Pulling up to the school for the last time, we were greeted by a small marching band--and this time, by familiar faces. Several of the students got to the center early to welcome us one last time with flowers, music, and lots of dancing.
After what seemed like an eternity of dancing, we settled down to close the week with a small ceremony and to present the women with their course certificates.
What a team!
A few reflections after being home for a few weeks:
Customer immersion often leads to big insights. Before we delivered the course, we had the opportunity to visit some of the women students in their villages. The members of the village were welcoming and matched our excitement to meet each other. During our immersive experience, we observed a lot—and came to the realization that more important than teaching, was the opportunity to encourage and empower each of the women attending the course. That pivot in mindset influenced the material we taught, how we interacted with each other, and ultimately the goal of each class. Without understanding better our customer, we would have taught the same material we created thousands of miles away, back in our office—less impactful, less meaningful. It reminded me again how critical it is to spend time with our customers—to develop empathy and get clarity on the pain or problem we are trying to solve.
Thinking big and starting small. Part of being bold is solving big customer problems. It was clear, given the context, that these women faced many challenges—even opposition with regards to developing their business. After the course was complete, we wondered if our week had made a difference—especially when you consider the macro conditions of rural India. In partnership with the local non-profit, our content will be shared with over 10,000 women over the next year. But even that is a drop in the bucket. But, I’m reminded again that every successful venture starts small—but is inspired by a big vision, and a big problem to solve.
Why innovators love constraints. I think we all felt a bit frustrated (and humbled) with our inability to speak Hindi. We felt incredibly limited—reliant 100% on our translators to communicate with the students. But we still had the goal to encourage and empower these women students. Over the course of the week, it was impressive to see the teachers be innovative in their attempts … sharing pictures they’d taken of the women, exchanging jewelry, facial expressions, etc. All in efforts to communicate and build relationships. Despite the language barrier, we were able develop meaningful relationships—and great memories. Constraints, limitations, narrow focus—all can lead to creative problem solving and innovation.