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Kamel Magour credits growing up in the immigrant ghettos of suburban Paris with teaching him to be an empathetic problem solver. “In a place where an entire community has nothing, you find creative ways to meet your own needs, and you become quick to perceive the needs of others. These were basic survival skills for me growing up.”

Kamel’s creativity and curiosity fuelled a lifelong interest in the roots of creativity, and the intersection between creativity and struggle. “I went to University in Manchester – a city which had slid into economic decline with deindustrialisation then blossomed into a centre of creativity. How many brilliant bands, artists and entrepreneurs have come out of there? Why does it have six fashion schools and a night life that’s as vibrant as London’s?” After completing his education and working in government long enough to know it wasn’t for him, he founded a series of start-ups. One of them, the House of Geeks, epitomises his mission.

It started out, literally, as a house. “I was looking for software engineers to hire, but couldn’t afford the prices in London. So I went to Morocco, where there were these incredibly bright and skilled engineers. The tragedy of course is that few of them stay in Morocco – and you can hardly blame them – they get sent to good schools by families who sacrifice expecting economic return, which is more often to be found in London, New York or Beijing. But I had an idea that if I caught them early, and could bring some of those Chinese and American and European contracts to them, there might be a win-win situation there. Starting out, we couldn’t afford to pay our first interns, but we had a place they could stay. So we fixed it up, brought graffiti artists in to bring up the energy level, created a learning environment that offered training, put a makers lab in, a game room — we were prototyping a very different kind of development house. And I thought something I could bring to them in terms of their own education was a spirit of entrepreneurship. For the most part, these guys were products of a school system that taught them to follow orders rather than break rules. So I started to think about how I could create an environment that would actually turn technicians into self-starting leaders.”

Like any prototype, it took a few iterations to get it right. Class 0 failed when his intern’s families pulled them out — this wasn’t the high-paying job with a big-name company that was expected to launch their career path.

“It was more like a kibbutz,” Kamel says, and while it was eventually one where people did get paid, it was always going to be about more than just getting paid. With the help of the THNK Creative Leadership Program, Kamel realised he was building a resource not just for customers wanting digital products but a community resource for Morocco and a cocoon of higher values.

Kamel in 2013, taking part in the THNK Creative Leadership Program, Amsterdam Class 3

The recruitment website for House of Geeks doesn’t look like your average software engineer recruitment page. It sports a beautifully designed values mandala with fun at the centre, orbited by transparency, integrity, passion, subversion and risk-taking. There are images of wisdom-questing rabbits. It talks about helping to develop emotional intelligence alongside hard skills. Of software engineers as artists, and it embeds its search for talent in a cultural context and mission that has a sweep far beyond building cool apps and websites. The House of Geeks doesn’t just want engineers, it wants “technological problem solvers who will help emerging countries build their resilience toward climate change and the challenges of the 21st century.”

Soon the House of Geeks was attracting not only some of the best technical talent in Morocco, but some great contracts as well. What wasn’t keeping up were the administrative and contract management infrastructure, which were practically non-existent. Kamel learned that neither his eye for talent, nor his creative skills, nor the brilliant software engineering skills of his partner, filled the gap of project management or process design. Which is when House of Geeks and Kamel’s “dream agency,” Geeksters, decided it was time to teach an artificial intelligence, or AI, the art of project management. They automated every process they could automate, including on-boarding clients and handling their daily communication. They named their creation Samantha, inspired by the fictional operating system in the film “Her.” She was added to the staff list with the title of “Project Manager.” They’re teaching her to speak.

“We were the first agency to have managed its own digital transition. And when I say digital transition I don’t mean tweaking processes to marginally increase your productivity… we’re talking about the total disruption of an AI completely taking over a once-exclusively human task.”

Kamel sees the House of Geeks as an incubator for change, an agency that’s hacking the code of what it means to be an agency. It’s a fractal reflection of a larger process by which the rapid development of artificial intelligence will require us to hack the code of the social contract.

”We’re in the big bang days of AI, and the social implications are going to be profound. In the US, one of the most common jobs in 47 out of 52 states is the truck driver. But we already have AI’s that can do that job. And we’re developing AIs that will replace millions of middle management jobs.” By some estimates, more than half of today’s jobs might be automated by AI within the next 20 years. Kamel believes that without some serious collective thinking and exploration of ideas like guaranteed basic income, the social upheaval will be massive.

“But it can also be liberating. It can make space for people to be their best selves. To be more self reliant and more useful to others. I want to help make that happen. I want a highly distributed revolution.”

