When people ask how business can benefit from social activities – learnings  in India 

Often I’m asked: How was it in India? What did you experience? Is it safe? There must have been a lot of poverty?! Do you go back again? Working with a NGO as a business representative ?A lot of questions and I could tell many stories, describe places, summarize events … I might be wrong, but somehow I have the impression that the people who ask often expect answers that are somehow underlining what we hear in Europe about India. And that’s in most of the cases rather negative things… But what about the winning experiences? What about the learnings? 
The inspiration – a takeaway that stays

Strange, but true: there is one question that people normally do not ask even I consider it as the most important one: Which were your most inspiring moments, those moments that made you uncomfortable, challenged you and created more than a souvenir to take home? 

So, here in short are my personal winning moments, my inspirational learnings/ lived in every moment “out of the (office) comfort zone”:

Awareness: Some situations are really tough to see. It’s not a TV show or some news somewhere, somehow, people that I do not know. Things happen in front of you and you are part of it. In the office or at home I can switch off. Just forget about it. Here you can’t. You cannot stay out of the process. The contribution you give will always leave a trace. What you do, counts. Difficult to say that the focus planned was a different one or that you have not seen. But there is a side effect, too: it makes you feel as someone who can effectuate change, do good, implement. 

Passion: Doing something needs more than willingness and a good concept. It needs people who implement with passion. That’s what I experienced when I went to the villages with the local NGO people. Passion gives you the energy to go through and to engage even more than planned in a concept paper. It gives a sense to what you do. To you as a human being and to you as an employee. Because it counts. In every step, in every co-creation with local stakeholders, in all discussions coming from different points of views (business or social) there is that much hidden learning and the idea to make more out of it just develops when you can “see” it.

Mindfulness: This is the spirit we have to take back into our daily work. If not, we should really ask why we keep doing things – at home, in the office, in our daily life. The direct contact with the outer world has another big advantage: The NGOs really understand how to make their message resonate with their audience. They get immediate feedback for what they do. They interact from human being to human being and develop not just based on agency research and statistics. Who wants to learn more about intended and unintended positive and negative effects, about impact making and performance management should definitely think about an exposure trip to India and work with NGOs. 

Innovation: We do a lot of things and activities, because they are part of our culture and values. We just do them and do not even notice that they are not normal for others. We are used to them since years. Then, suddenly, these same things and activities are questioned, not “true” any longer. The lack of them or the different usage/ look and feel of items forces me to be creative, to invent a new way on how to get a similar result or to make me understand that I do not need them at all. At home and under normal conditions these deeply held beliefs on how things are done are extremely difficult to surface and even harder to discuss and change. There is no better model for learning how to serve “customers” than experiencing it every day with “change makers”. Nonprofits and NGOs are masters of engagement, often finding creative ways to do more with less. In the combination social – business – disruptive social entrepreneurial ideas it takes you to a very different and much more impactful level of strategic thinking and concrete implementation.

Simplicity: The strategic paper work is nice, the reality looks often different and needs simple and pragmatic solutions. Implementing is based on people who make it happen. The key for success is to make complex things simple and to create trust. It’s about learning how we can go away from ‘let’s do technology or distribute items’ (or to give huge amounts of money’ as a declared CSR contribution) to a real engagement that aims to help building the capacity in the community of underserved populations. What counts in all that is to work in collaboration with local stakeholders from many different backgrounds – wherever possible – to ensure that it is accepted and sustainable. We cannot do business if do not create marketplaces first!

I’m convinced: These learnings are essential – for all who want to make a better world and those who want to make sure that they and their business will be successful even in the future! Multiple challenges need multiple solutions. Complex health issues cannot be solved by one player, one project, one single sector only.

Business has arrived in the social century

It’s not about running some social activities apart from business. It’s not about digital and social media only. It’s about acting in a different way, by bringing business and social worlds back together. We have to learn to run business also like that, to integrate the social parts into it. The social element has to become a part of our daily business!
By the way: We offer such a week experience opportunity in rural India to managers from different business sectors on an international level. Focusing on social entrepreneurial knowledge and experiencing, interaction and being out-of the comfort zone. Are you ready to make change happen? If you are interested, have a look at http://www.innovindia.org

Posted in business, change, change and society, empathy, innovation, managing change, Social business, social entrepreneurship, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Not do things just better, but differently 

“Over time, markets change so much that it’s not enough to be better at what you do. You need to do something differently.” That’s what I stumbled across in one of the articles on business innovation and what does not go out of my mind. 

