When the world is on fire, events are not really possible. As Many conference organizers have already failed with their digital formats, it takes something new, something completely different to bring people together anyway. The answer from the House of Beautiful Business team and its organizers Monika, Tim and Till is ambitious but genius: a hybrid conference format, virtual and simultaneously analog in over 35 cities around the world — where local hubs are organized in the form of walking tours, dinners and many other activities.
With the title “The Great Wave” a four-day journey was choreographed, in which there was something to experience, learn, hear and feel at any time, from any place on earth. The goal was no smaller than reinventing business and yourself.
A wave in which a new 3D Internet technology has been used to create a virtual island where you can move freely, meet avatars and admire art in addition to the surroundings and nature. The homepage gave much more to discover, for example countless films by the filmmakers in residence, music by the musicians in residence, past sessions and so much more. A wave that set off individual smaller waves, so-called ripples, in the form of curated WhatsApp groups, where you could meet new people and exchange ideas on specific topics.
Friday – The Formation of the Great Wave
On Friday evening we started. Monika, Till and Tim appear on our screen, which we set up in our office to watch the opening event with pizza and beer for a unique weekend together with our colleagues. It looks like a perfectly coordinated TV show, which is the beginning of a huge program on the channels Zoom, Vimeo or live.
The big wave in the House of Beautiful Business context consists of seven main sessions, which guide the participant through the immense program. The first session was one of our highlights. Covering the topic “The Anatomy of a Wave” very different personalities had their say. We heard from the following esteemed individuals: Oliver Plunkett, CEO of Ocean Inifinity, an American marine robotics company, Shohini Ghose, an Indian physics professor who deals with the quantum revolution and talks about universe’s uncertainty in the session, and the German Sea-Watch captain Carola Rackete, Maurice Mitchell, who leads New York’s Black Lives movement, and above all the unique Dr. Syra Madad, who really stood out.
Dr. Syra Madad is famous for her statements in the Netflix documentary “Pandemic”. In the session, she talked about the connection between the pandemic and climate change, warns that this will not be the last pandemic and that we and our political leaders must prepare for pandemics in general and for all other major waves that will affect our society and the whole world in the future. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to check out the Netflix series. Here is the trailer:
Saturday – Immersion
The second main session “Weak Signals” made us ask ourselves what is out there in the distant horizon, questioning us what lies beyond next, helping us finding the correct signals that will make the future. We especially enjoyed Tim O’Reilly’s presentation, where he made us reflect on whether we really wanted unlimited growth, making us see that our own decisions can make a big difference, encouraging us to think collectively in order to start to believe something different… where from doing so the change will come. Advising new generations to fight even when they know they will not win the battle, telling them to fight for what they want, for the future they want for themselves, for their children and for future generations. To listen a little more deeply to his thoughts, we recommend that you watch the following video:
The Deep Dive “Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl) triggered numerous emotions and will surely remain in our memories for a long time. Oliver Percovich, founder of Skateistan, talks about challenges and emotional moments in his project in Afghanistan, which enables girls for whom war is part of everyday life to learn how to skateboard in addition to reading, writing, math and life skills. The girls are eager to learn, and he is sure that they will pass on their education to the younger and the older, and thus create a better future for a lot of people. He emphasizes the importance of culture sensitivity and confidence building in his work and how he himself was inspired by the mentality of “just push through every type of challenge” on a daily basis.
Arun Chaudhary, videographer for the White House during Obama’s administration, then spoke with Carol Dysinger, filmmaker, about her Oscar-winning documentary dealing with this organization, its genesis and her life as an American in Afghanistan. We see snippets that could not be sadder and more beautiful at the same time, or more hopeless and optimistic at the same time. Watch out the website of this project. And click here for more information about the documentary.
In the “Time Rebels and Good Ancestors” session, we heard from three very different speakers. Roman Krznaric (author), Shoukei Matsumoto (Buddhist monk) and Gemma Mortensen (Chief Navigator, The New Constellation Project), made us reflect on what is the future we are creating for us as well as for the next generations. Together making us see that we need to recognize our relationship with the future, (so that we can reflect and ask ourselves how we will be remembered by the next generations) encouraging us to expand our time horizon in order to think in decades, centuries and millennials. One of my favorite phrases, was the following by Gemma Mortensen: “Loose yourself in eternity and found much more deeper connections with the future.”