To Kamel’s thinking, a revolution that truly serves humanity and creates a better future will be hastened not by incremental activism, but by helping individuals become more conscious: by training people in the intelligence of the heart. He sees the impact of trying to shape the future through policy or the work of NGOs or confrontational activism as one with a mixed record – one that’s all about convincing people and institutions to do the right thing. “When you raise someone’s consciousness, you don’t need to convince them. They see it. I spent so much time working on big issues until I realised I was trying to boil the ocean. The real challenge, and in my view the silver bullet, is to help people have a more intelligent heart, to detox not just their body, but their mind and spirit. That began for me with hacking my own code, finding my own triggers, figuring out my larger mission. It continues by helping the people around you to hack their own operating systems, and widening the circle of people you can reach, help, and be helped by.”

Kamel thanks THNK for creating a safe space where he could nurture some of his embryonic thinking about the House of Geeks and Geeksters. Introduced by Rand Hindi, Kamel saw the cardinal values of THNK as very similar to his own, and he relished the creative pressure cooker it provided for peer consultation, for coaching, and for exploring the ideas of like-minded people who want to impact the world.

Kamel in 2013, taking part in the THNK Creative Leadership Program, Amsterdam Class 3

Kamel incubated the Geekster Manifesto while at THNK. It helped him find focus among all the threads he was pulling at. “Without a set of framing values, the threads tangle into a messy ball of string. You pull at one and it tangles the others, creates dissonance. But if you align all your decisions with your mission and values they resonate and respond to each other. By being consistent you concentrate the signal. The threads become a single cloth. This was one of the insights I got from THNK, hacking the code of myself and the universe in a very humble way.”

Asked what kind of people Kamel would encourage to join THNK’s Creative Leadership Program, he observes that THNK is incredibly diverse across many cultural and political axes, but fairly homogenous in the economic origins of its students. “Some of the highest potential individuals I’ve ever met were not the ones who were captains of industry or firebrand entrepreneurs or speakers at conferences: they were the people I grew up with in the Parisian ghetto. They had everything it takes except the access to opportunity. And we’re living in a world now where both income disparity and that gap between people who have access to opportunity and those who don’t is widening. I’d say reaching those kinds of people would be a brilliant expansion.”

WANT TO HACK THE CODE OF YOURSELF?

Apply to join the THNK Creative Leadership Program.

A 6-month part-time learning journey to help you realize your fullest creative leadership potential and scale your world-changing enterprise.

The post The Revolution will be Automated. And Heartfelt: A Conversation with Kamel Magour appeared first on THNK.

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Kamel Majour credits growing up in the immigrant ghettos of suburban Paris with teaching him to be an empathetic problem solver. “In a place where an entire community has nothing, you find creative ways to meet your own needs, and you become quick to perceive the needs of others. These were basic survival skills for me growing up.”

Kamel’s creativity and curiosity fuelled a lifelong interest in the roots of creativity, and the intersection between creativity and struggle. “I went to University in Manchester – a city which had slid into economic decline with deindustrialisation then blossomed into a centre of creativity. How many brilliant bands, artists and entrepreneurs have come out of there? Why does it have six fashion schools and a night life that’s as vibrant as London’s?” After completing his education and working in government long enough to know it wasn’t for him, he founded a series of start-ups. One of them, the House of Geeks, epitomises his mission.

It started out, literally, as a house. “I was looking for software engineers to hire, but couldn’t afford the prices in London. So I went to Morocco, where there were these incredibly bright and skilled engineers. The tragedy of course is that few of them stay in Morocco – and you can hardly blame them – they get sent to good schools by families who sacrifice expecting economic return, which is more often to be found in London, New York or Beijing. But I had an idea that if I caught them early, and could bring some of those Chinese and American and European contracts to them, there might be a win-win situation there. Starting out, we couldn’t afford to pay our first interns, but we had a place they could stay. So we fixed it up, brought graffiti artists in to bring up the energy level, created a learning environment that offered training, put a makers lab in, a game room — we were prototyping a very different kind of development house. And I thought something I could bring to them in terms of their own education was a spirit of entrepreneurship. For the most part, these guys were products of a school system that taught them to follow orders rather than break rules. So I started to think about how I could create an environment that would actually turn technicians into self-starting leaders.”

Like any prototype, it took a few iterations to get it right. Class 0 failed when his intern’s families pulled them out — this wasn’t the high-paying job with a big-name company that was expected to launch their career path.

“It was more like a kibbutz,” Kamel says, and while it was eventually one where people did get paid, it was always going to be about more than just getting paid. With the help of the THNK Creative Leadership Program, Kamel realised he was building a resource not just for customers wanting digital products but a community resource for Morocco and a cocoon of higher values.

