My good friend Dan Hoffman attended the Dangerous Education dinner that was held last year in Barcelona. As a CEO excited about improving workforce development and an EdTech advisor, investor, and entrepreneur, he was a valuable addition to the group we brought together.
We had an incredible discussion about how and why the school system has failed us, and people shared quite differing opinions on who is ultimately responsible for educating our young people.
Since I’ve been back to Barcelona for a few months (Dan, like me, is technically based in New York but also enjoying the Spanish mediterranean for a while), I figured I’d reconnect with him for a follow-up conversation about the "Jeffersonian Dinner" experience.
On why he was at the table:
“I think everyone at the dinner had the same question because the caliber of people was impressive but the backgrounds were so diverse.
In my case, I was new to the field of education. However, as a CEO I think a lot about the necessity of establishing a culture of learning. Learning gives me energy so I decided that would be the inspiration for my next venture.”
On his favorite teacher:
“That question got wildly different responses when you asked it over dinner. I remember Tiina Makela, a renowned expert in the Finnish Education system saying every teacher was her favorite which sounded pretty unrealistic until she explained that she was taught that it was her job as the student to learn — that the onus was on her.“
On what came after the dinner:
“Well, one guy from the dinner ended up as a business partner, and another as an advisor.
A third gentleman, Eduard Vallory, had written World Scouting: Educating For Global Citizenship, a book about scouting and it was interesting because I never thought about the scout movement as the biggest educational institution on the planet. The diversity in the room really pushed the boundaries of thinking about education.”
“Overall I’m interested in how to get people to be self-directed learners. My next venture is exploring how to form peer groups with common interests to take learning journeys together.
On what topic he'd select if he were a dinner host:
“I've been thinking about the book Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux and would love to further explore the future of the company. My new venture is specifically focused on this. There so many things that just feel wrong about organizations from the way we do budgeting to the practice of peer reviews, and I’d love to dive into this.
Some of the case studies I’ve read have been inspiring. The U.S. military is super interesting — Stan McChrystal and the 5000+ person daily calls he’d have while commanding the Afghan war, for example.
Also there’s a Dutch home-care provider, Buurtzorg Nederland, that has 7000 employees and only thirty people in ‘headquarters’ because nurse teams self-govern. These are the types of ideas and cases I’d like to explore.”
On where he'd want to host his dinner:
“We can do the direct opposite of the dinner topic and host in a bureaucratic city like Brussels. I understand that in Kurdistan they are experimenting with interesting principles to create a non-hierarchical democratic government. So perhaps hosting it there, and inviting local leaders, would be interesting.”
On something we should have asked at the dinner:
There were so many things that came up throughout the night organically. There was already more that came out of it than what I think we all envisioned so I can’t think of anything additional.