Summit of Genius

Q: “What do you do?”
A: “I work in an organization that encourages people to not tell others what they do.”

Other than being an interesting mind-bend, that is pretty much verbatim a conversation I have had on average once a day for the past year. In November of 2014 I attended a session of House of Genius in London. In April of 2015 together with Alina and Adi we founded the Tel Aviv chapter of House of Genius.

Once a month we have an invite-only meeting of three entrepreneurs and fifteen geniuses. The goal of the meeting is to have the geniuses help the entrepreneurs tackle their hardest problems. Using a pretty strict format we let the entrepreneurs present, allow for clarifying questions and then go around the table offering reactions. The catch is that we ask people to refrain from commenting on their own professional background and avoid using qualifying statements.

For the past three days I have been in Denver, Colorado for the international summit of city directors of House of Genius. Some 20 city directors showed up alongside five core team members. This is my personal summary of the event, using my beloved five-finger-method.

Pinky finger — what was there too little of?

After traveling 9 time zones I was happy to find people who were super passionate about House of Genius. That being said I’m definitely feeling a shortage of learning about them professionally outside of the organization. Despite going through a lot of content — arguing, disagreeing, being amazed, learning from each other, preaching, listening and reflecting — I can’t say I know what most of the people I met do when they are not city directors for House of Genius. In the span of 48 hours of meeting there is room for only so much content. “What do you do for a living?” types of information just got discarded for discussions about meaning, purpose, family and romantic status and of course House of Genius shop talk. The last moderated part of a House of Genius session is The Big Reveal, where each person reveals some things about themselves. The House of Genius Summit did not have a reveal.

Ring Finger — what was emotional?

As I boarded my flight back from Denver I noticed that the cabin crew was the same one that I had flying in from Frankfurt. “You only had two nights here?” exclaimed the flight attendant who recognized me. Everyone at the summit had really positive reactions to my choice of coming such a far way for “just” three days. When I learned of other people’s commitment to House of Genius I was humbled and touched. People left spouses and children to attend the summit, they put their jobs on hold and entirely moved away for a short period just to come to the summit. Even more inspiring was the core team which had all been working full time, with no salary for the time being, on solidifying and expanding the operations of the global House of Genius organization. Seeing the personal side of this commitment was emotional for me.

Middle Finger — what was shitty?

Whitney of St. Louis told me that a member of her team back home held the internal title QB IC of GSD (“Queen Bitch In Charge of Getting Shit Done”). Other than wanting that title on my business card, maybe with a male gender twist, I can honestly say that the summit did not have a QB IC of GSD. With good intentions, perseverance and like mindedness we left the summit with clear cut goals, a joined vision and a set path. Though this was contrasted with an at first obscure and then messy agenda. The spiritual rather than methodological approach to making group decisions was frustrating for me. It’s at moments like this that I admit to wanting things to be in their place, for my need of structure to feel at ease. Even though we managed to align ourselves, I’m leaving with a slight bitter taste in regards to the slightly chaotic process we went through to achieve that.

Index Finger — what would you like to point out?

House of Genius is flirting with changing the world and making it a better place, though it is not aggressive, bleeding edge or a leader in doing so. With easy rhetorical flourishes I can make the claim that House of Genius is giving a voice to those that don’t have it, offering opportunity to oppressed or less fortunate populations and supporting entrepreneurship for the financial empowerment of my community. Although I think those are all true, I don’t think House of Genius is the best way to achieve them. I do think its the best way for me to assist those causes. The House of Genius organizing community is still lacking in some aspects — diversity of team members being just one example. What I’d like to point out is not the necessity of the work we are doing, or its amazing impact, but rather how much I feel at place with the method, the means and the end which House of Genius is working on.

Thumbs Up — what was the best part?

“Welcome to Denver International Airport” was what the pilot said, though what I heard was “Did you actually land in the right place?”. I had only met face to face two of the people coming to the summit, both were not from Denver. Had I missed the date? Was I conned and would find nothing there? The best thing about the summit for me was stepping up for the adventure and realizing it was real. Flying to Middle America after a couple of emails and some Skype calls could have ended miserably, but it didn’t. The best thing for me about the whole experience was stepping up for the adventure, time and again throughout the last year, and once more for this trip. Jackpot.

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