Another deep dive on Saturday had the theme “Nurturing Our Nature”. The author and psychologist Elaine Kasket gave us insights into how to deal with the ghosts in the machine and warned that in the attention economy it takes an enormous will to connect with nature, but it is worth it because technology interferes with these connections. Eva Karlsson, CEO Houdini Sportswear reminded us to learn from nature in order to build a circular business. She herself has a 360-degree vision of sustainability and makes recyclable clothing from recycled materials. Her guiding principles: Networking is everything. The balance must be maintained. And feedback loops are indispensable! Another inspiring talk by her:
Sunday – Integration
After formation and immersion, the third day was dedicated to integration, creating a very special Sunday. We started the day with the main session “From Human-Centered to Humane”, which was organized by us and hosted by our CEO Karel Golta as well as Victoria Stoyanova. We divided our brilliant speakers according to the Triple Bottom Line model into the areas of Planet – People – Profit. After Karel Golta talked about his personal development towards his new vision of humane innovation, Apporv Sinha, Alina Bassi, Deborah Choi, Alicia Chong Rodriguez, Héctor Ouilhet and Sophie Devonshire spoke about their very own innovative and unique approaches. Exciting questions that were discussed: Can we consider CO2 emissions as a resource that needs to be harvested? What happens if our used clothing ends up in landfills and does not decompose for 200 years? Are companies more similar to house plants than we realize? Does our technology lack ambience? Does with our shift of language our businesses change? More than 600 participants listened to us during the session and have vividly discussed the topic in a WhatsApp group before, during and on-going. At the end of the session, it seemed everyone is certain that it’s time to change the way we think and do business from human-centered to humane. And then we let Mother Nature speak for herself. Matt Mikkelsen, Sound Ecologist, told us about his exciting job and let us hear how incredible Mother Nature sounds and speaks to us. All sessions were recorded by the House of Beautiful Business. As soon as we have the file, we will make it available. Stay tuned!
In the evening our Hamburg local hub with the topic “Under the Sea” took place. We invited 20 guests to an extraordinary evening in the CARLS at the Elbphilharmonie to create very special memories together. On site, (and in person) was an intimate setting for continuing the journey of the great wave. We started in house style with Mystery. In the bar area Isabel read the profound poem “La Calle” by Octavio Paz first in Spanish and in English afterwards. After Karel then welcomed the guests Marc Buckley, climate activist, advocate of SDGs and UN advisor, started with an unplugged deep dive about the industrialization of agriculture, the evolution of homo sapiens and food. What a unique moment in this intimate atmosphere! Afterwards we watched the sixth main session in the large event room and finally started with our special dinner. This was accompanied by a “Conversational Menu”. Everybody who has been part of a house event before will know it, however, to explain: each course is accompanied by a question, which will be talked about during the dinner. This way the conversation is guided about deep thoughts and personal experiences. In our case the topic of “Adversity” was shared. At the end, the participants were asked to answer a question in written form and to put the note into a small bottle. After an indefinite period of time, this will arrive at another participant’s place in the form of a message in a bottle. In this way we want to keep on with the ripples in the near future. We then left in silence. #moreaboutitlater
Monday – Flow
The final day, Monday, was all about flow until this unique business conference ended with Monika, Tim and Till in their temporary studio in Berlin and with the statement: “The future may not be bright, but it will be fun.” The reminder that the Great Wave has just begun, the next one will come, and that the sea and nature can teach us if we just listen. This experience ends emotionally with people all over the world holding notes with great messages in their cameras.
All in all, we talked about the big social issues of our time, about racism, climate change, the US election, quantum physics as well as about love, hope and empathy. There were authors, entrepreneurs, critics, musicians, enthusiasts, activists, optimists, scientists, artists, skeptics, philosophers, psychologists, TikTok stars and more than 1000 people participating from all over the world who shared this experience and built this wave. All together, we united with the goal to create unforgettable memories that will to make the world a better place.
To the team that made it: big kudos! The three organizers and their team created a conference experience that no one expected and has never experienced before. They successfully kept the typical elements of the house, such as the live music of Mark Aanderud, the obligatory Team Battle or the choir, even under these new circumstances.
The result? A worldwide community that is deeply connected with the shared memories of these four days and the deep trust and belief in the quote: “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” And this wave that has now been started, cannot be stopped. It will continue with the memories and the ripples for a long time. The Great Wave is not only a demonstration to all event organizers, but the answer for all of us on how to reach and bring people together with conferences in these times: globally and simultaneously local, virtual and simultaneously analog, intimate and simultaneously far-reaching. See you next year, online or offline?!