January 19, 2022

Ei State of the Union, 2022

Every year for the past seven years, the team and I have shared honest reflections about Experience Institute's work and our ambitions for the coming year. This is our way of inviting you into what’s happening behind the scenes as we work to improve higher education and workforce development.

So, grab your favorite beverage and let’s dive into Ei's 2022 State of the Union:

First, why we’re here:

Our systems of education need massive reform. Everything from where, when, and how we learn are experiencing much-needed change — all at a time when our entire future isn’t dependent on what we know, but how we learn.

Ei’s piece of that evolution is elevating the role of experiential learning throughout our lives and work. We believe more experiential learning leads to individuals and teams having greater empathy, confidence, and abilities. But teaching and learning through experience is much more difficult to grasp than traditional forms of learning.

Because of that...

We spend our days designing hands-on programs with an emphasis on "leaps" — experiences that move people from their zones of comfort to moments of discovery and growth. We’re aiming for a future where learning through gap years, sabbaticals, workplace innovation projects, and lifelong learning “leaps” are accessible and celebrated parts of higher education and the workforce.

2021 in Review: 10 highlights from our biggest year ever.

Last year, we doubled down on our work with teams and companies, while continuing to experiment in higher education. We were blown away by the reception to the changes and additions our team made.

Here are ten highlights from the year:

1) Launching an internal rebranding project that led to a new Ei website and updated logo (will share the backstory of that project in an upcoming Wednesday Words).

2) Rethinking how companies work with us. We created a "catalog" of experiential workshops that can be delivered in 90min to 3hrs and we categorized them within four main skills for the workplace: Self-Awareness, Storytelling, Management, and Innovation.

3) Building a rockstar team who care about one another and this work. We grew our instructor team to an amazing group of leaders who wow us every day.

4) Helping a Fortune 50 company roll out workshops to navigate the shift to remote and hybrid work in a more human way.

5) Creating an executive leadership team strategy process as a series of MBA-like workshops focused on setting and implementing a five-year strategic vision.

6) Creating offsite experiences for groups and teams in Philadelphia, Utah, Denver, and the Bay Area.

7) Designing a company-wide innovation program that culminated in a 90-day team-sprint to identify and tackle three internal challenges.

8) Relaunching our in-person class at Stanford, focused on helping Product Design students reimagine how they use their time off-campus (summer, gap quarters, etc).

9) Continuing our program with University of Pennsylvania (Experience Lab), helping recent college graduates launch from college to career with a 3-month full-time job experience.

10) Publishing our weekly newsletter, Wednesday Words, for the 7th year. Our readership and engagement is higher than ever.

We wrapped up 2021 having completed more learning experiences, for more people than ever, with our largest team to date. The best part, our reviews from learners and leaders alike were the highest yet.

Now, 2022

With an amazing team and more energy than ever, we’ll be building on the momentum of last year. Here’s how:

  • MAGIC + TEAM: Our focus will remain on our experiential magic. We’re cooking up a special way to help facilitators and educators employ experiential learning in more companies, universities, and schools. And we’re spending thoughtful time with our team of educators and network of learning and development leaders to understand how to make experiences more accessible, no matter the age or time. We're doing all of this with an ongoing commitment to being an Anti-Racist company. We’ll share more about these initiatives throughout this year's writings and videos.

  • 1 MILLION: Internally, we’ve been exploring how to scale with soul. What would it look like to help 1 million people take leaps? We’re not interested in growth for the sake of growth. We want experiences to be as credible and celebrated as classroom learning, and we know that’s going to take a lot of movement. To that end, we’re exploring technology, curriculum, and physical products.

  • OUR CORE: We see our work with companies and teams as the core of the business today. In many ways, companies have become the new “Lifelong Learning” universities of our time and HR Directors/managers are the new deans and educators. We know that anything we do will need to support our friends in these spaces.

In Closing

As I look at the world of learning and work today, I feel a great sense of hope. Amidst historic upheaval in the workforce, the conversation around education continues to shift from just schools, universities, degrees and certificates, to our workplaces, homes, and each of our lives. As that change continues to happen, the things we do and experience each day become our class projects, and we don’t just become coworkers, we shift to classmates. All of which sparks greater curiosity and empathy.

That’s the power of experience. That’s why we’re here.

No matter where you are today, when you feel stuck or overwhelmed or uncertain, our hope is that you see the challenge at hand as your next learning moment. Ask for help, seek new ways forward, and try something new. Those experiences may just change your life. Trust us.

The team who helped build Ei in 2021!
Front row left to right: Katie, Zak, Megan, Victor, Aaron, Sara, Stephanie, and Phoebe
Middle: Sophia, Angela, Brandie, Lexi, Collin, Heather, Mike, Stella, Lisa, JC, Ellie, Faith, Melissa
Back: Dustin, Jon, Kaz, Eddie,Tyler, Bill, Drake, Demus, Juan Martin, Nic, Diane, Stella, Rod, Brian, Odell.

Illustration by our friend, Tracie.

PS: Thanks to Aaron, Katie, Megan, Sara, Phoebe, Zak, and Katie (#2) for helping create this year's State of the Union.

PPS: If you know someone who needs a dose of inspiration and imagination in life or work, pass this piece along and invite them to add their name here. Thanks for sharing!

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