The Class of 2019/20

October 2019 — #Steven Hess

The Class of 2019/20

Class 0, it all starts from here. This sets the tone, the style, the mojo for all classes to follow or break. Not a tall order for The Admin class then...  

A class that has three goals

  • an educational goal to help fellows understand the structure and style of classes
  • a structural goal to help fellows connect within study groups
  • a social goal to help fellows begin the process of getting to know each other

So the idea for this class was simple, teach by doing, run the class sharing the relevant information, engaging with class interaction where possible and keep the energy high.  Oh and take a portrait of each fellow while running the class. 

A little bit of prep

Prior to the session I drafted an agenda to cover the main points, seeking input from Wen and reflecting on what we learned before.  We know from prior years that the main challenge for this class is for fellows to form study groups with enough information about each other, so it is not hit and miss.  This year we made a shift, we to encourage sharing and interaction prior to forming the groups. We also choose to remove the pressure on the groups by recognising that we are open to restructuring in the second half of the program if helpful.

First things first

I began by sharing the agenda, timing and goals for the class.

Then it was a time for quick updates, an opportunity for fellows to share news and ask for help.  This section, the book recommendations and the plenary session at the end are “our time” an opportunity to build relationships and share expertise.   We’ve learnt that it is too easy to allow the main billing to overcome this vital cohort time.

For my books it would have been straight forward to share a couple of start-up books like The Lean Startup or The Hard Thing About Hard Things but I wanted to ensure that everyone knew that the book recommendations needed to be personal and powerful, welcoming and provocative.  What was important about these books?  What did you learn?  How did you come across the books?

Reading lists

I choose How Will You Measure Your Life by Clayton Christensen and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande.  Both require self-reflection and provoke the reader to consider his or her purpose, where they are going and what kind of individual they want to be.  This is the foundation of the program, our program, one that focusses on the entrepreneur, the human, “the human inside the startup” - a theme I will keep circling back to during our six months together. 

A modular approach

Next we moved to the structure of classes – all classes follow the same format – agenda, updates, books, main event (the focus of that class), reflection and learning.

Wen helped bring the potential of the class to life with his Class Canvas which also helped to reduce the challenge of contemplating, organising and evaluating a class into bite sized chunks for would-be CEOs.

Two important organisational components left:-

  • organising the study groups
  • allocating classes

To help facilitate a slightly more informed study group selection we ran a fast paced “get to know you exercise: – everyone had 90 seconds to find something unusual and something in common with their partner.  While this was ongoing we asked fellows to step outside to have their portrait taken. 

We could then move towards forming study groups around shared interests, stage or  experiences.  The class was given five minutes to self organise into groups of no less than three and no more than four.  But in the fellows infinite wisdom we’ve ended up with two groups of five and one group of maybe two – the wisdom of crowds!  Perhaps we could run an online session prior where fellows outline what they are looking for in the study group and what their own experiences might be.  Maybe having a little more knowledge about each other would help prep more efficiently.  This is something we should consider for SLP 2021.

We then moved to allocating classes to the fellows. This is a bit like the main event, SLP is peer-peer driven so choosing the right class is important.  Classes are obviously available online at startupleadership.co.uk  and next year it would be helpful to share via email a list so fellows were prepped.  I laid out all available classes by title on the floor, each a headline on an a4 page.  I then walked through the basic educational goal of each.  Fellows were asked to choose by picking up the relevant class page. 

To my surprise everyone ran energetically to their chosen class.  Perhaps we need to have a more democratic approach – each fellow selecting their top 3, in order of priority, where there are multiple applications for the same class we could invite a discussion from each fellow on their ideas and relevance for the class.  Maybe with the class voting on who takes it – I’ve received some great and diverse feedback through the type-form evaluation. So far we are at 4.5 (5.0) which is creeping ahead of 2019.  A strong start. 

Overall everyone got a class and I believe that most fellows are content if not happy.

Finally, we discussed social media and the opportunity for SLP London 2020 to be the breakout year.  I hope for this every year.

Our plenary session focussed on fellows commenting that it was great to get to learn about each other a little more and how diverse the cohort seemed to be.

Next year

Share more before hand – the structure of classes, maybe bios of each fellow and areas where fellows are seeking help.

It is worth reviewing how we allocate classes and maybe there is some pre class pre that can help to refine the process.

Very much looking forward to SLP 2020 and thank my class for encouraging me to write up this writeup.

SH 3.10.19