Innovation and Leadership for Nuru
I write this week from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where the waves are crashing heavily and Hurricane Earl is brewing off the coast. We expect it to hit in a couple of hours.
I’ve spoken on the phone and g-chatted today with several colleagues and friends, and every one has reacted to the news of my location with a little bit of concern. My boss Jake reacted with that same concern at first. After I told him that everything is fine, and we don’t think it’s going to be a direct hit, he paused and reflected a bit, and then he said, “That must be kind of cool. Is it cool?”…I smiled and responded to him in the positive: “Yes, it’s really cool.”
It’s fun to be in the midst of something undefined and viscerally challenging. I often think of the things that Jake and I do not share from our time in the military. He stayed in a few years longer than I did; he was a Force Recon Marine, while I was “in the rear with the gear” as a logistics officer; he deployed into combat zones multiple times and I never did.
I tend to forget the things that we share from our time in the service together though. We both like the wind in our faces (literally), we like a challenge, and when it comes down to it, we like undefined circumstances. We like the unknown and making decisions in unknown environments.
The last couple of weeks have yielded, for me, many discussions about the ‘unknown’ at Nuru. I frequently mention here on this blog that there’s a lot happening at Nuru in general, and specifically here on the research team.
I’ve also mentioned, in different terms, that the concept of continuous innovation is tough to swallow for some of us. Continuous innovation’s most challenging aspect, in my mind, is that it means being open to making mistakes and admitting when that happens. It means being open to admitting it, being able to learn from it, and moving on! It also means being capable of giving feedback to your colleagues. It also means being capable of receiving feedback from your colleagues and outside resources. All are difficult challenges.
The challenge lies in the fact that we here at Nuru are constantly creating something, and that that something must work efficiently…like a well-oiled machine. Whenever one acts as a creator, an innovator, one feels ownership of the fruits of one’s work! However, in the world of Nuru, an NGO that is working as an entity to try to achieve a specific and difficult goal, the fruits of one’s work must be malleable and subject to harsh criticism. This is a challenge! We combine creativity with team-oriented innovation, in other words, iteration. Personal ownership has to go out the window sometimes for the benefit of the greater good.
Ah that greater good.
So, anyway, Jake and I share a love for the unknown, I think. We share a sense of adventure. Thus, Nuru is a great ride for us. I hope Earl isn’t too much of one for me this week.