The THNK workshop at SFU | BCBusiness

The THNK workshop at SFU | BCBusiness
The THNK workshop at SFU.

The first THNK school outside Europe aims to teach self-aware, creative leadership in the age of the entrepreneur

How does a leader galvanize people to act?

Tell them a good story with “passion, purpose and authenticity,” stressed a workshop run Friday by THNK, an Amsterdam-originated creative leadership school that is set to open its first doors outside Europe in Vancouver.

Around 75 professionals including a CEO of a non-profit, an in-house lawyer and a partner at a market research company explored the arc of storytelling and its calls to action at SFU Woodward’s campus as part of the inaugural Vancouver Design Week.

From “following your inner compass” to inspiring “emotional attachment,” managing director Sarah Dickinson explored the tools of moving people to act along with fellow Vancouver co-founder Lee Feldman, with whom she worked at Blast Radius, the strategic digital agency he started in 1996, plus executive coach Alex Trisoglio. Dickinson spent 15 years as a brand planner, strategist and social entrepreneur. She previously worked with such firms as Starbucks and Lululemon.

Due to open in the Sun Tower this winter, THNK will offer a new set of creative leadership skills—including social intelligence and being mindful—at mostly c-suite and senior levels with around 30 peer-to-peer students.

The four one-week modules over six months cost between $12,500 and $37,500, depending on the nature of the enterprise, with funding opportunities such as scholarships and bursaries for social enterprise and non-profits. Some of the first cohort are already signed on from Canada, Mexico, U.S., Malaysia and Europe.

It’s part of a move to a “healthy, whole leadership,” Dickinson explains, that’s far from the 1980s’ megalomaniac Wall Street vision of a leader or the start-up pioneer tied to a server and prioritizing working 80-90 hours weeks over wellbeing. “It’s been replaced by a much different self-aware, creative leader in the age of the entrepreneur,” she continues.

The Vancouver school will see a team of 19 including seven facilitation/coaching staff. Such business leaders such as Dominic Barton, global managing director of McKinsey, are on the global advisory board, while local “stewardship” includes Moura Quayle, professor at the UBC Sauder School of Business and founder of its d.studio, and David Labistour, Mountain Equipment Co-op CEO.

Vancouver wooed visiting original Amsterdam founders Bas Verhart, Rajiv Ball and Menno van Dijk not only because of its links between nature and urbanity as well as Asia, but its lack of history when compared to its European base. “It’s an interesting place when it’s juxtaposed next to Amsterdam, which has historically traded on its very established roots, whereas Vancouver is incredibly forward-looking, a potential-filled and outward-looking perspective which is incredibly exciting,” Dickinson comments. “In addition to its intimate-yet-dynamic mid-size, the relative youth and openness of this city is a staging ground; these are all the right ingredients for THNK.”

Lee Feldman, who attended the first Amsterdam course in 2012 while in the country to set up Blast Radius European HQ, agrees the city’s location is important. “It’s this idea of creative leaders of the 21st century really understanding the new world,” he notes, adding he would like to see the city and Canada play a bigger role in shaping the world, but as yet they lack “bold” leaders. “As an impact investor, and someone who is passionately dedicated to a prosperous future here, I’m hoping to see a school that develops that leadership capacity in Canada and establish us as a place that creates the future.”