Learn how to leave your comfort zone

Hyper Island is an experience that has had me venturing far outside of my comfort zone. One might even say I was brought into my danger zone—one of many new terms I came into contact with during my time in the Digital Innovation program here in Amsterdam.

As an individual somewhat immersed in traditional academia, I was initially wary of the Hyper Island “way”. I had read about experience-based learning and the impact of positivity in the workplace, but my years of university training have granted me a (somewhat) healthy measure of skepticism. Both of my degrees relied heavily on critical thinking and deconstructive techniques, so I came into the Hyper Island environment prepared to take things apart. Hence, ‘danger zone’.

Hyper Island is all about construction. Rather than starting with a finished product and breaking it down, we are given raw pieces and told to make something of them, to ideate and iterate and prototype. Our goal throughout this course was, at its core, to learn how to create, not only content but ideas and processes and relationships that would carry us into this new digital future that is unfolding.

To accomplish this, my cohort and I were guided through three modules of development in design thinking, emergent technology, and self-marketing. Provided with a brief to tackle using design thinking methods, we had the chance to collaborate with unfamiliar partners in a sprint session of five days coordinated by the bearded genius Andy Young.

This session allowed us all to figure out how we work in groups under the pressure of a deadline and the looming specter of a major pitch, an experience many of us had never had before. It also brought us closer together as a crew and made our following technology expo, facilitated by the gracious and brilliant Ubi de Feo and Kees Plattel, a cohesive display of teamwork and creative innovation. Our theme, ‘Connecting Dots’, focused on the concept of connectivity, between people and technology in this new digital era, and using our newfound knowledge of little bits, Arduino, and coding, we produced exhibition pieces that played with the idea of what it means to be connected.

These modules enabled us to collaborate and experience new methods of working; encouraged to foster an agile mindset; and, supported by a number of resources from both our facilitators here in Amsterdam and those available to all members of the Hyper Island family. In the process, we learned the steps to creating a group culture that allows for self-expression and useful feedback—a group culture that includes, rather than competes. While the inevitable hiccups and frustrations occurred, as they must, I believe we all benefited, in a multitude of forms, from the time we spent together during our course.

As a result of the self-marketing module and a rapid-fire match-making session with creative agencies around Amsterdam, most of us are now two months into our traineeships at various creative agencies around the city, putting into practice the models and methods we learned from Hyper Island. Whether that is the Double Diamond—a process of expanding and contracting one’s knowledge to fit the task at hand—or sitting down to brainstorm with an unfamiliar team, we’ve been set off with a toolbox of knowledge and contacts in the hopes of making headway in our passions. In addition, we are surrounded by a support system of friends and colleagues who understand where we came from and where we want to go, and we are all focused on helping each other get there. This is an invaluable resource, one which I think many people lack when going into the job market.

Ultimately, our crew found that being part of Hyper Island is all about connection, all about forging new paths, rather than walking old ones. Digital innovation combines that progressive drive with a sensitivity to what the future means for us – in terms of technology and people. Hyper Island builds a stable foundation from which to create the structure of our lives with an emphasis on agility and flexibility. We can handle anything, as long as we are open and willing to step up to the challenge.

By Dominique Brigham. At Nomads, Dominique handles strategic research into a number of exciting projects. She holds a master’s degree in Cultural Analysis from the University of Amsterdam and spends most of her free time writing fantasy and science fiction novels.