Kamel in 2013, taking part in the THNK Creative Leadership Program, Amsterdam Class 3

The recruitment website for House of Geeks doesn’t look like your average software engineer recruitment page. It sports a beautifully designed values mandala with fun at the centre, orbited by transparency, integrity, passion, subversion and risk-taking. There are images of wisdom-questing rabbits. It talks about helping to develop emotional intelligence alongside hard skills. Of software engineers as artists, and it embeds its search for talent in a cultural context and mission that has a sweep far beyond building cool apps and websites. The House of Geeks doesn’t just want engineers, it wants “technological problem solvers who will help emerging countries build their resilience toward climate change and the challenges of the 21st century.”

Soon the House of Geeks was attracting not only some of the best technical talent in Morocco, but some great contracts as well. What wasn’t keeping up were the administrative and contract management infrastructure, which were practically non-existent. Kamel learned that neither his eye for talent, nor his creative skills, nor the brilliant software engineering skills of his partner, filled the gap of project management or process design. Which is when House of Geeks and Kamel’s “dream agency,” Geeksters, decided it was time to teach an artificial intelligence, or AI, the art of project management. They automated every process they could automate, including on-boarding clients and handling their daily communication. They named their creation Samantha, inspired by the fictional operating system in the film “Her.” She was added to the staff list with the title of “Project Manager.” They’re teaching her to speak.

“We were the first agency to have managed its own digital transition. And when I say digital transition I don’t mean tweaking processes to marginally increase your productivity… we’re talking about the total disruption of an AI completely taking over a once-exclusively human task.”

Kamel sees the House of Geeks as an incubator for change, an agency that’s hacking the code of what it means to be an agency. It’s a fractal reflection of a larger process by which the rapid development of artificial intelligence will require us to hack the code of the social contract.

”We’re in the big bang days of AI, and the social implications are going to be profound. In the US, one of the most common jobs in 47 out of 52 states is the truck driver. But we already have AI’s that can do that job. And we’re developing AIs that will replace millions of middle management jobs.” By some estimates, more than half of today’s jobs might be automated by AI within the next 20 years. Kamel believes that without some serious collective thinking and exploration of ideas like guaranteed basic income, the social upheaval will be massive.

“But it can also be liberating. It can make space for people to be their best selves. To be more self reliant and more useful to others. I want to help make that happen. I want a highly distributed revolution.”

To Kamel’s thinking, a revolution that truly serves humanity and creates a better future will be hastened not by incremental activism, but by helping individuals become more conscious: by training people in the intelligence of the heart. He sees the impact of trying to shape the future through policy or the work of NGOs or confrontational activism as one with a mixed record – one that’s all about convincing people and institutions to do the right thing. “When you raise someone’s consciousness, you don’t need to convince them. They see it. I spent so much time working on big issues until I realised I was trying to boil the ocean. The real challenge, and in my view the silver bullet, is to help people have a more intelligent heart, to detox not just their body, but their mind and spirit. That began for me with hacking my own code, finding my own triggers, figuring out my larger mission. It continues by helping the people around you to hack their own operating systems, and widening the circle of people you can reach, help, and be helped by.”

Kamel thanks THNK for creating a safe space where he could nurture some of his embryonic thinking about the House of Geeks and Geeksters. Introduced by Rand Hindi, Kamel saw the cardinal values of THNK as very similar to his own, and he relished the creative pressure cooker it provided for peer consultation, for coaching, and for exploring the ideas of like-minded people who want to impact the world.

Kamel in 2013, taking part in the THNK Creative Leadership Program, Amsterdam Class 3

Kamel incubated the Geekster Manifesto while at THNK. It helped him find focus among all the threads he was pulling at. “Without a set of framing values, the threads tangle into a messy ball of string. You pull at one and it tangles the others, creates dissonance. But if you align all your decisions with your mission and values they resonate and respond to each other. By being consistent you concentrate the signal. The threads become a single cloth. This was one of the insights I got from THNK, hacking the code of myself and the universe in a very humble way.”

Asked what kind of people Kamel would encourage to join THNK’s Creative Leadership Program, he observes that THNK is incredibly diverse across many cultural and political axes, but fairly homogenous in the economic origins of its students. “Some of the highest potential individuals I’ve ever met were not the ones who were captains of industry or firebrand entrepreneurs or speakers at conferences: they were the people I grew up with in the Parisian ghetto. They had everything it takes except the access to opportunity. And we’re living in a world now where both income disparity and that gap between people who have access to opportunity and those who don’t is widening. I’d say reaching those kinds of people would be a brilliant expansion.”

WANT TO HACK THE CODE OF YOURSELF?

Apply to join the THNK Creative Leadership Program.

A 6-month part-time learning journey to help you realize your fullest creative leadership potential and scale your world-changing enterprise.

The post The Revolution will be Automated. And Heartfelt: A Conversation with Kamel Majour appeared first on THNK.

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Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. – Steve Jobs

What is OuiSi?

