Issue #007 Published: 17-05-2016 // Written by: Ewoud Berends

Creative business school for the modern entrepreneur

Interview: Knowmads Business School

The regular educational system is outdated and no longer relevant to the modern entrepreneur who really wants to change something in the world. That is how Knowmads Business School sees it. The Amsterdam-based school therefore offers an alternative kind of education where personal development and the student are central. SK2 interviewed Knowmads-visionary Guus Wink, to gain an insight into the philosophy behind the progressive business school.    

As soon as I arrive it becomes clear that Knowmads is not an everyday school. In the space where I am warmly welcomed by Guus, there are students scattered around sitting behind their laptops. Not on hard wooden college seats, but on comfortable sofas that would not be amiss in the average student house. One of them is lost in thought, while taking a slightly overlarge bite of noodles. A friendly atmosphere.

Where does the name Knowmads come from?
Guus: The term Knowmads has been thought up by John Moravec, an American researcher. His definition of a Knowmad is someone who can work with anyone, anywhere. A Knowmad is creative, imaginative and innovative. A growing group of people from all around the world does not work from a fixed location, but travels around. Everywhere they go, they learn new things. They mainly work in the creative sector. This flexible way of living is gaining popularity. 

Why is it necessary to offer an alternative for the old educational system? 
Guus: Basically, regular education has hardly changed for over a period of hundred years, while the world around us looks totally different. Especially due to the information revolution of the past years, another kind of education is needed. The old system simply no longer works for a large group of people. That group feels locked up in a classroom. And right they are, why in god’s name would you want to sit in there while there is so much to discover out there in the world? You no longer need a teacher who puts knowledge into your head, you can damn well Google it. Studying is no longer about theories and knowledge, but about cooperation, solving problems and getting things done. But the need to learn actively instead of passively is shut down at the moment that you have to sit quietly and keep your mouth shut. Not exactly a good preparation for a world in which flexibility and assertiveness are expected. 

What does studying at Knowmads mean exactly?
Guus: We offer a program of 6 months. It evolves around 5 questions for each student. The first one applies to yourself: ‘Who am I?’ The second question has an innovative, sustainable character and is as follows: ‘In what world do I want to live?’ The third question is: ‘What do I want to contribute to this?’ This way you develop a clear vision, an essential leadership’s quality for each entrepreneur. Question four is more concrete: How do I create the organization/the project to get my idea started?’ And finally: ‘How do I convey my vision to the rest of the world? Marketing and creativity play an important role in this. 

What does it look like in practice?
Guus: Workshops from experts in their field form the basis of Knowmads. Leaning back and listening to a teacher is no longer of this time, hence the workshops. You learn by doing. Our students have a lot of freedom and they decide which workshops they want to join. A variety of themes in the field of entrepreneurship are on offer, such as leadership, innovation, marketing and creativity. Students work in teams, we call them tribes. Working in groups in nothing new of course, many schools do it, but there is one main difference. Where normally people of matching types are grouped together, Knowmads strives for diversity. That way you can really learn new things from each other. Of course, everyone is developing at their own pace and you all work on your own project or start up, the tribe is the starting point.  

Developing yourself and getting some kind of grip on it, that is something we all want. But how do you do that? 
Guus: At Knowmads we do this based on, among other things, the Theory U model. The U is a learning curve. If you start an education full of enthusiasm, your expectations are of course high. With Knowmads this is no different. You have a lot of freedom and at the start everything is new and great. But you quickly find out that this freedom is pretty overwhelming. Here you really have to do things yourself. Then you may get frustrated and it will become harder. Seeing as there is nobody who has the answers you are looking for, except you. You no longer know what to do. A low point.

That doesn’t sound fun…
Guus: It isn’t. It sucks. But eventually you can break through this and get up on your feet again. In order to do this you will perhaps need to adjust your old expectations and keep trying out different things (think about your future realistically). If you want to innovate, the old often has to be reinvented first. This is the case in your whole life. And this principle of trial and error is the learning process that Knowmads makes use of by giving space to students and offering them the tools. It is not something that we came up with, it happens in any case, but if your understand this process you can keep developing yourself your whole life, independent, regardless of the situation. An essential tool for all kinds of aspects in life. 

Is the Knowmads-life style for everyone?
Guus: It takes courage to let go of the safety and the certainties of a ‘normal’ life. People who attach a lot of value to a fixed place to sleep and want dinner served at 18.00 every day, will not find this easy. Knowmads are curious people who are on an eternal quest to something they cannot find in an ordinary life. Steve Jobs once said: ‘Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.’ I think many Knowmads recognize this. Always looking to develop themselves and everywhere they go they want to create new things. 

Until the 18th July you can apply at Knowmads for the 6-month program. For more information go to www.knowmads.nl.