Alternative business schools are popping up all over the world. They have come to fill the huge gap between our education and our life. You may be wondering how they got the name "alternative business" and why they are called schools, when they are for adults.
Well, the way we have done business for the past 35 years is questionable. Business is about people; it's about collaborating with others to meet the needs of fellow humans and our environment. That is essentially why we do it. Or at least it should be. It's not simply the pursuit and maximization of profit; it’s people coming together to bring new ideas to life so we can make both people and planet happier. This idea is sadly quite alternative to most current business strategies.
And 'school': Well, school comes from the old Greek "skhole" meaning 'leisure time'. Attending discussions and lectures about interesting topics used to be something people did for fun. School should be interesting, engaging, enjoyable and most importantly, lifelong, somewhere we learn about ourselves and the world on a continuous basis.
Knowmads in Amsterdam is one such alternative business school where you can do this. They offer a program in which young professionals learn by doing, and, more importantly, learn to unify head, heart, and hands to make a positive difference in the world.
However, among other alternative business schools, it is in a class of its own.
Knowmads is a 6-month non-formal creative business school and platform in which you connect to your aspirations and make them happen. The program includes 30+ workshops, coaching, designing your own curriculum, and working on your own projects or startup business. Leadership, social entrepreneurship, sustainability, and project and process design are all topics emphasized.
More Than Just a Slogan
The slogan ‘Welcome Home’ is truly lived by the organization. You are given your own set of keys to the building, and you are free to come in at whatever time you like to work on your projects. It is a space where guidance is readily available, yet the wheel is in your own hands. You unlock enormous power: you find your voice in a group, kickstart your creativity, and develop an unshakable faith in yourself. The program helps you to develop the courage and the mindset you need to navigate uncertainty and turn it into opportunity. Not only will you find out what you want to contribute to the world, you will develop a means to do so.
You also come out with an impressive arsenal of skills.
Skills for the Future
The World Economic Forum released an article about the 10 skills we will need to thrive in 2020. These skills are:
- Complex problem solving
- Critical thinking
- People management
- Coordinating with others
- Emotional intelligence
- Judgement and decision making
- Service orientation
- Cognitive flexibility
Developing good problem-solving skills takes a holistic understanding of a problem within its context. School and university isolate knowledge into subjects which bear little correlation to the complex and interconnected nature of the world we live in, making it very difficult to understand problems in their entirety. At school, you are in competition with others, trying to be the best at remembering the information you are given and applying this information to hypothetical situations.
Knowmads remedies these deficiencies by guiding you to think in a broad and connected way that links many different disciplines and perspectives. Through a combination of working in teams and participating in workshops, it also teaches you to think extremely critically.
The Knowmads Trinity: Head, Heart, and Hands
Being able to think critically involves working with others who broaden our perspectives, and then developing our own ideas about the information we are given. Blindly believing the ideas of others does not help you piece together your image of reality or coordinate well with others. In traditional school, little value is placed on our creativity or emotional intelligence, and our constant compulsion to obey authorities without question creates poor decision makers. In fact, none of the above 2020 skills noted above are a key focus of any mainstream schooling system, so it's no wonder we are all feeling a little lost when we come out the other side of our 14 - 19 years of education, expected to take on the world outside.
So Knowmads came along, to fill a very real and increasingly-vocalized need. A place for people to reconnect to themselves, to learn about life, to discover what is truly important to them; to be creative, to learn to work with other people; to start solving real-world problems, and to gain confidence, that essential ingredient whose deficiency stops us from getting where we want to be.
So how might you gain from Knowmads?
Below are listed five of the most common challenges people face when entering an alternative business school, and how Knowmads will support you in overcoming them.
1. You want to turn your idea into a reality.
Many people have great ideas that could make the world a better place. Maybe you have an idea for an app, or a new way to reuse ocean plastic. Maybe you want to raise funds to buy a sustainable home or you have a great talent for art and you don't know where to start making a sustainable income in the art world... The list goes on.
Now, Knowmads won’t make all your dreams come true, but it is a great place to set up your foundation to make it possible. You get feedback, support, access to a pool of people with great skills, and most importantly, confidence:
The belief that it’s possible if you just start.