Co-founded by Kaz Brecher (Amsterdam Class 2) and Paul Brillinger (Vancouver Class 1), OuiSi – pronounced “we-see” – is a mobile app allowing people to communicate through photos. Players (versus gamers) add photos to a series of images that we call a photologue, where each image is connected to the one before somehow. Those connections can be based on color, texture, shape, content – anything that can be creatively justified. But, as with any communication, people often see things differently, and this is both the challenge and the pay-off!

We spoke to Kaz and Paul to find out more.

So, what do you hope OuiSi will do for people who use it?

Paul: First, I want OuiSi to encourage people to “notice” more of the world around them; a world which is fully alive, from the details of a blueberry to the lovely pattern of tiles in a subway station. This nudge comes from the creative matching done in what we call a photologue. Second, I want people to co-create! Social networks make for numerous connections, but often those connections are voyeuristic rather than enabling us to know people in richer ways. Creating together reveals a part of a friend or family member that you may not know existed, allowing for new intimacy.

Kaz: I’ve been frustrated across platforms with the focus on broadcasting images in exchange for likes and hearts. Don’t get me wrong, I love food porn photos as much as anyone, but as a passionate amateur photographer, I’ve always used my camera to help me really SEE a place through the little things. I wrote about the appeal of this just before THNK expanded to Vancouver, in response to having to give my phone up during one of the program experiences. And those sentiments aligned with the idea of OuiSi – being able to really share my travels while connecting with loved ones far and near in a conversation, through images, is not something I’ve experienced anywhere else.

What makes OuiSi different from things like Instagram and Whatsapp?

Kaz: OuiSi uses the image-driven experience as the primary mechanism for communicating and connecting; a “language” of sorts. This really opens up for new ways to create bridges with people from other cultures or geographies or contexts. When we were doing early paper prototypes, one THNKer told us that he was using a chat app, sending his partner a photo of, say, elephants grazing in the wild, to which his girlfriend would respond with a photo of people shopping at the market, the equivalent from her life in the city. The issue with texts is that written language always changes the purity and power of images. And I think there’s something really beautiful about communicating without words in today’s barrage of information.

Paul: Broadly, we recognize constraint as the spark of creativity. In other words, simplicity and stripping down functionality can guide users towards a more humanistic, creative and expansive experience with their technology. Arguably, we’ve taken generic messenger and photo-app experiences, added constraints in some places and made very intentional choices in others about what’s allowed. For example, we don’t have Likes or ratings, because we want people to use more nuanced expression if they do want to comment on a photo pairing – we’ve seen testers go back and forth about why a pair works or doesn’t, based on different ways to interpret an image. And we also require players to use the camera in real time, so that they are more attuned to what’s around them while noticing the world and not just focused on making a match.

How did your collaboration on OuiSi come about?

Paul: When I entered THNK, I had planned on refining my approach to building an ethically-minded and community-oriented clothing company. Yet, when Kaz visited NYC over a cold-stretch in February of 2015, she happened to bring by a delightful book called This Equals That after a visit to the Aperture Gallery. Inside was a wonderful “thread” of photos that were connected in some kind of creative way. It inspired me to explore artists who also created these kinds of co-creations and prompted me to explore my own world through creative photo pairs. However, I could not find a platform that allowed me to co-create a photologue with others. Long-story short-ish, I was so inspired that I let go of the clothing business idea to explore this new opportunity. The THNK modules heightened my own exploratory nature, but Kaz, very curious by nature and upbringing, became a natural foil as I started to work on the app.

Kaz: It’s true, I often can’t help myself from helping someone when they have a project that aligns with my passions. At first, I was disciplined about sharing the rigor of the innovation toolkit with Paul to refine the concept, but I couldn’t resist jumping in to help get it to a prototyping session in time for FSTVL a year and a bit ago. Since I have a background in technology and a large network from my days in the digital agency space, we found someone to help us with more sophisticated and simplified UX and design, and we brought our paper prototypes to THNK in Amsterdam. We continued to dig into user needs and feature assessment, and we had a more refined prototype to test at GTHR some time later in Vancouver.

The more you talk about it, the less it seems like a game. Personally, I’m not a big fan of gaming apps. Who do you think will play?

Paul: We actually struggled with this. Is OuiSi a game, or is giving people a chance to play? The difference between the two really comes down to constraints, incentives and relationships. Games have clear winners and rules; playing, less so. Think of “playing” in the sand or “playing” make-believe. Kids, generally, are more open to playing while adults occasionally “play games.” But sometimes we play without knowing it. Think of a delightful conversation amongst friends when all of a sudden someone drops a groan-worthy pun. Ten minutes later, another tries to outdo the prior pun with one of their own. They aren’t keeping score, yet there is a game-like quality here, and everyone is wins by playing. Ultimately, we decided that we wanted to broaden out what it means to play a game. OuiSi is a game for people who say “I don’t play games on my phone.”

