A few weeks back I wrote a series on engineering leadership in which I discussed the importance of overcoming failure in order to develop and progress. Failure is a natural part of the iterative process and is required in order to define and understand your objectives and goals. EDSI needs to be lean, to succeed EDSI needs to have well defined goals and a problem statement limited to just a few words. This has to be core to the project and everything EDSI sets out to achieve must be centred around this core objective. Defining this has taken years of purposeful iteration; digging deeper and constantly asking why.
The ideas behind EDSI started, a few years back, with an interest in regeneration and sustainability, and the question of how to consider the different stakeholders throughout a regeneration project. This has led me to study and research different ideas and from an initial interest I discovered a passion for different themes. To dig deeper I had to constantly move outside my comfort zone in order to understand different perspectives; trying and testing different ideas to understand how they relate back to engineering. A couple of months back I started the DSIL (Design for Social Innovation and Leadership) course, which is ran in partnership with UPEACE, the course brought together different subjects I am passionate about. This provided me with the opportunity to start EDSI with the tagline of connecting the dots between people and engineering.
When starting EDSI I didn’t have a plan, mission statement or core objective. My main aim was to share my journey to South East Asia and my passion for civil engineering. As EDSI has developed, so have I, and during the trip to South East Asia I was finally able to define my core goal for EDSI. This goal connects what I am passionate about and enabled me to have a strong focus moving EDSI from a conceptual idea towards real world impact. Focusing on the why has taken me on the journey of a lifetime, in doing this I have built up a project with a purpose.
Series 3/3: Engineering Leadership – This series reflects on the process required to successfully turn ideas into action.
Social enterprise is a great idea; its about focusing on impact instead of profit. When trying to make a difference social enterprise can be a great way to build up a sustainable project that will give back to the community. A social enterprise isn’t about a miracle solution to fund your project. It isn’t a free pass to focus purely on impact. A social enterprise is an enterprise designed for social good. Entrepreneurship is about effectively and feasibly moving a project forward. Its about understanding your strengths and weaknesses as well opportunities and threats. Entrepreneurship is about researching and knowing your market, understanding who you can work with and who your potential client are. Entrepreneurship is about understanding what your client wants and how you can deliver it. Entrepreneurship is knowing the impact of your project and having a system in place to measure the impact.
Entrepreneurship doesn’t have to be complex, the Young Foundation have developed a social enterprise business canvas. This is a simple way to outline a business structure to your project. To understand who your potential customers may be. EDSI currently has no business or funding structure, it does however have a business canvas. EDSI will continue to build up an understanding of the potential clients and what it could deliver to these clients. EDSI embraces entrepreneurship as an opportunity to build up a sustainable project with an effective impact. EDSI will aim to become a social enterprise and build up quality resources which responds to the mission of “Connecting the Dots Between People and Engineering”.
Leading projects is challenging, it demands perseverance, hard work and a passion to make a difference. The journey over the last few years has been challenging, I have learnt from others, I have learnt from failure, I have learnt by trying. This has however been a fulfilling experience meeting passionate and amazing people. Working on projects that I am passionate about and building up EDSI has been a fascinating and exciting experience. I cannot wait to see where EDSI will go and what impact it will have. If this series has encouraged you to start you own project or to get involved with EDSI I would welcome your feedback and questions: you can find my detail here.
Series 2/3: Engineering Leadership – This series reflects on the process required to successfully turn ideas into action.
Developing a passion and knowing what you want to accomplish and how you can do it is great. You have built up the foundation to build up a legacy and make a difference. How do you move forward and communicate you idea; make your voice be heard? Larry Smith does a great TED talk on why you will not follow your passion; following your passion is different, its odd! I have regularly tried to express and explain my ideas and often not been understood. It is important not to be disheartened but focus on developing the way you communicate your ideas. This will enable you to move from an odd and misunderstood passion to a professionally present project with a clear direction.
Simon Sinek presents the difference in between a successfully idea and a good idea in terms of engagement: who is your product reaching? The difficult realisation is that some people will just get your idea but that dose not make success. Success is related to how you engage and influence the people who do not understand your idea. EDSI would not be successfully is it only managed to reach the people who understand the importance of sustainable impact and community engagement. It would still be a good project but for EDSI to be successfully I must engage with people who do not understand the importance of the questions EDSI raises.
Reaching people who don’t understand your project is challenging. To achieve this you need a very clear and defined message that connects directly with your why. You need to reflect this message in everything you do. I am passionate about design and the role of graphic designers. Building the logo and website for EDSI was about presenting the key message of EDSI: “Connecting the Dots Between People and Engineering”. Design builds up the professionalism and authority of your idea. Design enables you to connect with the people you want to reach.
Series 1/3: Engineering Leadership – This series reflects on the process required to successfully turn ideas into action.
Leadership is important, its about taking that extra step, recognising that you have something positive to contribute to society. How can you lead? How do you know you have a great idea? How do you build up this idea and get others involved? This is the foundation of leadership, the building block to social action. Simon Sinek has contributed a great Ted talk about leadership. During this speech he promotes the importance of the why. Leadership is not about your ideas and your technics, its about you, the deep and personal you and what you are passionate about. The message is simple if you know the why, the what and the how will follow.
The why is a personal journey, you are the only one who will know what you are passionate about. Understanding what motivates you and how you can use this energy to engage others is difficult. The journey will not always go as planned or have the expected outcome. You need to be prepared to take the first step dive into something new learn different skills and apply these skills to different projects. These projects won’t always work, some will fail, some will stall. What is important is to move forward and in the correct way. A successful leadership journey is not just about where you are going but also about the legacy you leave behind. Always try to move a situations and people forward share what you have learnt and encourage others in their development.
I have failed repeatedly in the last year. I have set myself challenges and haven’t met them. I have tried to set up a social enterprise, unsuccessfully. The road to building up EDSI has been difficult, its been challenging. I have however found something which motivates me to push forward and overcome the challenges. A project which I am passionate about and in which the what and the how has been built around the why. The road to leadership may be pathed with failure but make these failures count, learn from each project, commit to each project and do your best to reach milestones. I love pitching ideas and presenting projects, for each unsuccessful project I believe I have inspired and made people think.
Why am I, a civil engineer, going on a journey with the United Nations University for Peace in South East Asia?
“A passion to understand how my vocation can and does make a difference, how civil engineering can be a part of the bigger picture, working together with other disciplines to engineer civilization”