Back to the Future

Going full circle is something I don’t have the opportunity to do often, but I experienced the enormous value of going back last week. The setting was the Minneapolis College of Art and Design – (MCAD) – the college I attended three decades ago. It was considered very modern at the time I attended, and today appears unchanged for the most part. The main building, framed by glass and steel, still held its own in neutral whites and grays, and provides the perfect setting for gallery displays of student work.

At this particular time, just weeks after the 125th anniversary of the college there were highlights and features of alumni who have made their mark on the art and design world. It was inspiring and reflective and a great opportunity to be present in the past.

The future, however, was in a room down the hall, filled with high school students who were part of the BrandLab summer internship program. Thirty-two eager young people who displayed an uncommon range of experiences and aspirations, who would soon be at advertising agencies, corporations, and design studios, and all trying to soak up the wisdom swirling around them. Where would they work? What would it be like? How should they prepare? The week was about just that.

TransForm’s role was to help students understand their personal brand through sessions called – the brand of me. As Sarah McNally gave instruction to the students to help them describe and shape their personal brand, I got to walk around the room and ask people if they had questions, listen in on their conversations as they shared their attributes, talked about style and discovered a whole new and meaningful way to express who they are and who they aspire to be.

There was something about that experience that was exciting for our whole team. Of course, when the sessions were over, we compared the work with the teenagers to the work we do with adults in the business world. How could we capture some of that wonderful energy? How can we inspire a sense of immense opportunity coupled with vulnerability, where you can know what you know but bring a fresh point of view?

We often talk about the value of the pause, of reflection and then action. In urgent circumstances the need is so profound yet elusive. How can corporate cultures and ideas be approached with the same wonder, newness and enthusiasm as in internship? How can risk feel like opportunity and a vision get so big that it makes room for everyone? It is what we at TransForm endeavor to do with people every day and, when circumstances allow, we get to be reminded of why it matters so much.

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