June 9, 2014

Freedom to forge a unique educational path: The Experience Institute’s Victor Saad at Chicago CreativeMornings #30


Photograph by BarnRaise

Consultant and author, Marcia Conner(1), recently tweeted a provocative thought by Mark Twain: “Never let formal education get in the way of your learning.” Through one lens, it’s provocative by pinpointing “formal education,” which is sometimes viewed as exhibiting the weathered patina of a learning experience that is buttoned-up, inflated, and flat. Through another, it’s provocative by sparking (from its 19th-century context) a modern call to uproot current approaches to education and turn the experience into a truly stimulating voyage—a serial course versus a shelved one.

Victor Saad has assumed Twain’s charge in the modern day by asking, “How might we establish experience as a viable form of higher education?” At the 30th gathering of the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings, Saad talked about his focus on reworking how education is structured, facilitated, and executed through the concept of experience-rooted schooling. His efforts originated in the Leap Year Project, his self-steered immersion into a hands-on educational experience involved with design, business, and goodwill. The result was twelve working scenarios—“serving incredible companies and individuals all over the world, all the while learning practical ways to make the world a better place”(2)—over twelve months as (what Saad dubbed) a “leaper.” The Leap Year Project appeared to be a springboard for Saad’s vision of a new school that he appropriately named Experience Institute.

I replied to Conner’s tweet of Twain’s educational anthem by shining the light on efforts that complement Saad’s Experience Institute, namely Hyper Island, The School of Life, and Patterns School. These other places of cultivation were founded by those who also share a belief in teaching differently—more freely(3). Saad is participating in an evolving spike toward shaping active learning that exceeds the increasingly brittle fossils of formal education, such as the fixative nature of the classroom and instructional reception by way of a lecturing water hose. Like his peers, Saad is demonstrating a do-it-yourself approach to creating an atypical school that offers a nurturing experience, built and delivered in an atypical manner: less opaque, more reciprocal, and taking advantage of the current infrastructure feeding the foundations of eLearning, co-working, and remote working. Trends like these serve the capacity and reach of education in our times.

Saad’s way of equating learning with reflecting is a practice that I aligned with the most from his talk, considering my experience as a former instructor. The student, consuming information from course to course, is excessively advertised. Compared to the pressures of being kept in fast-forward mode (toward graduation), there is a potential deficit of the student moving backwards, because school-time overwhelms chances to reflect on the bits and moments of education received along one’s path of learning.

Adjacent to education open to re-imagining, it is also made for mirroring—when one’s education reflects one’s character, which is what Saad ultimately encourages everyone to achieve. His major lesson plan: Take giant leaps.


(1) Marcia Conner and I are thankfully connected at Twitter.
(2) From “The Story” section at the Leap Year Project’s Website.
(3) Freedom was CreativeMornings’ global theme for May 2014.


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Big thanks: to Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology, for hosting and sponsoring Chicago CreativeMornings #30; to organizer Kim Knoll and operations manager Kyle Eertmoed of Knoed Creative, who spoke at Chicago CreativeMornings #7, and to the Chicago CreativeMornings crew—Joy Burke, Pedro Carmo, Rusty C. Cook, Benjamin Derico, Erick De La Rosa, Steve Delahoyde, Chris Gallevo, Neftali Morales, Jeremy Mumenthaler, Isaac Steiner, Martha Willis—for their volunteer work in making CreativeMornings happen in Chicago. Read more about the people who make the Chicago chapter of CreativeMornings possible.

Especially big thanks: to Tina Roth Eisenberg—Swissmiss—for inventing CreativeMornings in 2008. The fifth chapter was launched in Chicago, June 2011—my write-up and photos.

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Read more Chicago CreativeMornings coverage.

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2011 was Chicago CreativeMornings’ debut year. Download the entire collection of selected insights.



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