Honoring Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month (Part 2 of 4)

May 2024 | By ALULA

Welcome back to our series, begun here, on what today’s leaders and workers can learn from AA and NHPI people whose work demonstrates a profound commitment to behaviors with a lasting positive impact.  

Shuji Nakamura, a Japanese-born American scientist who invented blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) has a remarkable story. His invention journey is a testament to how he maintained and pursued a clear vision.  


Despite facing skepticism and resistance from his company's management, Nakamura continued his research on gallium nitride crystals, advocating for their potential to create blue light.  

The blue LED was a much sought-after “unicorn” for researchers over several decades, delaying many technologies. How did Nakamura crack the code?  

Nakamura maintained and pursued a clear vision and trusted his own technical skills to catch up to it. Ultimately, he executed the machine modifications and innovative annealing processes that made his plan for the blue LED a reality. 

He had no choice but to hone such technical know-how as a master’s student in electrical engineering. In his professor’s lab, known as “the junk room,” students constructed the components they needed from discarded televisions and radios. 

By dedicating himself to his vision, Nakamura’s invention led to groundbreaking advancements in display technologies, machine vision, traffic lights, and information storage. His numerous accolades include a 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics, a 2015 Global Energy Prize, and induction in the National Inventors Hall of Fame. 

Nakamura is an example of what’s possible when we maintain and pursue a clear vision so consistently that we can successfully follow through on it. Executing on vision remains a challenge for people in any workplace, where change rules the day.  
However, we have an opportunity to ask each other what experience or skill from our past might help us stay true to our vision? What lesson from our own “junk room” might help us bring it to life? 

Enjoying our AANHPI series for today’s leaders and workers? Why not share this article with your colleagues and read on. Up next is the journey of someone with incredible persistence. 

Topics: Behavior, Leadership


Written by ALULA