5 creative lessons I learned at THNK

Agatha Kim participant of Class 13
Article by: Agatha Kim
5 creative lessons I learned at THNK

"If all the walls of your house fall down what misery but what a view."


I left one galaxy for another. I went from Austin, Texas where I attended the annual SXSW Festival, to Amsterdam to join THNK School of Creative Leadership. I arrived on a windy Friday morning to a frosty feeling in the air that kept me from visiting the low-rise buildings of the Red Light District in the town center, not even to snuggle in a coffeeshop. The program was starting the next day, with classes running from nine in the morning until ten at night. I barely saw the city.


The Executive Leadership Program that I'm taking has four modules over six months. The group who starts together completes the course together. In my class, there are people from all over the world: from Costa Rica (my new friend Johan) to Kenya (my “xará” Agatha), from Sudan (the talented political cartoonist Khalid) to Haiti (my peer coach Isa), the Netherlands, Russia and even Kazakhstan. This global tribe is, of course, one of the coolest things on the planet, but that’s not all.

There are three learning strands:

  • Quest: A personal journey to develop your creative leadership skills.
  • Endeavor: Develop a venture of your own, whether it’s an incubation project or one that’s ready to be scaled up.
  • Challenge: A collaborative challenge among participants to solve a problem with global societal impact. The social focus of THNK was one of the reasons why I chose it rather than another leadership program or MBA. THNK believes that developing creative leaders can help solve the major societal challenges we face.

The first module already triggered a small transformation. Whoever thought they already knew everything forced themself to unlearn. Whoever was very sure of themself was invited to deconstruct themself. Lessons that seem obvious gain a new meaning and the world expands. I continue on an internal journey, absorbing everything I have lived in the seven days at THNK.

Here are five things I learned in the module at THNK that I want to bring to my life:

1. The body is as important as the mind

Each day began with an exercise in presence, a group physical activity that connected us with our bodies. Like the mind, the body is an essential source of energy.  It was surprising to see what your core has to say during these presence sessions, in which we stopped to pay attention and listen. I am far from becoming a crossfitter, but I will reserve moments of my day to pay more attention to my body and to take better care of it.

2. Our vulnerabilities unite us

Everyone has broken parts within. Some have managed to piece them together and expertly glue them whole, while others have pushed their broken bits under the rug and pretend they’re okay. But it’s these parts that– when we share them– help us to connect with each other, to see beyond the CEO position, successful projects, or cool clothes, and find a human being just like any other. I remember thinking I was the dumbest person in the room the first few days. I learned to see the value in the diversity of each vulnerability, including mine, and discovered on the very last day, that everyone found the rest of the room much cooler.

5 creative lessons I learned at THNK 1
Everyone has broken parts within. Sharing our #vulnerability helps us to connect with each other, to see beyond the CEO position, successful projects, or cool clothes, and find a human being just like any other. –@gaitha Click To Tweet

3. Look at the whole system to hack the system

This is a practical lesson from curriculum content. As part of the Challenge strand of the program, we work in groups to work on an issue of societal impact. Together we explored all the points in the system of the fashion industry, which is the second most polluting industry in the world.

I learned that looking at all its tips and dots to draw the interrelations of influence and power unveils a universe. Above all, it helps to reveal potential ideas and connections that, when you have a busy routine with short deadlines as I have in advertising, you might not have noticed. Being able to see the whole and the parts is essential for leading any project.

4. The value of feedback

Throughout the program, there are several moments when we stop to look at ourselves from different perspectives. In addition to the exercises in which we are invited to give feedback to each other, we work with three coaches throughout the course:

The first is your Leadership Coach who helps you in the Quest. It’s a time for deep reflective questions, but more than just scouring the past, my coach has helped me to observe the present and focus on the areas I want and need to develop. The second is your Endeavor Coach, who helps you to develop your personal or professional project. And the third is your Peer Coach, someone in your class whom you also coach.

They are three partners that give light to the moment in which we are. They stimulate us to embrace our vulnerabilities and strengths, and they help us keep focused on what we want to achieve.

Agatha Kim
Agatha Kim
Executive Strategy Director
"I have a new family spread around the world, a new base to support me. I found a place to return to when I get lost."

5. Be humble, stay focused

There are times when we feel comfortable and think that we’ve seen it all and that we know it all. At THNK, we’re invited to suspend our judgment and be open to rethinking what our certainties, to ask for help, and to open the senses.

But it’s necessary to balance those moments of complete openness and free exploration with moments of convergence to focus on purpose. Having clarity in your objectives and in what you’re seeking can help you move forward when everything seems complex and scattered.

To make a difference in the world, you have to be humble, but stay focused.

Bonus: Find your tribe

I returned home to Brazil a week ago and I already miss my classmates: the people who teach me, give me strength, and expand my world. Back in São Paulo, many difficult questions remain unanswered, the texts I need to read remain untouched, and the uncertainties have added up. But now I have a new family spread around the world, a new base to support me. I found a place to return to when I get lost.


This article originally appeared in Portuguese on Medium.

Agatha is one of the many inspiring leaders participating in the THNK Executive Leadership Program.

To find your own tribe, join the upcoming Executive Leadership Program.