Fall 2016 Weekend Honors Program: Entrepreneurship & Human Flourishing

This conference recap was written by Hannah Wardell, a senior at Gordon College and Values & Capitalism intern in Fall 2016.

Harvard University, Boston, MA | Friday, November 4 – Saturday, November 5, 2016

During the first weekend of November, Values & Capitalism welcomed 21 students from 16 different schools across the country to its Weekend Honors Program on Entrepreneurship and Human Flourishing at Harvard Law School. The two day seminar was designed to bring some of the best and brightest Christian students from secular schools together for business school-style tutorials focused on entrepreneurship and faith.

The King’s College Professor Brian Brenberg kicked of the weekend Friday afternoon with an infuriating problem solving exercise that left five groups of students frantically racing to put together a complicated puzzle under the constraint of production rules. In the end, it was a lesson on how assumptions halt progress and productivity.

At Friday night’s dinner, we were joined by the CEO of Sword and Spoon Group, John Kingston. Mr. Kingston discussed how he understands his faith as a part of his work, pointing to the inconclusiveness of the prophet Jeremiah’s life. He commended students to “view their life as an enterprise” and learn how to take risks with full faith in God’s goodness and the acknowledgment that living a good life may not feel conclusive.

Saturday morning opened with a Harvard Business School case study on the game-changing fashion start-up Rent the Runway. Prof. Brenberg walked students through the process by which the “Netflix of fashion” gained its first supporters, tested its first markets, and established its first clientele. Beyond the formal case study, the discussion landed on the ethical implications of a company that advertises itself as the “drug dealer of fashion”—leading to a debate about the wider purpose of business in society.

Prof. Brenberg’s second lesson of the day centered on LL Bean Boots and failure. Leon Leon Bean designed a hunting boot for Maine winters, but 90 of his first 100 boots fell apart. Thankfully, failure didn’t stop him and he kept reengineering what has become the most famous winter boot in America. Failure follows close by every entrepreneurial venture, but thankfully Christians don’t need to fear it. Prof. Brenberg taught that Christians are in the ideal situation to become entrepreneurs because their identity isn’t tied up in earthly failure (or success, for that matter), it’s tied up in Christ. We shouldn’t fear failure because it is “the means by which we walk fully into our identities” not something that changes who we are. After considering “what would you do if you weren’t afraid of failure?” students ended the session with a fresh perspective and a newfound boldness to turn their ideas and dreams into action.

John Coleman, a Harvard MBA grad, managing director at Invesco and co-author of Passion and Purpose spoke to the group during lunch about understanding personal purpose and leadership. He drew from Andy Crouch’s new book Strong and Weak and David Brook’s The Road to Character, encouraging students to take authority over their own lives while still demonstrating considerable vulnerability by taking risks. This, he said, will lead to a life full of “eulogy virtues” instead of just a good resume. Mr. Coleman ended with the charge to value people before experiences, and experiences before things.

IMG_2846The CEO of the outdoor gear start-up Kammok led the seminar’s afternoon sessions. Haley Robison, a Stanford MBA grad, taught students the fundamentals of design thinking by pairing them up to work through the stages of empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing to reengineer a gift for their partner. After an hour of storytelling and creating pipe cleaner prototypes, students presented how design thinking had expanded their creative capacity and produced newfound innovations in gift giving.

Ms. Robison then taught students how to map out a business on a Business Model Canvas. After discussing how to identify key partners, value propositions, customer segments, and more, Haley invited two students to map out their own business ideas with the help of the other participants.

Finally, Gordon College President Michael Lindsay and author of View From the Top, closed out the weekend during dinner on Saturday night. Dr. Lindsay, one of the leading sociologists on leadership, has interviewed over 550 top leaders from every sector of American life. As he chronicled the faith, hope, and love of Horst Schulze, Condoleezza Rice, and Mike Ullman, students got an inside look at what it means to be a faithful Christian leader in positions of prestige.

After a jam-packed weekend, students left with a new cohort of friends and a deeper understanding of how their faith impacts their entrepreneurial ventures, vocational purpose, and understandings of success and failure. One student remarked that “This weekend completely changed my views… I now see entrepreneurship as a means of creation, comparable to designing a piece of artwork.”


