Gemba

by-grace-blog-boston-under30

We walked along the paved stone path of Copp’s Hill Burying Ground, perched high on a mound of earth that held the remains of so many lives, so many stories. 

“Think of how many bones we’re walking on right now,” I said to Kelsey. I shuddered and tried to wipe that mental picture from my mind.

The wind was soft that day. The hill was at edge of Boston, this edge commanded by the water. There were empty softball fields overlooking small waves that sparkled in the October sunshine. I thought of all the families, elementary school kids, that must play on those fields every week. 

It was our first time in Boston, it was fall and it was beautiful. 

But here we stood, surrounded on all sides by tombstones. 

We continued to walk along the path, sometimes in silence, sometimes talking about whatever it was that instantly came to our mind. You know you’re best friends when you can walk in silence and not have an inner panic - she was lost in her thoughts, I was lost in mine.

We saw this abandoned building right next to the water front. Future By Grace offices, we joked (well, half-joked). One day, we said. 

The deep history of this city was enchanting. I was struck with this thought that we could have just as easily been walking this same trail, this same path, three hundred years ago. In skirts and petticoats instead of heels and ripped jeans.

But we were born in this time, in this place. 

I think back to that Sunday afternoon, how completely unaware we were of everyone we were about to meet and exactly how it would unfold at the Forbes Under 30 Summit.

We heard from Shiz Shahid, one of the founders of The Malala fund, which advocates for girls to receive education that were previously denied access due to social, economic, legal and political factors. 

When asked why it was called The Malala Fund, Shadid said, “She represented the story of millions of girls that were not given that opportunity.”

We heard from Felix Ortiz, who founded Viridis Learning, which is an educational tech company that builds the middle-skill workforce. Felix Ortiz said, “As you grow, you become like a ladder. You elevate others along with you.”

He reiterated this idea that success is not just about you - it’s about elevating those alongside you. 

The Japanese have this term called gemba, which means “the real place, the place where value is created.” In a manufacturing, gemba is the factory floor. For TV reporters, it’s the location of the news event - Japanese reporters will refer to themselves as reporting from gemba. For a retail store, it’s the sales floor. 

Every person that we met or listened to was unique - they all were placed into different places of the world (Liberia, Pakistan, North Korea) at a specific time.

The one thing that they all had in common was that they found their gemba.

They discovered their place, the right place. The place where they created value. And not out of pursuit of self or achievement - but for someone else. To usher someone else into their space of gemba.

I firmly believe that each of us were given our unique background and history for a reason. There's a reason Kelsey and I weren't born to walk the streets of Copp's Hill in the 18th century. We were made for this time, this space - uniquely positioned with purpose to make an impact.

We can't individually reach everyone in every place. But what encouraged me is that as we collectively own and influence our unique spaces, our personal places of gemba - that's how we change the world. 

Until next time, 

Emily