Illustration: Aleyna Tezer

Life Lessons #1: ATÖLYE Academy’s Launch with Sandy Speicher

Published in ATÖLYE Insights · 4 min read · April 28, 2020

An event series by ATÖLYE Academy showcasing what leadership looks like in the 21st century.

Author: Deniz Yazıcıoğlu, Academy Project Coordinator, ATÖLYEEditors: Melissa Clissold, Özgür Arslan In-text illustrations: Aleyna Tezer

ATÖLYE Academy launched during turbulent times; in fact, we wrote about our launch during this period of uncertainty in our first Medium article that you can read here.

We did not let this period of adversity stop us from going through with our original plan of hosting Sandy Speicher, the CEO of internationally renowned design and consultancy firm IDEO, for the first edition of our event series "Life Lessons." We would have loved to host her in Istanbul in-person. However, by translating this event online, we made it even more accessible to a global audience.

About the "Life Lessons" Series

The event series Life Lessons is designed to host globally and locally renowned creative leaders from ATÖLYE Academy's local and global network so that they may share their inspiring life stories with a wider audience. The event also breaks the boundaries of the "one-to-many" talk format by inviting the participants to become a part of the story through live collective story harvesting - an exercise made popular by Art of Hosting.

Why did we invite Sandy?

Our first guest for Life Lessons was Sandy Speicher. During this 2-hour event, we had over 200 participants from all around the world! The main question Sandy addressed was:

"What does leadership look like in the 21st century?"

To this question, she presented us with an inspiring metaphor that stuck with us all:

"Leadership is walking into a dark room and turning on a light," and added, "sometimes you are the only one who feels what is inside this pitch-black room, but others need you to help them see it."

Over the past decade, as a creative leader, Sandy has helped build IDEO's education practice, as well as design educational institutions, platforms, and systems. Both a designer and an educator, she is known for her expertise in designing large-scale systems. Her most iconic work is in Peru, in which she designed the school system of the entire country from A to Z. This project is celebrated as a game-changing example of systems design.

Other projects that she is known for are the "Teacher's Guild;" which activates teachers' creativity to solve the biggest challenges in education today, and the "Purpose Project;" which is a curriculum and digital platform that helps learners explore their purpose and develop agency in the face of a changing world.

Having gained experience as an educator at institutions such as Stanford's, Washington University, and Redding Primary School, Sandy is also a member of Khan Academy's "Thought Leadership Council." Sandy currently provides strategic consultancy to Pearson, and often talks about the value that design thinking adds to educators and leaders.

As a creative leader and a systems thinker, Sandy believes that design can truly change how we might teach children in the future and allow them to embrace their own agency in order to create impact in the world.

Collective story harvesting

Illustrated by ATÖLYE Academy's Learning Designer Zeynep Aykul Yavuz (z.a.), here you can see the participants' answers to the following check-in questions and statements: "Who are you?" "Today, I showed up here because..." "Right now, I feel..." and "Currently what I'm optimistic about the world is...".

As a reminder of the experience, Zeynep also created a live illustration of the workshop as it took place.

So, the messages that everyone can gain from this valuable life story is:

  • Keep on switching the lights on in those dark rooms that you step in - especially in times of disequilibrium! Times of adversity always push us to dig deeper, face ourselves - change ourselves if need be - for the better, and as a result, the communities and the world around us.
  • Look at yourself in the mirror everyday and ask yourself: "Do I like what I am doing, and do I like where I am doing it?" - if the answer is yes, great. If the answer is consistently no, then ask yourself "why?" and explore your options.
  • Finally, remind yourself-at any given time-of the question "What is the world asking you to pay attention to?" Listen to your calling, and go for it!

We would like to thank Sandy once again for such an inspiring talk and everyone who attended for their time, thoughts, and contribution. If you want to be informed about our upcoming events, subscribe to our newsletter! Also please check out our new webpage!