Kaz: Indeed, OuiSi is really intended for the people who play casual games. But we have people tell us all the time that it reminds them of Words with Friends or Draw Something, or any kind of collaborative or puzzle-based game. I also believe there’s a more subtle effort in what we’re doing, which is reframing a “game” as something more than zero sum. Our culture has increasingly focused on winners and losers, and Paul’s cohort at THNK was exploring new futures in Capitalism, which included sharing and collaborative economies. The idea of a photologue that unfolds is as much about discovering a co-created beauty as it is about playing, a benefit to all contributors. Like the one-word-at-a-time stories in THNK’s “Eye Openers”, the fun is in what emerges between the contributions and the surprise element. This is win-win for anyone engaging. And I think our digital culture could use more apps and “games” that cultivate empathy and curiosity and noticing the real world over domination in an online space.

Even Moleskin recognizes the original co-creative game of the Exquisite Corpse You keep using the word “notice.” Why is that?

Paul: Mindfulness plays a major part in OuiSi. A big difference between our app and other social photo apps is that our aim isn’t to distract the user from the world around them but to prompt players to engage with it more. Instead of endlessly scrolling through a feed on your phone, OuiSi asks you to look around you with an open mind and sharp eyes. Imagine someone has posted a photo of a bunch of balloons being walked to a party. Perhaps a smart match might be a heap of filled out garbage bags sitting on the curb outside an apartment building. Seeing this match requires an open mind and an overwrite of your brain that wants to say “ick…garbage…nothing to see there.” Playing OuiSi well means noticing the world well.

Kaz: To encourage this, we made some tough choices in our design. The most obvious is that photos can only be taken from the built-in camera in real time, which means you can’t go back to something you saw days ago or add an image from the internet. This underscores the idea that there is no such thing as a perfect match in OuiSi; that the “best” connection is the one you notice and that moves you and others. I struggle with traditional meditation, but I find I’m developing presence through using OuiSi. I get as much from games with other people as I do from solo photologues which keep me challenging myself to see the world in new ways.

How can we support the launch of OuiSi, and what do you need to really help this succeed?

We would love people to download the app when it goes live – and send us your comments, questions, nitpicks, frustrations, and feature requests! For now, it’s only available for iOS, but we have myriad ideas for variations in addition to extending the app to more mobile platforms. From the ability to play with a stranger in another country across language barriers to versions for kids that can be used in educational settings to develop empathy, we’d love to hear your ideas as we continue to iterate and refine. Additionally, if you have contacts in media who might be interested in writing about the app, we’d love introductions or your help spreading the word! You can find the app and more information at www.ouisi.co or email us questions at feedback@ouisi.co.

You can learn more about Kaz Brecher and Paul Brillinger on their THNK profiles.

The post OuiSi. The mindful art of seeing. Together. appeared first on THNK.

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When Wempy Dyocta Koto created one of Indonesia’s most coveted prizes, he didn’t want to name it after himself. He’d launched dozens of start-ups, owned multi-million dollar companies, and not one bore his name. But survey after survey, and focus group after focus group, Indonesian citizens revealed that his name had become as deeply associated with success, leadership and integrity as Steve Jobs’ is with technology or Mother Theresa’s is with compassion. He was one of Indonesia’s most recognised brands, one of the world’s 200 leading social CEOs in a list led by Oprah Winfrey, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, and Tim Cook. There was no other name for it.

But Wempy had ambitions beyond being a “googleable name,” and they were born and crystallized – like the idea of the prize itself – at THNK Amsterdam during his participation in the Creative Leadership Program.

“I thought I was done with learning. I’d built a fortune; I’d helped many others build fortunes. There were no more letters I wanted to add to my name, no more decorations I sought. I’d gotten my Masters at 20 to please my mom and dad. I was uninspired by the cookie-cutter approach of business education and had no interest in further education from a Stanford or a Harvard Business School. Without being obnoxious or arrogant, I kept hearing that brilliant advice: “If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.” I was perpetually in the wrong room. I work in venture capital and investments. I speak of disruption all the time. Yet the last person I was disrupting was myself. One of my fundamental beliefs is that the world’s greatest entrepreneurs are the world’s greatest learners. Yet my learning was stagnant. I was simply too deep in my comfort zone.”

The first email he got from THNK went straight into the recycle bin. The second, the same. Then the third. But he opened the fourth. He clicked a link and had a look at the profiles of THNK’s attendees.

