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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Summer Academy with Innokick



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KIRJALÄHTEET
KIRJA KIRJAILIJA
Atomic Habits
James Clear
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 8 minuuttia.

Writers: Sanni Hujanen, Kamil Wojcik

 

This essay shares the process of creating the Summer Academy project, what was it about, the key learnings and reflection on the key learnings from the organizers.

Background of the project

Networking is one of Proakatemia’s pillars and we believe that it starts within the community first. It begins with creating connections with other teampreneurs, coaches, and alumni and slowly spreads to the outside. The benefit is not straightforward, it doesn’t mean that by getting to know a specific person we directly get a project. Nevertheless, having a network of different specialists lowers the step of reaching out for help and finding the right solutions faster, sometimes creating opportunities for cooperation.

Our experience tells us that when it comes to services, people often buy from a person and not a company. Keep in mind what kind of batch you wear, because as that kind of person you will be recognized. These opening words are important to understand why we got the opportunity for this project in the first place.

International business is something that we have had on our minds. In the spring of 2022, we heard that the Swiss students were coming to Finland for the Summer Academy week in July. Students have had very different backgrounds and now studying master’s program in Innovation at HES-SO Innokick in Switzerland. The idea behind the week is similar to the Learning Journey that we take at Proakatemia (English program curriculum only). Identifying learning objectives with a team, letting go of the comfort zone and growing as a team and individuals through the practical implementation.

Each time, we saw coaches, we asked about it a little more. Eventually, we were asked to possibly organize a training session regarding sustainable development for the student group. It’s an important part of the innovation process in 2022. This is the batch we wear, the sustainability batch that stands for responsibility, ethics, and future-proof business behind. This initiated a real conversation about a possible project. As the summer was approaching, we received a huge credit of trust which resulted in more and more work regarding the week. At the end of May, we were officially responsible for the whole thing. We do not think this would have happened if we have not had a good connection with coaches and network in Proakatemia’s community.

We started by taking over the communication with customer, creating new offer and schedule. Following that we had to take care of the event ideation itself, learning opportunities, free time activities, hosting, and coaching.

Our value proposition was simple:

–          Taking care of the organization of the Summer Academy

–          Finding the companies to provide innovation challenges on Monday which must be solved and presented by Friday

–          Coaching students to develop the best solutions

–          Integrating free time activities for participants to get a grasp of what life in Tampere is like

Taking the opportunity for growth

From time to time, while planning the Summer Academy week, we were struck by uncertainty. What are we doing, and can we really make this project a success? This was influenced, for example, by the fact that there was no way we could find a third client because July is the summer holiday month in Finland and most of the people were on summer vacation. We were also busy with another project until the end of June so at times we felt we don’t have enough time to do everything. At times the amount of work felt huge, but we tried to break it down piece by piece. The whole project felt big and ambitious, we felt insecure.

Confidence cannot be strengthened if we don’t agree to feel insecure sometimes. In fact, confidence grows when you expose yourself to new things which might feel even scary at first.

Psychologist and author Julie Smith talks about this issue in her book Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? (2022). Strengthening confidence is a process where we simultaneously strengthen self-compassion and acceptance and learn to understand the value of feelings of fear and vulnerability. By only going to places or situations where we trust ourselves, the development of self-confidence stops. Confidence can only grow if we agree to be without it.

In her book, Smith also presents Luckner & Nadler’s learning model (1991), which is a tool for strengthening confidence. The learning model consists of three nested circles, the innermost circle being the comfort zone and the outermost being the panic zone. In between these, there is an area for growth. Things that belong to the growth area seem challenging, but possible, while things that belong to the outer, new area contain risk factors. Every time we step out of our comfort zone into the growth zone, our courage and confidence grow. (Smith 2022, 168-180.) Our brain also loves challenges, but only when the challenges are placed in the ideal difficulty zone.

Figure 1 Learning model

The Summer Academy was a step into a growth area for us. We had been coaching teams in another project for six weeks, so our coaching identity had grown. Now, in addition to the coaching, we also had to get the companies who’d give the challenges to students, plan the whole week’s program, and take care of the customers. We had to be able to hold many threads in our hands at the same time. We knew we could do it, but there were also a lot of things that were new to us, like working with an international client.

We really felt successful in the Summer Academy project. We could utilize our potential and strengths. The project was challenging enough but not too difficult – that’s probably because of a high volume of small problems which we didn’t predict would come mixed with the responsibilities we carried as organizers and coaches. Despite that we were able to divide the tasks accordingly, Sanni focused on the technical aspects of the days, for example, handling the planning accordingly to the changing needs, conference calls, and printing information or certificates. While Kamil was keeping up with the teams, making sure everyone knows what is going to happen next and hosting Swiss coaches.

According to James Clear, the author of the book Atomic Habits, if you want to maximize the odds of success, the secret is choosing the right field of competition because our personality affects our habits and therefore also where we can succeed (Clear 2018, 311-312).

