What is it like to attend a school without teachers? How difficult can collaboration be and how does it feel to fail? Åsa Silfverberg, partner and Creative Director at Hyper Island, sat down with Nina Amjadi, Digital Media student, to find out how the Hyper Island methodology works in practice.
As a student, how do you interpret the world that you entered at Hyper
Island and how do you look at being a part of this, Nina?
When I think back to the first couple of months when I started at Hyper
Island, it felt kind of obvious already: I had a self-awareness and I
had been working in groups before. But then when it came down to me
actually taking an hour to reflect, and to really think about how to
make things work better, to listen to the needs of someone else and how
that person could make things better. It gives you a better view and
understanding of the group process and self-reflection. You get a much
better understanding of the importance to understand other people; the
collaboration and communication.
Åsa: What challenges have you experienced this year at Hyper Island?
You have to face your demons, and you have to dare to make mistakes.
You do something right, then maybe you make a mistake again, but then
you get it right again. It’s like a roller coaster ride in a way. Up and
down a lot.
get rocked at the core in a way, but you always come out of it
stronger. You face the demons, and you get feedback in a very honest
way. You leave and go home thinking about it all. Not just in school,
but you carry things with you all the time. It’s there with you, a
What is your view on the fact that we don’t have any teachers, but
instead have lectures and workshops from external industry people, while
the learning journey is supported by Project Managers/Facilitators?
You are exposed to some kind of personal development and that’s the
same for everyone. In these situations you know that the Project
Managers/ Facilitators are there if you need any support but you usually
find your own solutions and answers.
Åsa: What do you think around those situations when you have a Facilitator that’s leading a feedback session?
I don’t think we would have had the conflicts that we have had, or the
same discussions, if we had felt that we had a supervisor, like a
teacher. The Facilitator supports the dialogue with a format. When we
had a feedback session everyone was at the same level, no matter if you
had worked 10 years in the industry, or if you recently graduated from
We want to inspire people, teams and organizations/companies to live up
to their full potential. The basic value behind that view is about
trusting people’s capabilities and trusting people’s ability to take
responsibility for their own learning and development. That is a value
platform that we all share and work with actively. As a student, what do
you find frustrating about meeting a new environment where you are not
“spoon fed” anymore, but instead you get the mission presented to you
and have to navigate towards the solution yourself?
The hardest thing is that with a teacher and in the traditional school
you always know what is expected from you: You are supposed to answer
ten questions, or you get homework. At Hyper Island you do not get
measured and you’re not judged on the final result. In the beginning
it’s really frustrating to not know how you are supposed to approach
things. You get a very ambiguous target. It is frustrating to be in new
groups all the time, to go through the same process, each time. But the
biggest frustration was to not knowing what was expected from you in
Yeah, we are so used to getting all the answers when it comes to the
why’s and the how’s from the ordinary school where you get clear
directives. This is in some way a mental shift that can be very
frustrating to go through.
It’s like; you don’t feel like a student any more, all of the sudden
you are in a new role at Hyper Island. It’s a work place, where you have
to solve problems every day, and you have to find new ways to solve
these problems every day. You have to reach out to people and ask for
the help that you feel that you need, instead of being “spoon fed” with
10 different solutions to the problem, many of which you don’t think
that you will need.
What are the biggest things that you take with you? What do you feel
you can use in your professional life at your internship in New York?
I feel that it’s a way of thinking; how to approach and tackle a
problem, rather than a more concrete, exact and theoretical way of
looking at a task. Towards the end of a project, I find myself
automatically reflecting and analyzing the way that I’ve been working,
taking notes of things that I could improve to the next time.
Åsa: It’s like a constant learning rather than just trying to find “the one” right answer...
Yes, exactly. I never feel scared about what someone else thinks about
my process. I’m very open to sit down and talk about it, since I’ve been
through it so many times already. I could have my own company, with
three employees, and I would just use this process, because I know that
When I listen to you it sounds like you’ve got an amount of both
competence, and confidence. That there’s a balance between what you feel
that you can achieve and courage to face what- ever that’s coming your
way. There is a company in our industry that talks about ”failing
faster” and that is also a part of Hyper Island – that there is
something re- ally constructive in learning from failing.
Nina: A specific example from Hyper Island is the time my group failed
completely, but it was meant to happen the way it happened. We got stressed and we failed completely!
we had the most fantastic reflection after that, we wrote like 3 pages
each with feedback. And then the client really celebrated us for doing
that, because this was something that was so important, to reflect and
be mature about our mistakes. We felt proud, even though we didn’t do a
thing right, and we knew that we were thinking the right way, so that
next time we would do it much better.
At my first job after graduating from Hyper Island many years ago, my
boss told me: “You’ve got five major fuck-ups to do this year. If you
don’t go for it, if you don’t set your bars and goals high, and don’t do
any major fuck-ups, then we will know that you are a person who plays
it safe.” And that was so nice, to know that I was encouraged to push
the boundaries and not play it safe. That is what we want to achieve
here at Hyper Island; to really understand the industry and to have
clear frameworks that have massive amounts of responsibility, power and
freedom to enable students to make their own decisions. We hope that
this maximizes the learning journey. It also creates a great spirit
within the group, between the people that are doing this “journey”
Åsa: One final question; why Hyper Island, Nina?
I would say that it is a forward- thinking way of learning and that it
is much more adapted to suit how we actually learn. It’s an opportunity
to get to know other people who will work in the industry one day, who
are really good at what they do. There will also be lots of
opportunities to meet people from the industry and work on real-life
We caught up with Nina Amjadi recently, almost a year after the above interview was made, to see what's been going on since.
What's happened in the last year?
last year has been super exciting - all of the puzzle pieces from Hyper
Island and my life finally came together! I started my internship as a
digital producer at the wonderful creative agency Your Majesty in NYC,
back in in November 2011. Little did I know, that I had started a
journey that would open my eyes into the future. During my internship, I
learned a whole lot about New York, the creative industry, the
challenges the up-sides and the down-sides, but most importantly, I
learned a lot about myself and what I had to offer and what I needed to
work on. During this great journey, I was happy to get the chance to
extend my internship to a full year and then even more excited to accept
a job offer from Your Majesty, and then flattered to receive a
promotion right before I headed back to Sweden for my visa process! It's
been a great year!
What is going on right now in your life?
currently still working with Your Majesty on many exciting projects
from Sweden, as my work visa is still being processed. I've also finally
opened up my own jewelry line "Rough by Nature" which will launched
Do you have any idea of where you will be in year?
realizing what one year in a creative and boiling metropol such as New
York can do and how much your eyes can be opened up to opportunities and
to your own abilities to accomplish great goals - I'm absolutely
unaware of where I will be next year. I think it's fair enough to say
it's impossible to know! All I know is that in a year from now, I want
to be happy at work, excited to get up each morning and challenged just
about enough to not get bored or disappointed with my own growth.
Our deadline for fall 2012 programs is approaching fast (April 16) - get in touch with us or Nina on Twitter if you'd like to know more!