“I saw people who held the world to higher expectations. Who held themselves to higher expectations. Inspiring rebels. People with real missions. Not a single orthodox career, nothing orthodox in what they were seeking to achieve. I’ve rarely been inspired by people in my industry, but I am inspired by people in the industry of peace. I was coming around to the idea that we are shaped by the people we spend time with, and that real life interactions were going to be the thing to humanize me. It was learning about their backgrounds, reading about their hopes and aspirations that made me feel this was a community I wanted to belong to: Not marks-driven, not grade-driven, but HEART-driven…”

Wempy joined Class 5 of Amsterdam’s THNK Creative Leadership Program.

“I went through quite a tough time during the period that I was going back and forth to Amsterdam. It was a time of war between Israel and the Palestinians. I found myself locked in my room in Jakarta crying a lot, not understanding what was happening in the world. I’m one of the most fortunate people in the world. You go on my Facebook page you’ll see I have friends from all sides of political conflict. I am Muslim but went to a mostly Jewish school. In high school, most of my friends were Christian. Being Muslim I feel connected to the world of Islam. Seeing what was happening to Palestinian kids, I was not able to contextualize what was happening in the world. Class 5 at THNK was a reflection of my universe: Christians, Jews, Muslims. In honour of diplomacy, we didn’t talk about the war. We shut everything off, which was hard. It was front page, front of people’s attention, but nobody talked about it, out of fear of religious or cultural collisions. But then we got in a circle, just our class, without teachers or facilitators, and we talked about it. We had a Palestinian member in our class and an Israeli. There was no grandstanding, no attempt to win any political points or ego points. We talked about non-violent communication. We talked how to manage peace, how to push it closer.”

“30 people with different ideas, experience, and baggage. The single thread that linked us all up was the desire for peace. To be reminded that while there are people building and dropping bombs in the world, there are many more people building lives and homes and hopes for the future. This is what that group reinforced to me. We could come together at one of the world’s darkest hours and express what we thought without judgement. I expressed what I needed to express, and did not judge what others expressed. And that was one of the most beautiful moments I experienced at THNK.”

What is THNK? Wempy Dyocta Koto - YouTube

Every student is asked to sketch a project that they will create or accelerate with the help of their classmates. It was there that Wempy hit on the idea of giving back to his country by awarding a mentorship prize. 12 Indonesian achievers a year to be awarded 12 months of mentorship from 12 Indonesian entrepreneurs and 12 global creative leaders. He drew a number of the global mentors right from the pool around him, his THNK classmates: Princess Reema Bint Bandar Al Saud, founder of women’s economic empowerment group Alf Khair, social inclusion entrepreneur Reem Khouri, Dr Easkey Britton, the award-winning surfer and scientist, and Osher Gunsberg, host of “The Bachelor” and formerly “Australian Idol.”

“I’m determined to raise up Indonesia. It’s a country of 17,000 islands – we don’t live in major cities like London or Amsterdam. A lot of Indonesian kids live in shacks, with mosquitos and no air conditioners. Some have nothing to eat, some drink water with sugar to survive. But we have kids now who are living in those conditions feeling hopeful for their future and applying for this award and really, really wanting it. Kids sending me 1,000 word essays. With wonderful missions that deserve to be heard. When I was 19, I was more interested in surfing. Some of these kids are half my age and twice my intelligence, all they need are the right mentors and the right people to believe in them.”

Wempy calls his prize an idea that was 100% attributable to THNK.

“Our greatest intellectual gift is our imagination. THNK made me imagine more. It’s about the leap to something greater than ourselves. It’s about chasing inspiration – not inspiration that passes like an unseen comet in broad daylight, but inspiration that can be the building blocks of a legacy. THNK was less about mission refinement or that process of discovery for me – it was a collision with the true north of my life. A fresh look at the world.”

Who would Wempy recommend apply to THNK?

“Nobody who is looking to add a title to their business card. Nobody who is looking to figure out how they’ll be remembered and framed. That’s all personal branding, outward focussed. The perfect candidate is someone at the pinnacle of their career. Someone who has achieved what they set out to achieve, decorated themselves with whatever decorations they sought, but feels like they’re in that film “Groundhog Day.” Someone looking to find their inner compass and follow it toward something greater than a googleable name.”

WANT TO FIND YOUR INNER COMPASS?

Apply to join the THNK Creative Leadership Program.

A 6-month part-time learning journey to help you realize your fullest creative leadership potential and scale your world-changing enterprise.

The post “Googleable Name” and a Legacy: A Conversation With Wempy Dyocta Koto: appeared first on THNK.

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Richard Kooloos describes himself as a tenacious optimist. With a mission to convince 3.5 million homeowners to prioritize the energy efficiency of their houses, he has to be. As Director of Sustainable Banking for ABN AMRO, Richard is driven to have a positive impact on his colleagues, clients, and society as a whole. As a member of our 11th Amsterdam Creative Leadership Program, we spoke to Richard about what he hopes to achieve during this 6-month part-time learning journey starting in March.

