I spent this past weekend on a 3-day retreat in San Francisco hosted by Hive, a network of global leaders. It was their 6th event and I had been wanting to participate for a long time.
The event was application-based and given my current status as a student, I qualified for a stipend which lowered the cost of participation. That said, given that I’m currently at business school, it wasn’t a very obvious decision for me to participate. This is due to the overlap of some of the key values of the program: leadership development and a global network of change makers. However, as I wrote in my application, each of these networks is characterized by different strengths. While business school is a network of very intellectual and business-oriented people, an institution like Hive was going to provide me with a network of more spiritual, artistic and entrepreneurial people. So I applied, got in, and attended.
The first day was focused on two mainly two topics: understanding the eight grand challenges of mankind (peace, education, environment, energy, etc.), and learning how to prototype ideas (a session hosted by Tom Chi, a renown guru in this space). The second day’s focus was mostly on designing our life (workshop style in which we identified our life’s purpose and developed a plan to achieve it). We also heard from Gordon Starr, a GSB Alum of ’68 and a highly-regarded leadership coach. The third day consisted of workshops that tied back to the 8 grand challenges, leadership and entrepreneurship.
I find myself on a train ride back to campus, but decided to quickly write down some of my impressions from the weekend. I’ll just number them in random order as the pop to my mind (you will see me make a lot of comparisons to business school, but that’s just simply because the rest of my life is consumed with life on campus).
1) Probably the most diverse event I have been to. 135 participants from 42 countries (either raised or lived for 10+ years). Only two of the participants were business school students (1 HBS and 1 GSB). Takeaway: there is a lot of global demand for programs of personal growth.
2) The evening before our first full day, we had a dinner in which we were split into smaller groups of eight. After a bit of smalltalk, our facilitator initiated a very profound conversation about the hardest moment in our life and how it shaped us (we had 7 minutes to share). I knew that deep touchy-feely stuff would work at the GSB where folks feel part of a selective community, but I was worried it might not work with a group of 8 folks who had been randomly grouped and where I knew no more than their names. But it did and it was refreshing to see how quickly people let the curtain fall (and that such experiences are not exclusive to an expensive business school education). Takeaway: building deep connections driven by empathy and vulnerability is something that requires the right context and that can be elicited quickly.
3) It was extremely refreshing to be sitting next to architects, community organizers, designers, urban planners, etc. and discuss entrepreneurial ideas. It was very enriching to hear all these different and non-traditional perspectives. Takeaway: surround yourself more with nontraditional folks.
4) Gordon Starr (Leadership coach and GSB alum of 1968) held a really nice session on the importance of integrity as a key leadership trait. More specifically, he talked about those many times were there are implied or explicit agreements which we fall behind of due to a variety of reasons (from the meeting we arrive late to to the email introduction that we never make). We had to think of some of our own moments where we fell behind on our promises and how that compromised our integrity. As part of the exercise, I made a list of situations where I didn’t follow-up on what I had committed to and started tackling the list on the very same date. His argument was that if we fall behind our promises (loss of integrity) we could reestablish it through honesty. Takeaway: Integrity is a key leadership trait.
5) We started each morning with a 20-minute mediation session. I have started mediation this year, but it was really nice to do it as a group. I’m now super tempted to go on a proper retreat some time. Takeaway: meditate more.. you need it!
6) Unit economics. Ryan Allis, the chairman of Hive and overall a very impressive person, gave a fascinating talk about the concept of Unit Economics and how many Silicon Valley-based companies get it wrong so bad. ARPU (average revenue per user), LTV (life-time value) and CAC (customer acquisition cost) were all concepts I was aware of, but having him talk about the big picture and how these concepts are related to each other was nothing short of fantastic. Takeaway: read and learn more about unit economics.
7) A new perspective on business school. Ryan shared his view on business school education, a lens through which I had never really looked at it. He tried to justify business school education by highlighting that it’s helpful for those who plan to lead organizations and companies of many hundred people. And he is right … even though this is one of many different ways to look at business school education and there are different ways to justify this investment. Takeaway: Make sure to mention to future applicants that business school is ideally suited for those who plan to lead larger organizations.
8) Business versus companies. We use the word business quite a lot these days. But all it really says is busy-ness. Company on the other hand has the etymological meaning "companion, one who eats bread [pane] with you," coming from the Late Latin word companio.” Isn’t that so much more meaningful to describe the essence of a venture? Takeaway: use the word company, not business.
As mentioned earlier, this is a random collection of takeaways. But in a nutshell, it was a great experience that I recommend anyone to make. What I’m most excited for is to stay in touch with this great group of individuals and to see what everyone will end up doing over the months and years to come!