Heidi Lubin: It’s important to trust, but always verify

Heidi Lubin, co-founder of HEVT, a startup focused on building energy efficient electric motors and incubating ideas about energy and mobility, asked the Big Omaha audience to do something a little strange at the beginning of her presentation: breathe with her.

“When I left startup life, I had this pull to do yoga teacher training, and what I learned through that process was how to be in union with others, that the quality of your communication with others is based on this.”

Now rooted in Chicago, Heidi once spent several weeks in Nigeria during her twenties, and came back filled with humility due to the experience of going to a place where she didn’t look like the people or speak the language or fully understand the culture, but she had found a way to connect with the people there. 

She started to consider how many resources people use in comparison to how much they should use, and began to focus on public/private partnerships. The phrase “trust but verify” is a mentality she always tries to use.

“Data is one of those things that we can use more effectively in real time to verify our instincts,” she said.

Her work quickly became a “big hairy idea” that dealt with messy geopolitics and challenged the conventional wisdom of what to invest in, how long it would take and how quickly to expect a return.

“The challenge is, ‘How do we make more space to invest in things that might take longer, but will produce better returns,'” she said. “How do you trust and verify? Verification is persistence and sweat. Trust is about having the courage of conviction, and noticing how that melds with accident. And on that creative journey, there’s a letting go process, which is hard.

“The intersection of big data and science creates an enormous, particular opportunity here in the Midwest. But we will need help from clusters in other places that have things we can learn from. At the same time, what works here isn’t necessarily going to work elsewhere.”

The best piece of advice Heidi’s ever gotten is that leadership is a skill learned publicly. “When you fail or come short of your audacious goals, it hurts. And you fail publicly. That’s not always fun, it sucks sometimes. But do it anyway, in a way that’s grounded in the values of the Midwest where we’re from.”

  • On intuition and reflection: “I think that it’s the match between the feeling in your gut and the verification in your head that allows your whittle down your focus, what’s essential to you. There’s a daily or weekly process of reflection, which might only be two minutes, but it needs discipline and it needs to be regular. That process is an important part of leadership and action. entrepreneurship is a practice.”


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