Tuesday was the first full day of executive education and what location is better than Stanford University? There was a lot of bleary eyed entrepreneurs with the early start, but everyone was fully awake by the time they had breakfast and sat down in the d. school to participate in a workshop with Professor Stuart Coulson. The Stanford d. school is described as ‘a place where people use design to develop their own creative potential’ and this was certainly evident in the morning session with Stuart. Stuart introduced the group to the concept of deign thinking and after a while all of the entrepreneurs were getting into their creative zone building their prototypes with the material provided.
After this creative session we got a tour of the grounds from Kerry native Mary Nolan. Mary is Head Grounds-Supervisor at Stanford and has been for the past 24 years! It was lovely to explore the beautiful campus in the balmy sunshine and we ended the tour at the Stanford Alumni Centre, where our afternoon session was taking place. My favorite part of the campus was the Inner Quad area with its purple ‘Jacaranda’ tree.
Everyone then enjoyed lunch in the sunshine on the outdoor courtyard of the Alumni Centre before heading back inside to one of the lecture rooms to listen to Professor Jonathan Levav. Jonathan gave a lecture on consumer buyer behavior, in particular: what shapes our decisions; how we can steer situations so people can make better decisions; and how institutions help and hurt one’s judgment. I found this lecture really interesting and it was one of the many highlights of the week for me, as it links in to some of the modules that I have done in Commerce and further developed my understanding of this subject.
The day finished up with a casual fireside chat between Bobby Kerr and John Ryan, SVG Partner. John is an inventor of over sixty US patents and in 1997, John was named Inventor of the Year by the Silicon Valley Intellectual Property Lawyers’ Association. Bobby and John discussed his entrepreneurial journey and there was not a sound in the room during this conversation. I think the group found John both fascinating and inspiring.
We all loaded onto the buses again and headed back into the city. We were tight for time but still managed to pull off our Big Top Night in spectacular style in the Westin St. Francis. It was truly an indulgent affair in a gold ballroom on the top floor of the Westin with views of the city surrounding us at every angle. Our guest speaker was the Mayor of San Francisco, Edwin Lee. He met and chatted with everyone and it was clear he was excited about his upcoming visit to my home county, Cork! Everyone really enjoyed his speech, which touched on the point that all nationalities, immigrants and international companies will always be welcome in San Francisco and in fact benefit their economy and culture. Along with the Mayor a few more finalists gave their pitches to the group.
Another early start on Wednesday with a bus ride to Singularity University on the NASA Research Centre in Palo Alto, for more executive education. Singularity, along with its high security and passing the NASA Mountain View Hanger on the campus added to the excitement of visiting the university. The first speaker of the morning was Pascal Finette with a lecture on Exponential Thinking which included the six D’s of Disruption. He left the group with this quote from George Bernard Shaw; “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man (and woman)”.
Next up was Dr. Tiffany Vora on Digital Biology which everyone found fascinating and crazy all at once; from topics such as gene editing, and discovering future products such as a smart toilet and a handheld DNA sequencer. Our final lecture was from Darlene Damm on Solving the World’s Biggest Social Challenges with Exponential Technologies. The main point from Darlene’s lecture was that “We need to believe in and invest in humans as much as we believe in and invest in technology.”
After the morning of lectures we all split into smaller groups. Each group got a chance to explore some of Singularity’s exponential technological inventions, including an interactive robot that sang and danced ‘Gangnam Style’ much to everyone’s amusement! After a group photo and a few selfies in front of the Mountain View Hanger, it was back on the buses and on to our next destination.