The Yalies Are Rising

I am taking the Design and Innovation Independent Study with Professor Jonathan Feinstein and we had an EPIC Thinking DESIGN LAB.

April 25, 2014

The EPIC Decade is a purpose-driven, strategy and innovation studio. We apply design thinking to transformation of individuals, collaborative creativity to the transformation of industries and communities, and experiential learning to the transformation of individuals. Together we refer to design thinking, collaborative creativity and experiential learning as Epic Thinking. The following is a guest post from Russell Thomas, Executive Director, Arts Council Wood Buffalo who helped lead this session: 

Yalie (yālē):
1. a student or graduate of Yale University

My assumption of Yale MBA students was that they would come across as elite business types, possibly unaccessible, and overflowing with lofty visions of professional grandeur. Wow! Was I wrong.



Over the last few days, I was working with a group of four Yalies: Bukky, Sam, Dennis and Susan.  Smart, thoughtful, purposeful, they gave me a great gift with their time, talent and trust.

On Thursday evening, we had a social get-to-know-each-other session and meal together. 



I learned that Bukky Olowude is a driven and determined leader, preparing to take over the family insurance business in Lagos, Nigeria. 

Dennis Tseng is a former theatre producer, actor and director intent on being an agent of super-hero change in the world. 



Sam Sturm is an east coaster with an intriguing itch to change the way we design cities, the human environment of which he is most fond. 



Susan Lieu is an irreverent, unforgettable character with a passion to be in the social profit world, and be a force for positive change, to become a Chief Wonder Officer.



What do these four people have in common and why did they end up with me?  They are all performers.  From musical theatre to film, from theatre to stand-up comedy, they all have the presentational arrow in their quiver.  Despite their younger ages - they are all around 30 - this is a time of uncertainty and change as they go from one reality (the two-year MBA program) to another (the business world).  They are grappling with fears, questions, and options that are not dissimilar to mine.

Through a reflective, illustrative and iterative process, where we tackled essential questions about our lives and careers, we each made new discoveries about ourselves.  There were several times when deep emotions bubbled to the surface and erupted. 

Sitting on the floor of the Beinecke Terrace Room - a stunning space in the Edward P. Evans Hall, the new home of the Yale School of Management - tears forming but not falling, I was feeling deeply grateful for these new friends and their courage in going to personal and profound places.

We drew pictures, shared reflections, asked questions, asked more questions, and explored territory that was fascinating and fundamental to finding our happy, healthy, productive lives.

The Yalies are in the final weeks of their time in this amazing place, about to embark on new careers at Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and myriad other companies and destinations unknown.  Flashing ahead 10 years, I can't imagine how they will change the world, only that they will.

Through their observations about me, I learned that I am more entrepreneurial than I give myself credit for, that having control of my destiny is an increasingly important value, and that I may need to give up a little of one thing to get more of the other, and that's OK.

We concluded that through this incredible design or "epic" thinking process we individually experienced an expansion of what we DREAM, what we VALUE and what we will DO.  We have the same level of FEAR, but it seems smaller because of the growth in the other quadrants.

Thank you to Charlie Cannon, Seth Goldenberg, Nexus North and the Yale School of Management for this incredible experience. I feel blessed and honoured to have had the opportunity to spend quality time with these amazing thought and design leaders.

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Bukky Olowude