So how to find a field where the odds are on our side? A good approach is a trial and error, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with different projects. The projects we have done have been quite short, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Our goal has been to try different things and expand our expertise. All the projects we have done have taught us different things and we have been successful at varying levels. However, we have thought a lot about what we would really like to do in the future and this Summer Academy was something we would also like to do again.

The author James Clear mentions in his book Atomic Habits that by asking yourself a series of questions, you can constantly narrow down the number of areas that bring you the most pleasure. The questions are:

What seems like fun to me but work to others? When thinking about whether you are made for a certain task, the decisive factor is whether you can cope with the efforts caused by the task more easily than others. A job that drains you less than others is for you.

What makes you forget the passage of time? Flow is the state of mind you get into when you’re so focused on the task at hand that the rest of the world fades away. It is almost impossible to experience flow if the task is not even on some level satisfying.

How do I benefit more than the average person? We constantly compare ourselves to those around us, and behavior is more likely to be satisfactory if the comparison is in our favor. We get satisfaction if our own results start to show faster than those around us.

And in our opinion, the most important question of all: Where do I naturally succeed? If we forget for a moment everything that we have been taught and what is encouraged in society and just stop for a moment to think: what feels natural to us? When do we feel like we’re alive? When do we feel like this is the real us? According to James Clear, whenever we feel genuine and sincere and really immerse ourselves in what we are doing and enjoy it, we are headed in the right direction. (Clear 2018, 317-320.) Many of these points were fulfilled for us in this project.

James Clear also talks about The Goldilocks Rule. That states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard, not too easy. Just right. (Clear 2018, 327-328.) We think this is what happened to us in this project.

During this project, it’s fair to say we were in a state of flow, despite working long and difficult days we were each day up and ready for the next challenges. Flow is the mental state you experience when you are so focused on the tasks that the rest of the world fades away – the blend of happiness and peak performance (Clear 2018, 329-330). This has been possibly the only project where we really felt this engaged. What made it exactly? We are still defining it. Without a doubt, working in a very international and multicultural environment is more challenging, at the same time more rewarding.

The challenging thing was that there were many things that came very unexpectedly, for example, we decided to provide for the week high-quality locally roasted coffee. Turns out people in Switzerland don’t drink drip filter coffee and find it weak. There was a craving for a “long espresso” that in the end, we were sourcing from a café downstairs. We also didn’t avoid corona outbreak, 10 out of 40 people got sick and difficult and quick decisions had to be made that forced people to stay away and only participate remotely.

Key learnings

Earlier this year we went to a conference in Paris. It was a one-of-a-kind experience and a huge leap forward for us. During the Summer Academy, we got to utilize a few new things that we learned there. One of them is the importance of hosting. Participant, guest, invitee, name it as you like, essentially is a customer. We never want a customer to feel anxious or unsure. That’s where the host steps in. It’s the host’s job to assure that everyone knows what is happening, when, what will be provided and what customers must take care of themselves.

When travelling to a new country for an intense work week we want to be at top performance, therefore we cannot waste our precious mental capacity on unnecessary things. The host is taking care of working spaces, lunch, coffee, snacks, and free time activities and provides detailed information about how to get there.

A good example of that would be when we met the coaches and students from Switzerland at their hotel on Monday morning, from where we together walked to the Proakatemia’s premises where officially week began. Thanks to that no one was late looking around for the entrance and missing the opening words. Cliché? Maybe, yet so many times we forget about the details that create the big picture.

It’s hard to write a book when we haven’t read enough before. Just like no one starts to play an instrument who has not listened to music before. It’s the same with event organizing, we have been in many different events before, from art or film festivals to opening parties, networking events etc. All these experiences were crucial elements in better understanding the customer and creating value.

What would be a project reflection without a Motorola?

  • What went well?
    • The budget was kept quite well, regardless of multiple changes
    • Getting trust from the coaches was encouraging
    • Hosting the week in general went well, with compliments from the customer
    • Being ourselves in front of the audience was a good choice
  • What could be improved?
    • Should have started this project much earlier and contacted the customer right away to prevent some of the misunderstandings
    • July was bad timing (holidays in Finland) – next time in August-September
    • More in-depth feedback from the customers
  • What did we learn/take in practise?
    • How to handle demanding situations and push back (relationship management)
    • Delegating more efficiently
    • We need to build the teams before delegating the tasks to them
    • We need to also know their strengths before assigning the tasks

We are hoping to create this kind of event again and make it even better. We see opportunities for participants of the week itself, but also possibilities to create a bigger organizing team where we could pass what we have learned already, from planning, budgeting, and customer relationship management to implementation and in the very end celebration. Yes, don’t forget to celebrate your small and big steps towards your goals. This project was certainly a big step for us, and we celebrated it with the whole Summer Academy crew. ?

References:

Clear, J. 2018. Atomic Habits – An easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Out Bad Ones. Random House Business Books.

Smith, J. 2022. Why Had Nobody Told Me This Before? Michael Joseph Ltd.

Dynamic and entrepreneurial developer of new ideas. Focus on coaching and sustainable development.

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