Sch
edule:

Friday, November 4
3:00 pm: Registration
3:30 pm: Welcome and Introductions
4:00 pm: Tutorial I: Brian Brenberg, The King’s College
6:00 pm: Opening Dinner | John Kingston, Sword & Spoon Group

Saturday, November 5
8:30 am: Breakfast
9:00 am: Tutorial II: Brian Brenberg, The King’s College
10:30 am: Tutorial III: Brian Brenberg, The King’s College
12:00 pm: Lunch | John Coleman, Invesco, Ltd., Harvard Business Review
1:30 pm: Practicum I: Haley Robison, Kammok
6:00 pm: Closing Dinner and Reception | President Michael Lindsay, Gordon College
8:00 pm: Student and Alumni Reception

Speaker/Instructor Bios:

Brian Brenberg teaches classes in business and economics at The King’s College. Prior to joining the King’s faculty, he held positions in the medical device and financial services industries, as well as public policy research. He earned an MBA with distinction from Harvard Business School and a Master’s in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School. In addition to his teaching at King’s, Professor Brenberg has written for USA Today, Forbes, The Washington Examiner, FOXNews.com, and WORLD Magazine, and has appeared on CNBC, FOX Business Television, FOX News Radio, and The Blaze. He lectures regularly for the Foundation for Economic Education and serves on the faculty advisory council for the American Enterprise Institute’s Values & Capitalism project. He resides in New York City with his wife, Krista, and their three children.

Haley Robison is the chief executive officer at Kammok, an innovative and socially-conscious outdoor gear company. Prior to joining the Kammok team, Haley worked as a curriculum designer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, where she designed and implemented “Career Design,” a new career methodology to help incoming MBAs assess their personal and professional priorities. She also spent three years as a consultant at Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm, advising clients on a wide range of strategic issues. An outdoor enthusiast, Haley completed the three-month National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in 2011 and has also led climbing and backpacking expeditions focused on personal leadership for high school students. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business and Finance from the University of Texas at Austin and a joint master’s degree in Business Administration and Education from Stanford University.

John Coleman is CAO and Managing Director, Alternatives and Institutional for Invesco, Ltd. a diversified asset manager based in Atlanta, GA, with nearly $800 billion in assets under management. He has previously served as global Head of Strategy and Business Planning for the firm. His work has been featured in numerous publications including the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, the Washington Post, and Bloomberg Businessweek. John’s writing has appeared outlets including Forbes, Businessweek, and the Harvard Business Review. His second book, Passion & Purpose: Stories from the Best and Brightest Young Business Leaders (Harvard Business Review Press, 2011), has been featured in the Washington Post, the Financial Times, the Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, the Stanford Social Innovation Review, among other publications.  He is a regular online contributor to Harvard Business Review where he focuses on personal development and leadership issues. John is a graduate of Berry College, and he earned an MPA from the Harvard Kennedy School, where he held Zuckerman and George Fellowships with the Center for Public Leadership. And he earned an MBA with High Distinction from the Harvard Business School, where he was a Dean’s Awards winner and Class Day Speaker. John lives in Atlanta, GA, with his wonderful wife Jackie and blogs at Harvard Business Review.

John Kingston is the Chairman and CEO of the Sword & Spoon Group and its related companies:  Sword & Spoon Workshop (the parent company of Sword & Spoon Productions and OQ Farm), Sword & Spoon Foundation, and SixSeeds, and managing member of OQ Partners, a private investment firm. He formerly served as the Vice Chairman and General Counsel for AMG, a global asset management company with more than $600 billion in assets under management. John serves on the boards of the Foundation for Excellence in Higher Education, Pioneer Institute, The Veritas Forum, Patheos, and Guard Support of Massachusetts. He is also a member of the Committee to Fix the Debt, the American Enterprise Institute National Council, the National Republican Senatorial Committee Majority Makers, and the Republican Governor’s Association Executive Roundtable. John received a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Pennsylvania, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School.

D. Michael Lindsay serves as the eighth president of Gordon College. President Lindsay earned his undergraduate degree from Baylor University, graduate degrees from Princeton Seminary and Oxford University, and a Ph.D. in sociology from Princeton University. Prior to his appointment as president of Gordon, Dr. Lindsay served on the faculty of Rice University. He is the author of two dozen scholarly publications, including Faith in the Halls of Power and View from the Top.

 

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