Originally educated as a Business Engineer at the University of Twente, Richard has been working in the financial sector for 20 years and focusing on sustainability for the past 10. Richard has lived and worked in Brazil, Germany, Sweden, and the UK. He also plays a supervisory role with several start-ups focused on renewable energy and heads an ambitious work stream with the Dutch Central Bank. Last but not least, he is a corporate activist for Human Rights, COP21 participant, Member of Worldconnectors, and board member of Global Compact Netherlands.

Richard took the time to call me from his electric car between meetings. Purchased in 2012, his was one of the first electric cars in the Netherlands – a detail illustrating Richard’s passion for innovation and sustainability.

How Richard Kooloos came to THNK

A few months ago, Richard began exploring education programs to extend his personal growth, “I basically grew up with the idea that the best MBAs in Europe are at INSEAD and IMD and so I started there.” But when he had the opportunity to attend a session at INSEAD on sustainability, he was struck by “how conservative and how not at the pulse of where things are” the institute was. He asked himself, “What can I learn there and is it really going to be that much more than adding the name [of the school] that looks great on your CV? How are you going to grow there?”

Enter THNK. Richard began exploring the Creative Leadership Program and tells me “I was positively surprised that THNK is so much more focused on the skills you need to be successful today. In programs like IMD and INSEAD, in my opinion, you’re learning the skills to be successful yesterday, for organisations which are organised in traditional ways”. Drawn to an entrepreneurial environment, Richard was pleased to discover a program that also includes personal leadership growth and has sustainability embedded in its curriculum. “For me it’s about innovation, it’s about personal growth leadership, all with the sustainability mindset. That perfectly fit what I was looking for.”

The Endeavor Richard will tackle during the THNK Amsterdam Creative Leadership Program

Richard’s project sounds simple: how to get 3.5 million homeowners to start working on the energy efficiency of their house. But a project of this magnitude is anything but easy. “A lot of people have been looking at this for a long time but still nothing much is happening. There have been small things, but it’s by far not enough to reach the goal that we’ve set ourselves, or to reach the contribution towards the COP 21 goals.”

As with any strong Endeavor, Richard believes firmly in its importance and knows that he is positioned to make a difference. “The reason I’m looking at this is because it has impact. We’re talking about three and a half million people, about 20% of carbon emissions in the Netherlands, so it’s actually material. It’s also very closely linked to my work because [ABN AMRO] provides the mortgages for 1.1 million of the 3.5 million home-owners in the Netherlands, so I have a vehicle for having an impact.”

Much of why Richard chose to join THNK is to learn the skills he’ll need to tackle this complex project. “My gut feeling is that here you need something more outside the box. […] My whole work is about people changing behaviour, changing structures, but always with the requirement that it be implemented in a couple of months from now. For me, this is like reaching beyond that border, beyond that horizon. I have never been asked to do those things or have the experience of doing those things. That’s why I feel I need skills from THNK to do that.”

The Big Picture

When asked what he dreams of creating, Richard doesn’t hesitate. “The big picture question is to set an example that a universal bank with a proper balance sheet can be a sustainable organization; that sustainable banking is not the prerogative of niche players. To prove that it is possible.”

In a big organization like ABN AMRO, aligning everyone towards a new agenda for a sustainable future isn’t easy, but Richard injects positivity to keep himself and his team motivated. “The department I’m heading up, we have a document that describes who we are, and we’re called ‘Tenacious Optimists’. We are people who never let go. It’s our obligation to stay optimistic.”

Richard believes that a large organization providing an example of sustainable banking has the power to make a big impact on a global scale. “At the end of the day, we all say ‘Money makes the world go ‘round’. If you change the way Finance thinks about where to put their money, you change the economy and you therefore change the planet.”

Richard is one of the many inspiring leaders participating in the upcoming Creative Leadership Program starting at THNK Amsterdam in March 2017. To find out more about the Creative Leadership Program, or if you are interested in joining Richard as a Class 11 participant and learning to reach beyond the horizon, then please download the program brochure or apply here.

The post Richard Kooloos: Meet Class 11 appeared first on THNK.

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It’s not everyday you get to meet a Saudi Arabian princess.

Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud is an entrepreneur, a trainer, an artist of the possible, a pioneer in employing and empowering Saudi women, a creative leader, a women’s sports advocate. She has applied a fierce creative passion to powerful projects that have both opened doors for women in Saudi Arabia and inspired women the world over. Her energy is breath-taking. She is quite possibly the fastest speaker I have ever met.

She led the team organising the first expedition of Saudi women to reach base camp at Everest. She won a place in the Guinness Book of World Records when she gathered more than 8,000 women — the biggest female-only gathering ever in Saudi Arabia on the first day women ever voted — to form a human “pink ribbon” for breast cancer awareness.

