What the OBE reminded us about giving thanks

Receiving awards that recognize achievements gives one pause to reflect on the many efforts of the people involved in the journey.


It is one thing to receive recognition for an achievement and quite another to put it in proper perspective. One requires a person to show up, smile and engage in polite conversation with a range of people who are interested in the accomplishment and experience. The other requires deep reflection, self-awareness and acknowledgement.

Deep satisfaction

Dave has done both of these things as a consequence of receiving the OBE from the Duke of Cambridge at Buckingham Palace in the middle of October. As much as he had looked forward to the actual event, it was over in a flash – a brief, pleasant moment in time. While the event was satisfying, the deeper satisfaction has come from reflecting on the shared journey, which requires a little more elaboration.

Reluctant acceptance

When the news of the honor came to Dave, he was at first surprised. Then he was almost reluctant to accept the honor, because he reflected on the contributions of so many over a long period of time that led to the successful adoption in UK schools (and beyond). The range of emotions settled down, and I think he had the right perspective: he would accept graciously while acknowledging, with deep gratitude and respect, the many who had worked so diligently and relentlessly along the way.


A shared journey

Coming back to Calgary and having the opportunity to receive good wishes from so many current and former SMART Technologies staff has allowed Dave and me to hear the common theme that so many have expressed – in Dave’s OBE award they see their own accomplishments and achievement. They believe that he accepted it on their behalf and they are happy for that.

This is the best part of the award – the connection that others feel to its award to Dave.

When an entrepreneur starts a business, he never knows where it is going to take him. He hopes for and works toward success but never having done a similar thing, he may have an imprecise vision of what success looks like. It surely includes customer acceptance and satisfaction. It probably includes growing to a good scale. It may mean a global footprint. It is never about personal recognition and accomplishment.

Thank you

It has been one more opportunity for us to say “thank you” to so many people inside and outside SMART for believing in the SMART Board interactive whiteboard and its value to educators, for investing their time and creativity in making the solution better and for engaging in ways that made customers feel supported by and important to the company.

No man is an island, as the saying goes, and few of us truly accomplish anything on our own at any time. The OBE investiture experience was wonderful, but it is being part of a team that does something truly great and good that makes a career and a life worthwhile.

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Nancy Knowlton
Nancy Knowlton is co-founder and CEO of Nureva Inc. and previously the co-founder and CEO of SMART Technologies. She writes about education, entrepreneurship, business management, technology, innovation and other passions.