You are given the autonomy and freedom to pursue what’s important to you, while participating in workshops and lectures that support you in accessing the skills needed to turn your idea into a reality. Many people that graduate Knowmads start companies that make a meaningful difference in the world.
2. You want to find new direction in life.
You may be one of the many who have found themselves doing a job they never wanted, possibly wondering how on earth they got there. Your job feels meaningless and unsatisfying and you're questioning if you are making any positive contribution to the world at all. You are not alone: More than 25% of the American and English population feel this way about their job, for example.
Knowmads gives you the chance to create meaning in the work you do and find new direction towards pursuits that are important to you.
You are given the opportunity to try new things without committing to anything straight away. It’s a playing field, a safe space to fail and try again; to get support from peers and gain a whole network of great companies and individuals that can provide opportunities. It's an environment where you will never feel alone.
3. You want to make a positive difference in the world, but don’t know how or where to start.
You may feel like the work you do or the career path laid out before you is not really for the benefit of the greater good. Whether you are a secretary, a graphic designer, a host or a manager, it’s amazing how much better work can feel if it’s part of a bigger picture that improves people’s lives and the whole planet:
Knowmads is about creating business that is good for the world and supporting you in finding your role in that.
All your skills are useful and needed in the better world we are striving to create; it is just a matter of finding where they fit. Whether you want to start your own enterprise, play a role in an existing business, or develop new skills, you are encouraged explore how you can contribute your knowledge and expertise to a do-good business.
4. You struggle to find your path in other education.
You may have been thinking about going to or returning to university, but you can't face the idea of sitting in lecture halls for hours, reading hundreds of papers and writing articles. You're not the only one:
Academic learning is only suitable for about 30% of the population.
For the rest of us, it’s a huge struggle. We learn much better by experiencing life. Knowmads is about learning by doing. You receive new knowledge in workshop-style environments and you learn with a group of people.
There are no exams or standards for failure; only iteration.
You learn through working on projects and exploring your own abilities and shortcomings.
You also get the time and space to find out how you learn, and then optimize your learning in that way. This deeper layer enhances not just the learning done at Knowmads, but on all the levels of your life.
5. You want to be part of a learning community.
School, university, and even online learning all require you to learn alone. Of course, you are with others, but you don't learn from each other or share your work with each other and you certainly don't take exams together. In the end, it’s up to you and you alone to be successful.
But why? Life isn't like that.
We need other people and their knowledge and skills to solve complex problems and create meaningful impact. So why do we spend the first 15 years of our lives working against our peers? At Knowmads, the more people you have working on a project or in a workshop, the more wisdom there is to collectively generate the best ideas and solutions. The more people you interact with, the more you learn about yourself and the world. You are always collaborating with multiple people and even companies to come up with ideas that are going to create the most positive impact.
Right for You?
There are many more big challenges that alternative business schools like Knowmads tackle, but of course, like anything else, they are not for everyone. Without the motivation and desire to change yourself and really dive deeply into the opportunities offered to you at an alternative business school, you are unlikely to reap the benefits. If you are someone who refuses to step out of their comfort zone and take initiative, these schools may not provide enough structure and discipline to get you to where you want to be.
Discover the Possibilities
But if you are wanting change enough to be reading this article and are thinking about attending an alternative business school, then we recommend you start with Knowmads’ 6-month course in Amsterdam (also located in Hanoi for a condensed 9-weekend version of the program, with workshops running in Cape Town as well). This is a good place to begin exploring the endless possibilities alternative business school could hold for you.
Knowmads is an international hub that draws people from all over the world. This past year alone, students from North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East attended. Because it is unique in its kind, Knowmads’ 6-month program fills up quickly. The application process is highly-personalized with multiple face-to-face meetings or Skype conversations so both parties can determine if it’s a good fit. The first step is submitting your application form. Submit your application quickly for a chance of getting one of the twenty spots in their incoming class, Tribe 17. Welcome home!
Editor: Josephine Meijer
Originally published December 4, 2017