Lisa Boldt-Christmas: How trend awareness helps HI design for better futures.

HYPER ISLAND
Stories of Hyper Island
6 min readNov 30, 2023

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This is a summary of a conversation between Lisa Bolt-Christmas and Iñaki Escudero.

Iñaki: Welcome Lisa. Why don’t you tell us about your role and its purpose?

Lisa: I’m the Research and Development director of Hyper Island’s vocational school in Sweden. The purpose of the R&D team is to develop, grow, and future-proof the vocational program portfolio. Our advantage is that we have a team that focuses only on this and that also understands the complexities of the system that we work within and we can also work more strategically with our network and industry leaders.

MYH is the agency that grants and quality controls all vocational education programs and it’s our main customer.

Editor’s note: In the Swedish education system, YH stands for “Yrkeshögskola,” which translates to “Swedish higher vocational education.” YH programs are a specific type of vocational education designed to provide practical and job-oriented training for a wide range of professions. These programs bridge the gap between traditional university education and practical on-the-job training.

They offer a pathway for individuals to gain specialized skills and knowledge that are directly applicable to the workforce. YH programs collaborate closely with employers and industry experts to ensure that graduates are well-prepared for the demands of their chosen careers.

These programs are highly regarded for their practicality and focus on employability, making them an attractive option for individuals seeking hands-on training for specific professions.

Iñaki: Tell us about the process your department follows to identify program opportunities.

Lisa: In our process, we follow a double-diamond approach of exploring, defining, developing, and delivering. Throughout, we speak to a vast array of companies with a hiring need for talent in creative, tech, and business areas. We also organize an Industry Forum to focus on upcoming trends and the required skills and behaviors to address these trends in the next three, five, or ten years.

On our side, we have a YH Advisory Board, a key part of our operation in R&D for a couple of years. This board consists of individuals with diverse expertise encompassing design, technology, business, and sustainability. The board’s primary role is to provide a holistic perspective on Hyper Island’s portfolio. They serve as a sounding board during the exploratory phase and endorse programs as we progress through the Double Diamond process. Currently, the board consists of eight members. We also host a number of workshops with industry experts to develop specific programs. This all takes place before YH grants any approvals.

The process channels into a number of applications to the agency for us to get to continue our existing programs and hopefully start new ones. For each application, MYH requires a minimum of 25 endorsements from companies in Sweden that express their desire to hire people from this program and offer internships. They also show interest in lecturing and joining the program’s steering committee. This heavy industry involvement is the secret sauce of the process, from initial planning to eventual implementation. If the program is approved, these contacts are reactivated, and a comprehensive curriculum is developed. We are also lucky to have a highly engaged community of alumni who often transition into industry leaders, which is truly amazing.

Iñaki: Let me summarize the process. First, you must gain a comprehensive understanding of the education landscape.
Then, it’s essential to establish connections with companies to tap into their collective knowledge of skills, including potential new skills they might require. This helps you tailor educational programs to fulfill those needs. And you make these arrangements before receiving any approvals.
To even get the green light, you must master the art of writing detailed and persuasive applications. And after submitting your proposals, you patiently await YH’s verdict.

Lisa (Smiling): Yes, that’s it. Another noteworthy point is the collection of endorsements. In the past year, we amassed over 700 individual endorsements. However, the process doesn’t end with collection; these endorsements need approval within the MYH IT Platform. We send out 720 emails to our contacts for their endorsement approval.

Our mission at Research and Development is to prepare the organization to harness trends and apply that knowledge to benefit its clients. This job, in my view, is crucial because trend awareness facilitates better future preparation.

Iñaki: What trends do you see becoming super relevant in education?

Lisa: One prominent trend that cannot be ignored is the rise of AI. What piques my interest is that, historically, we have promoted generalist or “T-shaped” individuals. However, MYH has pushed us towards more specialized roles.

Yet, AI, particularly generative AI, seems to be reversing this trend, putting the era of the generalist back in the spotlight.

Conversations with experts from the realms of deep AI, data analysis, and marketing consistently emphasize the importance of human skills: self-leadership, learnability, collaboration, and more.

While I acknowledge the possibility of some filter bubble influence due to my Hyper Island perspective, it seems there’s more to this shift than my bias. Nonetheless, one unique factor to consider is MYH’s focus on the Swedish market. Their interest primarily revolves around Swedish trends and Swedish employers, keeping their trend analysis aligned with this specific market. So, we pay close attention to trends but ensure they remain relevant to the Swedish context.
Our XR program, for instance, keeps a keen eye on developments in the extended reality field. Despite a slight decline in XR buzz, the sector remains dynamic, especially from a Swedish governmental perspective, where there’s a keen interest in establishing an XR strategy for the nation.

Editor’s Note: Our XR Creative Developer program just started its second cohort in August.

Iñaki: Let’s get into the topic of sustainable practices, and how is that going to play out in the future of education.

Lisa: Companies will need to grasp the intricacies of incorporating sustainable practices throughout their operations, spanning supply chains, organizational structures, and business models. It’s no longer a matter of merely having a “green” label; rather, it’s about integrating sustainability deeply into business success.

Sustainability has been a personal focus for me, and a few years back our portfolio lacked a strong sustainability presence, at least what met the eye. But as time has passed, our curricula have seen significant expansion in modules addressing sustainability concerns across many programs thanks to the effort of the delivery teams in working closely with industry. I’m also very happy that we can now offer an up-skill program called “Sustainability Change Leadership.” This allows us to have a foothold in this domain. From a Hyper Island perspective, we might not arrive with the technical skills required for specific sustainability areas, like climate science, but we bring invaluable change leadership skills, which are increasingly vital in sustainability transformations.

It’s not just a green transformation; it’s an organizational and societal transformation. While we might reevaluate the sustainability approach, there’s no doubt that everyone will need some degree of sustainability fluency in their work. The notion is that in a few years, being sustainability-minded will become the norm.

Recognizing the difference between sustainability and regenerative practices, and the importance of the latter is a key aspect of future planning.

In the future, we’ll probably be a partner not just for digital transformation but for sustainable transformation.

Iñaki: Lisa, I appreciate your insights and agree that this aspect adds credibility and value to our mission. This conversation has been enlightening and an opportunity to learn more about the fascinating, and important process behind Hyper Island’s research and development practices.

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