Often I’m asked: How was it in India? What did you experience? Was it safe? There must have been a lot of poverty?! Do you go back again? Working with a NGO ? A lot of questions and I could tell a lot of 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”:
1. 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. At least you cannot say 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.
2. 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 foreseen 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 everything there is the moment to make more out of it. If not, we should really ask why we keep doing things – also back 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. Who wants to learn more about targeting and key messages, KPIs and performance management should definitely think about an exposure trip to India and work with NGOs.
3. Innovation: Things and activities which we do not even consciously notice – but just do and experience because we are used to them since years – are questionned. 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 cultivate passionate and loyal “customers” than experiencing it every day with “changemakers”. Nonprofits and NGOs are masters of engagement, often finding creative ways to do more with less.
4. 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.
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!
Take the time and think explicitly about the orthodoxies within your own thinking. Innovation does not happen just because we claim for it. Leave your comfort zone: For business people and changemakers – interested in a real exposure trip to India?