1-on-1 with the Education Rebels: part I

Emily Hinks of Hyper Island and THNK’s Mark Vernooij

The Amsterdam Economic Board focuses on five interrelated urban challenges. Jobs of the Future is one of these challenges, with the ambition to make the Amsterdam area the most appealing labour market of Europe. At Professional Rebel they believe that education can change and empower people and organizations, but only if you’re willing to think outside of the box. In collaboration with the Amsterdam Economic Board Professional Rebel talked to rebels in education about their thoughts on the future in this three-piece series.

THNK and Hyper Island are two schools with similar goals: to train people to become the type of leaders that their industries need. Roald Tjon (Chief Reporter at Professional Rebel) sat down with Mark Vernooij of THNK and Emily Hinks of Hyper Island to find out where they see education going and what they would change if they were in charge of it.

Mark Vernooij, 39, Partner, THNK School of Creative Leadership

Mark Vernooij, 39, Partner, THNK School of Creative Leadership

What does THNK do?

“THNK has a two-fold mission. One the one hand we try to create a cadre of creative leaders. The second part of our mission is to come up with creative solutions for societal challenges. To us creative leadership is all about coming up with new ideas, making them happen and showing leadership in that very specific context.”

It was about creating the school that we wanted to go to but would never have gotten into

Why was THNK created?

THNK was created in 2011 by Menno van Dijk and Bas van Hart to become a leading institute for creativity and leadership: “Creative leadership in 2011 was claimed by IBM to be the most sought after and the least available skill in corporates from their research. For us it was all about creating the school that we would have wanted to go to but would never have gotten into.”

How do you envision the future of education?

“Education is still a mass product. In the future, it will be much more tailored to the individual’s needs.”

“Furthermore, technology will become more important. We’re moving to an instant economy and we’re also moving to instant learning. Technology will make that more pervasive, and will actually start suggesting you what you need instead of the other way around.”

In which areas do you think we’ll see the biggest changes?

“Where you feel most change is for the teachers. It’s easy to implement new technology, but it’s pretty hard to change people. Teachers are amazing at what they do, but they’re human beings and human beings are typically not great at handling change.’

“That still a big challenge, helping the teachers absorb all the change that is coming. I don’t think technology will replace teachers. Maybe the word teacher becomes wrong and it becomes more of a facilitator, or a coach, guide or mentor.”

If you were in charge of education what is one change that you would make?

“The first thing is speeding up the introduction of technology. The second is enabling teachers to absorb the technological change. A big part of that is reducing the administrative burden. Less regulation, less control, and more enablement, empowerment and support is a good way to go.’

“I really like what Jaap Versfelt is doing. He has an initiative called leerKRACHT, enabling teachers to do better every day. This makes them more agile, easier to adopt change and makes it easier for them to learn from each other.”

I found education most interesting when I was trying to do stuff that was not supposed to be done

Favorite memories of your education?

“I found education most interesting when I was trying to do stuff that was not supposed to be done. So in physics in primary school, making the circuit board explode when we were doing electrical experiments. In university, trying to hack a course another way. It’s this freedom to take new approaches, hack stuff and try stuff that wasn’t tried before. That was big for me.”

“When I went to business school and to INSEAD and to Stanford, it was about meeting the people. That’s also what I find fun here. It’s all about the people who come here and their stories from around the globe. The projects they’re working on and the passion with which they do it.”

In what way would you say your education prepared you?

“The things I learned that are still serving me today in my job were solving problems, being analytical and really figuring out how the world works, figuring out what is a cause and what is an effect, what is an input and what is an output, and which two things make another thing function.”

Emily Hinks, 26, Experience Design Program Leader, Hyper Island

Emily Hinks, 26, Experience Design Program Leader, Hyper Island

What does Hyper Island do?

“Hyper Island designs learning experiences that challenge you to grow and stay competitive in an increasingly digitized world. The founders didn’t think that people were being trained well enough for the demands of the digital industry. They wanted to make a type of education that was much closer to the industry and had a different twist on education.’

“Rather than, ‘I will stand here and speak my knowledge at you’, it became, ‘I’m going to help you learn by doing and offer you the type of education that equips you for the real world’.”

Why was Hyper Island created?

“The founders were working on a project in 1994 on how to educate people about HIV, using CD-roms. That was a revolutionary, digital tool then. They thought, ‘Ok, this is really coming in and we need to start training people and equipping them to handle where the industry is going.”

How do you envision the future of education?

“I think the future of education is experience based learning. If you give people a challenge and you give them the space and support to face that challenge, then they will come up with the solutions. The learnings are so much stronger when they come to them themselves, than when you just tell them the answer.”

In which areas do you think we’ll see the biggest changes?

“One of the hardest things about my role as a facilitator is the fear your students might not get there. They’re not going to recognise that the learning of an exercise is ‘quantity leads to quality’ for example. But they always do. It’s having the faith to let them come to it themselves.’

“We as educators need to have less fear that they won’t get there. We need to be able to let them get there themselves.’

“There’s a really great TED talk from Sugata Mitra who put computers at child height in Indian slums. The kids taught themselves how to use them. He did 10 years of study and found that if you put something in front of kids and give them the opportunity to learn, then they can teach themselves.”

If you were in charge of education what is one change that you would make?

“I would change the relationships with students and teachers. It should be much more of a coach role, a facilitator.’

“I would also make room for all the different types of learning within the education system rather than the hear, write, repeat system now. It’s like we’re training for an exam rather than to train people to know how to learn, and to be curious and engaged in things. The most important thing is empowering the students to take ownership of their own education.”

Favorite memories of your education?

Emily studied theatre at the University of Leeds before doing a Masters at Hyper Island which she says was life changing: “After graduating in theatre a friend said, “Maybe I’m going to go into advertising or production”. I thought, ‘How? You studied theatre. They won’t hire you.’ There was nothing at university that made me feel like I could enter into different areas of the industry or even told me about different industries or job roles.’

“At Hyper Island I discovered I could learn how to run a business, but I can also come up with ideas. I can work with groups. I can have lots of empathy for users, which is putting yourself in someone else’s shoes just like in theatre. All of a sudden the world opened up. I could do all of these things.”

It's not just about your hard skills it's who you are and how you work

In what way would you say your education prepared you?

“One of the most powerful things in my education was the role of great teachers. Teachers who will see the dreams of their students and point them in the right direction. It’s the job of educators and people higher up in companies to tell who they’re mentoring about opportunities and help them reach their potential. To say, ‘You guys should be reading this and looking up this and going here’.’

“Ultimately, it’s not just about your hard skills, it’s who you are and how you work, and how others work with you. You could be the best designer or copywriter in the world, but what’s going to make the difference is how you work with others.”

Click here to learn more about our challenge “Jobs of the Future” [Dutch]

Photography: Simone Schoutens

Help ons verbeteren

Heb je 5 minuten voor een paar vragen over onze website?