What if we apply it not just in traditional business and competitive marketing surroundings, but also in the way on how we think about social development activities, about poverty, about malnutrition, about making the world better? 

We shouldn’t don’t take anything for granted: The ideas how to change, the structures, they way with whom we partner and how we act…

Let’s come from the end prospective, how ideally it could look, the better world. The only leading question is how to get there. There are a lot of ideas around, ideas by combining charity and business activities, combining sectors that have been worked separately for decades, overcoming the classifications of the several industries and institutions on what they do and whom they partner with – and how we could combine. It would make sense to use existing infrastructures and adding powerful positive disruptive activities by and from those we never have put in the inner circle of “potential partners”. 

So why we don’t do it?  

Often we just stuck in our traditions, in how we learned to work and think. The idea killers such as its not on our agenda, we have no time for it, we gave no experience…. And the administrative and legal challenges do not contribute too much to do things differently. It takes a lot of energy, it takes a lot of passion. But it could make the difference. The difference we should look for – for making a better world happen.

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Silicon Indian Valley tour – Innovindia.  A training  on social entrepreneurship & innovative business models with impact


Learning from each other. Where business meets social.

Just as a reminder: The next disruptive leadership experience is coming. Apply till 18 February at www.innovindia.org. 

What is Innovindia?

This training week in rural India will be a real challenge to you and to your way to think innovative future business models. It shows ways on how you can combine what you aim for in private live and what is needed for a business. Social Entrepreneurship is in the focus. Social intrapreneurial thinking is key.  Not everyone has to become a social worker, but we can all contribute by making our work meaningful, by building unusual relationships and networking beyond traditional sectors, by thinking processes differently and by taking risks to innovate – without getting lost.

It feels like being in “a Silicon Valley for innovation with impact“. 

Meet senior managers from big companies, impactful startups and tribal people – sometimes all together in one day. 

Learn about social entrepreneurship, experience out of the comfort zone. It’s an unusual week with experiences you won’t get in any theoretical training. Safe, but adventurous and impact-driven. Fun, but challenging. A 24/7 training. Seven days. But what really counts, is what will happen afterwards when you are back in you office. Make innovation happen!

By the way: All profit goes to impact making and social entrepreneurial projects you will visit during the week.

Posted in empathy, India, innovation, leadership, Social business, social entrepreneurship, social impact | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Have you ever experienced outdoor washing in winter?

Wash day

Wash day

It’s really cold outside. In some parts of the small stream water is frozen. Some days it is even worse and water accessibility is becoming a huge problem. Water is always limited and the dwells often miles away. But then, in winter times, the remaining water is often frozen …  that’s India in the North. India in the Himalayas.

People wear many clothes to stay warm. In most of the small houses there is just one small room where three, four people, families, live together. They heat with woods collected during the year. Sometimes they add some paper, plastics, waste…  It’s not enough for a 24 hours nice inhouse temperature. Often they have small inhouse heaters working with electricity. But electricity is expensive and the incomes are low. Some days electricity is simply gone.

But there are many other  issues coming with the cold. Have you ever thought about washing with low temperatures?

A real issue is washing the clothes. No water tap at home, no hot water, no washing machine nor money to bring it somewhere else. I just feel the frozen hands when looking at the woman who is washing a few things in front. To my way of thinking, there is much to be thankful for on our wash days in modern homes.

And then there is the toilet issue. Only a few people have access to inhouse toilets. But here community toilets are rare – and if they exist they do not work with water. Which would not even work in the cold months. Well, here I experienced the first toilet made of sand.

We just simply forget easily how life can look – because of missing personal experiences. I think that the biggest challenge of modern “artificial” life is that we forget how it looked before, how it felt – and we forget too easily how it still looks for millions of other people. Outside. In other parts if the world, or even a few streets away only.

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A “close to earth” function in a tribal village in India

It is always amazing to learn about different cultures, how people behave and how they stay together and celebrate in special events. I had several times a chance to take part and to enjoy ceremonies and local functions during my travels in India.

 Sometimes I wonder how these people would think and feel about village celebrations done here in the rich part of the world. Probably, they would miss something, even we include special effects starting from decoration and ending with digital thank you cards.  Often, we invest in  expensive and sophisticated preparations –  are we happy, do we have more fun because of it?

You might ask what I really like about these rural village functions in India? 

It’s the “close to earth approach” that again and again is the most amazing element,in everything – the small drums decorated with flowers, the food served on banana leaves, the one big pot of rice … 

Have a look here at the video. 

Posted in culture, diversity, empathy, food, India, Photography, social impact, Tamil Nadu, travel, video & mobile | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment