather than reactive changes; thus, they learn how to create a corporate environment which is supportive and always striving to fill the gaps in their company.
In addition, Tirian is currently offering a range of CSR programs to corporate clients who want to come to Bali and assist with development projects such as renovating and providing equipment for local schools and orphanages. This serves a two-fold purpose: companies are able to develop their leadership and their team, while also giving back to the local community. Tirian has been working with the ROLE Foundation by bringing their corporate clients to the ROLE education site for CSR programs, so that they have the opportunity to learn more about local environmental issues while also discovering the strengths and weaknesses of their teams and themselves. The Tirian team has also developed unique Health Education kits in an effort to increase health awareness in local Indonesian communities throughout Sumba, Manado and Bali.
© Michele Cempaka, The Jakarta Post