Steve Jobs famously said in his commencement speech to Stanford University:
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
For me the whole THNK experience is very much about connecting dots. Unlike any other program, THNK offers an unstructured and yet intense intellectual experience. The classes aim to tackle social challenges and its participants come from all over the world. Some hail from serial entrepreneurial ventures; some design background; others commercial and corporate world looking for career change and in one case a high-rank law enforcement official of Netherlands. With caliber like this, one can’t possibly determine or categorize the outcome. What you end up getting is a group of driven, committed individuals armed with world-changing visions. What THNK delivers is not a certificate or diploma but it fosters an environment and shapes a culture where I believe the collective efforts can lead to solutions.
So what am I learning at THNK? It’s very much about self-discovery and admitting that I am thrown back as a beginner again, less sure about everything and yet ready to explore. Sometimes the process can be exhilarating and other times frustrating as if I was walking in fog with 5-meter visibility. THNK leads you off the well-worn path and that’s where the excitement comes. In my group we were given the challenge of rethinking the future of education. It’s almost too big of a topic to come up with substantiating arguments let alone a business venture. Compounding the matter, the group is made up of individuals with completely different background. In 10-intesene-and-brain-draining-days you were expected to dream up various possibilities of solving the grand problem and typically a day at THNK is at least 12 to 14 hours with solid work. Throughout the process I found myself wrestling with confusions, outburst of creativity and ideas and exhaustion. Is it bad? Actually, it felt wonderful. It felt like a bootcamp of startups with the best soliders you can find in the world. The process, however grueling it may be, has its merits — it stretches your limit and takes you to places where you don’t believe you can be. At the end of the day, I emerged triumphantly. I emerged to learn not to latch on my ideas when others are better; I emerged to see the world as possibilities not as definite answers.
It’s difficult to pinpoint the learning or takeaway I have captured coming back from every module at THNK. I was so much into it. It is only after I decomposed and released all that indescribable intense feelings that I start to connect the dots. Chinese proverb said it right: “the journey is the reward.” Perhaps the purpose of my traveling thousands of miles to Amsterdam for THNK is the process itself rather than the answers I was hoping to find. I am humbled to learn with some of the best thinkers and doers around the world. And perhaps the fact that THNK makes effort to build the community of change-makers and shape such convivial culture has already come up with solutions for the future of education.