Meeting of the Minds: THNK FSTVL 2018

Madlen Popignatova 17
Article by: Sophie Poulsen
Meeting of the Minds: THNK FSTVL 2018

The seventh annual FSTVL brought over 150 THNKers back home to THNK this past weekend. THNK FSTVL is an annual gathering of THNKers designed to explore the deeper self, learn new ways of doing and being, and drink from the collective well of inspiration. In true THNK fashion, we filled the 72-hour immersive experience with 19 sessions, THNKer spotlight evenings, city escapades, and plenty of food and drink.


FSTVL was comprised of four types of sessions:

  1. Hard skills (venture design, scaling)
  2. Innovation & disruption (technology, prototyping)
  3. The self (personal development, spirituality)
  4. Inspiration (storytelling, pitching)


Many sessions had an entrepreneurial focus, from getting started and getting funded, to innovation, scaling, and more.


THNKer Adnan Mirza kicked off the theme with his session Getting Started: Going from vision to chopping wood and carrying water. Attendees refined their individual action-oriented purpose statements. They presented their written statement to each other, inviting other attendees to give feedback on what became a walking exhibit of purpose.


THNK Faculty Huib Wurfbain and THNKer Richard Kooloos discussed how to develop a concrete pitch for investors. Huib, who is also an angel investor, talked about his own experience with investing and how to establish a good relationship with your investor. Strong emphasis was placed on the importance of evaluating potential investors to ensure they are a good fit with you and your venture, not only attracting investors.


Mark Vernooij tasked attendees with exploring how to build an innovation engine within their own organizations and ventures in his session on Innovation DNA. Based on the five elements of an innovative organization, attendees reflected on their company's organizational structure, learning networks, and innovation needs.


In his session, THNK Partner Mark Vernooij talked about the five elements of an innovative organization.

Innovation and disruption are built into THNK’s DNA. We help to shape creative leaders who will, in turn, go on and shape the future.

It’s no surprise that in order to innovate, we need to innovate the way we lead. In the Leading from Love workshop at FSTVL, attendees learned techniques to help remove blockages that limit their capacity to lead, returning to their natural state of being.

Scott Summit’s Emerging Tech demo presented the amazing and unexpected evolution of 3D printing and the impact it’s making on the world we live in. 3D printing has advanced incredibly and now spans use cases ranging from a topology-optimized skateboard to a comfortable and even fashionable brace to treat scoliosis, and the first acoustic guitar to be 3D printed, amongst others.

Michael Sturtz joined our forum on Prototyping Life. Michael is an experienced creative who, amongst other things, founded The Crucible and led the prototyping lab at X (formerly Google X). During the session, Michael talked about his experience as a creative, working in both creative as well as corporate environments. One lesson he shared with the group is that innovation happens everywhere, and not always in the workplace; a creative life opens entrepreneurial doors that conventional thinking cannot.

The importance of embracing failure was also a recurring theme. Prototyping is all about being open and willing to fail, but also learning from those mistakes and improving upon every iteration of your concept. For Michael, failing forward is an essential part of his learning and creation process.

'What is the highest and best use of my time in this world?' – #THNKFSTVL forum guest Michael Sturtz. #creative #impact #leadership Click To Tweet

Renowned economist Kate Raworth joined us to discuss Doughnut Economics, an economic model that balances essential human needs and planetary boundaries. During the session, Kate discussed the important role that organizations play in ensuring a sustainable and prosperous future and recent mental shifts to this effect. While organizations in the 20th century prioritized profit and shareholder value, organizations in the 21st century cannot afford to ignore their impact on the world.

'The 21st-century enterprise asks: ‘How many benefits can we generate from the way we design this enterprise?'' – economist and #THNKFSTVL forum guest @KateRaworth. #economics #business #leadership Click To Tweet

You can be an expert in venture design or change management, but without deep reflection and introspection, you will not reach your full leadership potential. FSTVL also delivered sessions on creativity and art as mechanisms for personal growth and channels for leadership capabilities.

THNKer Heidi Boisvert organized a session on Biomedia, Performance, and Social Change, a multi-modal workshop where attendees collected personal experiences of trauma to form a collective narrative by transforming embedded somatic scripts and historical patterns into live drawings and music.

THNK Faculty Lieselotte Nooyen and Andra Perrin organized a session on Sources of Energy: How your past mentors and talents can strengthen you, where they explored how we can use our roots and ancestors to tap into our leadership potential.


THNKer Heidi Boisvert‘s session on Biomedia, Performance, and Social Change.

The power of a community lies in its ability to kindle deep connections and become a source of inspiration for its members.

At our THNK Spotlight: Storytelling session at FSTVL, a few THNKers got up and told personal stories that had an impact on their business and the way they work. THNKer Jennifer Kanary Nikolova, for example, told the story of her sister-in-law, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed suicide. Struck by how little she knew about psychosis, she started using mixed reality tools to help others find out what it’s like to experience psychosis.

At our THNK Spotlight: Pitches event, another group of THNKers got up and showcased their initiatives and projects. One of them was THNKer Pepijn van Dijk, Director of LittleBitz, a social startup that offers an easy way to donate to vulnerable displaced people around the world. LittleBitz is currently in the process of launching an app, with the goal of making donating easier, more personal, and more effective than traditional donation methods.

As a community, our power lies not in scaling technological solutions, but in scaling our humanity. #community #creativeleadership #impact Click To Tweet

Creative leadership inherently combines personal development and innovation. FSTVL — busy as it was — brought these elements together successfully in an intense 3-day gathering. Above all, it was an enriching retreat for the community, as THNKer Peter Mandeno so eloquently put into words:

We all may look different but we’re really the same
I share your joy, you share my pain
This is a journey. No beginning, no end
Our collective success will really depend
On the way we combine the strengths that we bring
To make the world laugh, to dream big and to sing
It’s not always easy, the path seldom clear
But when we listen to our hearts, solutions appear
To guide us all on. One step at a time
Today your success. Tomorrow it’s mine
When we challenge each other
To be braver and bolder
Sometimes we will need a familiar shoulder
To lean on and regain the strength that we seek
To continue the journey, week after week
And as we push forward we must never forget
To gift ourselves time to stop and reflect
To take a deep breath and to look all around
To connect with our roots
Plant our feet on the ground
To be grateful for this chance that we have, you and me
To do all that we do and see all that we see
As we return to the ‘real world’
The chaos of life’s game
We are different now but we’re still just the same
In the sharing of moments and the words that were spoken
The spirit in us was again re-awoken
So I thank you my fellow traveling kin
For the open embrace and for welcoming me in
For inspiring my mind. For nurturing my soul
For sending me back to the world a little more whole

In previous years, FSTVL has inspired major ventures, and this year we already see THNKers going home with new ideas and collaborations — ideas we can’t wait to see come to life at FSTVL 2019. Stay tuned…

Discover the power of community in the THNK Executive Leadership Program.