Opening ourselves up to the learning experiences in every interaction, project, relationship, decision, and outcome would be a true superpower, but it is actually quite a tricky thing to do.
However, even if we are not actively thinking “what can I learn from this?”, that does not mean that we are not being influenced and shaped by our experience of others. In fact, we sat down this week to reflect on just who has shaped us as an organization, and as individuals. As we pass our 6th birthday, and into this geNEOus world, we look back, forward and around us for how others influence us.
Emerging from very early years as a commercial partnership, geNEOus (formerly NEO Academy) was a one-woman show, with Alejandra working out just who geNEOus (formerly NEO Academy) should be. As any founder will tell you, the imprint of emotional investment from those early years leaves an indelible mark on the future. Would it be an exaggeration to say we leave a part of ourselves in the things we create?
We learn first from the market. Oh, so this idea is totally impractical? Ah, so these things that are important to me are not yet very important to others? Pivot time. Growth time.
But when others enter the core, that is a different thing altogether. This company that is “yours” grows to become “ours”, and suddenly there is a “we”. From day one, our team members have been empowered to grow their creative freedom and speak their mind, and as they begin to point out all the things about the organization that we might have missed, things start to change. Fresh perspectives mean fresh opportunities, if we are really willing to listen.
Team voice has been so crucial to our growth. We are a family now. We laugh and cry together, but we have got it wrong sometimes. We learned to really focus on bringing people on board in the most considered way possible, so that we could really feel out the fit between us, and ensure that they felt that personal connection from the start.
Nothing worse than a quick onboarding and then throwing tasks at someone. Relationships are what makes everything work for us, and when someone feels both safe and seen, they will tell you what they really think.
Our clients have always, and continue to teach us so much. This applies as much to the times we said yes! As it does to the times when we had to say no.
The thing about growing a team into a values-based culture is that you have to walk the walk. When we had to say no to a client because of a values mismatch (even when we really needed the revenue to support our growth), we had to just trust our gut. That may even happen during a long-term collaboration with a client, where our point of contact changes and so does the relationship.
Though we might still believe in the institution itself, if we are being micromanaged, subjected to unreasonable demands, or not being trusted to do what we do, then sometimes we have to draw a line.
We have been in ground-up projects that are great until they land on the desk of management, only to get torpedoed and sunk. They weren’t involved in the thinking behind the approach, and so it is harder to really see value in it sometimes.
These experiences have taught us who we really are. If you don’t have boundaries and values as an organization, then it will impact you badly as individuals, and that is the honest truth of it.
But the clients we do work with…wow. We came into this with our own experience of the sector, but our clients test it, inform it and stretch it. The partners and clients we work with cover K12, language schools, international development organizations, universities, national education agencies, portals, agents, and sector professionals.
That gives us a 360-degree holistic learning process that helps us continuously evolve. Oh, and you would not believe the amount of techniques and approaches that are actually transferable among all of these areas; we are not as different as we might think.
One thing that has really shaped us a whole lot is working with so many founders and decision makers in our collaborations.
Involving the decision makers from the start makes sure that they bring that strategic birds eye view and their vision is integrated, so there is buy in from the start. It also gives us the opportunity to say to the decision makers that things may not be exactly as they had understood and to introduce other ideas and approaches early on, so that it is not simply rejected later. Those relationships really shape our thinking and our strategic thinking skills equally.
We know who will shape us in the future because they are already responsible for our geNEOus transition. For years, we have been advocating institutional change to support Generation Alpha as they knock on our doors in just a couple of years,
In fact, with K12 partners we are already preparing for Generation Beta, and ensuring we are ready to engage, support and understand them.
We are products of our experiences, and there is no doubt about it. We are not saying we got everything right first time, but we are proud of the fact that we stuck to our values, listened to our team, and always did what we felt was right. You, our community, have helped us to learn, unlearn, relearn, and grow. We hope that in some small way, we can do the same for you.