Risk and Passion and Change Agents

Peter Hutchinson is a leader in the St. Paul / Minneapolis metro area – and has held a number of positions, including President of the Bush Foundation.  In 2008, after Mr. Hutchinson had been the leader for a year, the Bush Foundation announced its Goals for a Decade; to (1) develop courageous leaders and engage entire communities in solving problems, (2) support the self-determination of Native nations and (3)increase educational achievement.

There was some controversy about narrowing the focus of the organization to just three objectives — from Jean Hopfensperger’s article;

“Some nonprofit leaders questioned the wisdom of such a narrow, “squishy” focus. Supporters called it a bold, innovative move, designed to make the biggest impact on some of the toughest social problems.”

In January 2012 Peter Hutchinson announced his resignation from the Bush Foundation.  He described some of his reasons for leaving the position –

“I think we all ought to do what we’re good at and what we care about…  What I’m really good at is transformation. Fostering organization changes is what I’ve done for 30 years. While I’m pretty good at execution, it’s not my passion.”

Last May, Adaobi Okolue interviewed Peter Hutchinson about his leaving the Bush Foundation.  Mr. Hutchinson shared some of the following thoughts —

“Another thing I always tell people about risk is: doing something that’s never been done before or is unconventional is not the same as doing something at random. The thing about risk is you have to understand it. What is the risk? Why would this fail? I had a boss that would tell me, “If you want me to do something, make it impossible for me to do anything else.”

If you think through all the questions and risks, then what you’re doing isn’t risky. It still might not work, but risky is doing something in which you are unprepared. If you’re prepared, have thought it through and believe in it, then you’ve increased the odds exponentially that it’ll succeed. It doesn’t guarantee it, but you’re no longer rolling the dice.

Things don’t just happen by accident. Things happen because people do the work. Change is all about putting energy behind something that you’ve actually thought about.”

Having passion, self-awareness, and a willingness to take risks, are some common characteristics you’ll see in successful change agents.  Be ready to go along for the ride!

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