She was appointed head of the first Women’s section of the Saudi government’s committee overseeing sports. She’s been expanding fitness opportunities for women through the creation of women-only gyms. She turned the design of the Saudi women athletes’ Olympic costumes over to a charity for low-income women who used traditional textiles to create a powerful statement of national pride and diversity of heritage. She’s been outspoken in her message to women and girls that with hard work, anything is possible.

But Reema joined the THNK Creative Leadership program with some reluctance. “I’d just been through one massive vertical learning curve, and while I was highly effective, I was operating at a level of profound insecurity. I had a degree in museum design, I was more interested in creative expression than business and wanted to work in the arts. But my family asked me to manage ALFA International (license holder of Harvey Nichols UK), and so I was overseeing a retail operation at a time when the government mandated more women join the workforce. I was seeing women who had never held a job outside the home – walking into places that had never employed a woman, with no training, and little experience in even the social skills of the workplace; much less sales or customer relations. In some cases taking over positions men had held for decades, being resented and being blamed for declining sales.

“So I had a glimmer of a thought to create a retail academy — something that would teach these women the basics, but also prepare them in other ways — something that would soften the blow of the additional life pressures we were piling on top of all the ones they faced at home. I could plainly see a need, but I didn’t have the vocabulary or the skills to really shape what I was after. I knew I needed help but wasn’t sure what help I needed.

“One day I am talking all this over with Sofana Dahlan (Amsterdam Class 2), and she tells me about a school she’s been attending in Amsterdam. I presumed it would be something like the Harvard Business School. The last thing I wanted was yet another vertical learning curve. But she told me I was missing the point. What she was suggesting wasn’t a curriculum or a set of classes: it was a way to get 35 very bright people to help me figure out what I wanted to do. Try it, she tells me…  when you get there you will understand.

“For the first week, I really didn’t understand. There was a lot of western-style bonding going on. I appreciated greatly the flexibility of the staff in adjusting exercises like staring into someone’s eyes for 30 seconds, which is profoundly uncomfortable for someone coming from the Middle East.

The group immersion took me out of my comfort zone, and it was a while before I truly got it. But when I did, THNK really lit up a light bulb inside my head. It changed my idea, and the idea of what I was trying to do, 100%.

“I’m interested in people who work outside the box without tipping it over, and these were obviously brilliant people who were opening up a lot of boxes. One of my classmates was Reem Khouri, and she was presenting a concept for an agency which would advise businesses on how they measure and improve their social impact, how they could create sustainable models by improving the sustainability of society. THIS was precisely what I was looking for. I wanted to know where I could sign up! She hadn’t started yet, so I told her I’d be her first client. And we’ve been working together ever since.

“So here I am surrounded by these innovative social entrepreneurs who have had experiences in life that I’ve never even imagined possible, and they’re openly sharing their skills and insights and giving to one another in this spirit of cooperation. They’re setting an entirely new context for my thinking.

“Then, the light bulb: it hit me that what I wanted to do wasn’t simply to teach retail skills. That was so narrow, and a space that others were already occupying. I was going to take a step back and teach ‘readiness to work’ skills. To create an academy that provided a toolkit for women to become more capable individuals in their community. I was going to empower women to learn new ways of engaging with society, including the basics of opening a bank account and new methods of financial literacy, but also things that could expand their opportunities and well being. If they chose to enter the workforce, we’d offer them roadmaps into front-line jobs in retail, corporates, and NGOs, but if they chose not to, they’d still be extraordinarily capable individuals with sharpened skills for their daily lives, making society itself stronger. I mean, what’s a mother but the COO of the household? She’s head of operations, procurement and HR — why not apply the best of business and management knowledge to those roles?”

That was the beginning of Alf Khair, a social enterprise offering “Access to opportunities” and designed to drive greater contributions to society and a deeper understanding of community issues among the women of Saudi Arabia.

“When I reflect on everything I learned in that course, I’m so grateful to THNK and so grateful to those who convinced me to join. Anyone who is considering THNK should know it’s not about a curriculum or classes, or teacher-led learning. There’s no handbook. It’s about getting like-minded individuals together, using some extraordinary tools to help facilitate one another’s growth and nurture and challenge each other’s ideas. The toolkit becomes a part of who you are. Your classmates become a trusted circle of advisors. You learn how to transform limitations into inspiration.”

WANT TO LEARN TO TRANSFORM LIMITATIONS INTO INSPIRATION?

Apply to join the THNK Creative Leadership Program.

A 6-month part-time learning journey to help you realize your fullest creative leadership potential and scale your world-changing enterprise.

The post Opening Doors to Opportunity: A Conversation with Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud appeared first on THNK.

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