Getting Past the First Bite

Greetings.  The four-hour drive back to Faizabad from Varanasi is a fascinating journey through the Northern Indian countryside and a wide variety of cities and towns that are filled with energy, commerce, unusual traffic, countless railroad crossings, and cows.  More cows than I've ever seen before.  And as result, the road is also lined with the most artistic and (at times) fragrant mounds of cow dung imaginable…formed into small "towers" of drying prairie pizzas.  Towers that are such a significant part of the landscape that they beg the simple question:  "What the heck do you use this stuff for?"  A question I had answered in my mind by assuming that they were used as an inexpensive and decidedly renewable form of energy by folks with limited resources.  But, in fact, the real answer was a bit more interesting (and tasty) because this gift from the gods–remember that cows are gods here in India–is used for cooking food.  And upon learning this I asked my host to "tell me more" as curiosity quickly got the best of me.

"Local people have used cow dung as a special way to grill their food for many years," she noted and continued by asking if I would like to have dinner prepared this way tonight.  "That sounds great," I thought aloud, then paused to wonder what exactly I'd gotten myself into.  "Perfect," she replied, "we'll build a dung grill in the backyard this evening where we can make one of my favorite dishes, and you can even watch the process if you'd like."  Now before I mention that you should not try this at home without the strict supervision of a professional, let me add that one of the responsibilities of an innovation consultant is go where no man or woman has gone before.  And that includes cuisine.

But back to our story…

So tonight when the very special fire was built I watched closely as tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and some whole wheat rolls were careful placed inside the burning pieces of dung and roasted to perfection.  Yes, you heard it right.  Carefully placed into the middle of a burning pile of cow dung…not way above the pile on some fancy grill you might buy at Lowe's.  Then I watched as they were removed by hand, peeled, and combined with spices and fresh chilis to create a tomato chutney and a mashed potato and eggplant entree that was shockingly delicious.  I say "shockingly" because it was a bit of shock to put the first bite in my mouth under the watchful eye of Manjula who has enjoyed this unique dish since childhood.  And because I had relatively low expectations for this very thoughtful dinner.  Now I'm not suggesting that this meal is likely to become my favorite food, but I'd gladly eat it again if given the chance.  And I'd venture to guess that most of you would enjoy it too…if you could get past the first bite.  And isn't that what innovation and change are really all about–getting past the first bite?

Dung pile

We win in business and in life when we find interesting answers to obvious questions.  And when we are willing to spice up the world for those we have the privilege to serve.  Maybe it's time for you to offer something really different for "dinner."


Green Marines

Greetings.  While more and more companies and organizations are focusing on green technologies, we don't often think about their value in supporting soldiers in combat.  But that's all about to change in the weeks ahead when the 150 marines of Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment deploy to Afghanistan aided by an innovative array of renewable energy technologies.  In an experiment with broad implications for our fighters in all branches of the armed forces, these Marines–based at Camp Pendleton in California–will bring with them renewable power generators to run their combat operations centers, energy efficient tents using LED lights, and solar powered light trailers that can be used to operate checkpoints.  A key component that will be deployed is a "ground renewable expeditionary energy system" called GREENS, developed by the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Carderock, Maryland, that will provide 300 watts of continuous power.  They'll still have traditional generators available as backup, but initial tests show great promise for this new energy model.

And it comes at a time when the Marines are requiring an increasing amount of energy in their field of operations.  Energy that is expensive to purchase, extremely heavy and bulky to transport, and comes with a host of other logistical and safety concerns.  And the fact that this new source of power is quiet is a big added plus.  They'll even be testing water purification devices that could further reduce their dependence on costly bottled water that must be transported by ships and trucks.

We win in business and in battle when we  make the lives of those we serve simpler, safer, better, and even greener.  And when we do everything in our power to protect the men and women in harm's way.