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Leslie Griep, Pragmatic Idealist

Leslie Griep is the Director of Finance and Operations at Forward Together. Among the ‘outside’ perspectives we wanted to include in the innovation challenge were administrative and operational points-of-view, folks who aren’t always invited into such conversations. Leslie shared some of her thoughts about the workshop and subsequent experimentation process with me recently.

AW: How would you describe yourself in three sentences?

LG: I see the world and all of the beings in it as interdependent, interlocking, and complex.

I am pragmatic and straightforward yet idealistic; usually but not always predictable and, while mostly a linear thinker, can often “see around the corners.”

Among many things that I value are integrity, compassion, generosity, kindness, and a sense of purpose.

AW: Why did you come to the Future Forward Innovation Challenge?

LG: I like that Forward Together wants to look at creative ways to expand its resources. As one of the people responsible for the operational side of things, I wanted to see in what direction the ideas generated could possibly take us.

I am pragmatic and straightforward yet idealistic; while mostly a linear thinker, can often “see around the corners.”

AW: What did you bring?

LG: I brought openness to the process and possible results as well as an eye for how ideas could possibly be operationalized.

AW: As you think back to May 18 and 19, what has stayed with you? How did the workshop live up to or fall short of your expectations?

LG: Since I did not attend the first day, I did not fully participate in the challenge workshop. There were lots of creative minds in the room. However, many, but not all, of the ideas were fairly conventional (that said, I can’t imagine I could have been any more creative than the people who attended and generated the ideas).

I didn’t have many expectations (besides what I just mentioned about the ideas) so I wouldn’t say the processes lived up or fell short. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I have spoken a bit to Yee Won and my partner about it—mainly about the process of idea generation and continuous experimentation. The process was completely new to me. The quick or fairly quick experimentation process is interesting and I was not familiar with it at all. I need to check out the resources (Facebook page and blog and see how things are going) but my days are completely filled at work and by the end of the day I am usually tired of being on a computer so only do what I have to do on it once I get home.

Though I hope we end up with ideas that are actionable, I don’t want to set our sights too low and only focus on doing things we could possibly try without this whole process.

What are your hopes for the project going forward? For Forward Together?

I hope that the experiments are able to push the boundaries and extract as good information as can be found. When would we ever get the opportunity to do something like this again? Let’s make the most of this opportunity. Though I hope we end up with an idea or ideas that are actionable, I don’t want to set our sights too low and only focus on doing things we could possibly try without this whole process.

How would you like to be involved? What would you like to ask other participants?

Due to how busy I am just getting my have-tos accomplished, I probably will need to stay as an observer on the sidelines. I would like to ask the other participants what they think of the process. Has it been/is it useful? What have they learned? How might they do/think about things differently going forward, having been through this process? Do they think we have mined the process for all we could get out of it?

If the idea is good and within the realm of implementing, then we can figure out the other pieces when the time comes.

AW: Given your insider/finance/operational perspective, what insight or questions do you have for the experimenters?

LG: I would keep an eye on but not be totally bound by the practical implementation aspects of what might come out of the experiments. If the idea is good and within the realm of implementing, then we can figure out the other pieces when the time comes, even though we might need outside help to do so (i.e., tax or legal help). We also need to consider if implementing a new idea might require additional infrastructure, particularly additional particular staff. Can we make that kind of investment? When might the idea chosen yield enough to cover its additional costs?

AW: Any other reflections or questions?

LG: One of Forward Together’s strengths has been that it takes risks in a measured, calculated way. Programmatically we’re willing to try different things and change direction as needed. However, leadership does not overreach—we make sure implementation is doable and don’t outstretch our resources. This has all worked well for the organization. I did think that this process might allow us to think more creatively and stretch to experiment with ideas that might not, on their surface, appear to be “practical”. I understand not wanting to “waste time” or go down rabbit holes. As I said earlier, these opportunities (i.e., this whole process) don’t come around often and I don’t want us to set our sights too low and not experiment with things that could possibly work, even if we can’t see that at the beginning. Also, don’t just go with ideas that are what we know, the low hanging fruit. And, think about the return. Some of the ideas were, to me, were low risk, yes, but likely also low return. We often consider and talk about most impact for the least effort—we should apply that to this process as well.


About the photo, Leslie wrote: “My partner and I took a trip using the Alaska Marine Highway ferry system up through the inside passage. We were fortunate to see the glacier as it was calving. We visited the Anan Bear and Wildlife Observatory in Wrangell, Ala. In four hours we saw a lot of bears. Since no one is allowed to take any food into the area, humans are not seen as a source of food. The bears are used to humans and will come right up to the little structure that is the observatory but they are certainly wild bears. I couldn’t resist taking a selfie with a bear.”


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