Faculty Story – Mathias Jakobsen

February 27, 2018


Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Mathias Jakobsen. I’m deeply passionate about learning. My own learning and facilitating the learning of others. I see a society that has confused learning (the intuitive child-like process of gaining competence to master the world) with education (the institutionalized collective ritual of attending lectures and doing homework). I see technology having a profound impact on us as humans and a greater need than ever to really be in touch with our ability to learn and to accelerate this process. I have been pushing for that acceleration for 15 years, both as an independent consultant working with startup CEOs, as a writer of the Think Clearly newsletter, while working at Hyper Island and later SYPartners, as a teacher, and currently as VP of Learning & development at the 4A’s, the trade association for Advertising agencies.

Where are you originally from?

Denmark, a small country where it’s dark and grey in the winter. It’s a wonderful place, but I recommend visiting in the summer.

Are you an alumni of the Ms SDM program and, if so, what year did you graduate?

I’m not. I have a MS in information technology and cognitive semiotics.

What issues are you interested in working on?

Accelerated collective learning, both in the education system and within the context of work. This involves connecting with personal purpose and vision. Clarity. Focus. Motivation. And creating loops to act and learn from mistakes.

What inspires you most and keeps you creative?

Right now I’m obsessed with podcasts. I’m both producing my own and listening promiscuously to others. I’m currently listening to a 14 episode deep analysis of Kanye West My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, one of the best musical albums ever made, and it’s incredible to hear it taken apart and put back together again.

How would you describe the Ms SDM program in one sentence?

It’s a program that is bridging two mindsets that are mostly kept separate: the act of designing and building something tangible that has consequences in the world + thinking and planning strategically. It’s like writing briefs and delivering to those briefs. It’s ideal for learning.

What was the most interesting experience you had in the program so far?

Last semester a team in my class presented their final project for the first half of their allotted time. Then stopped and put the project away and shared a learning tool they had created, that encapsulated their most important learnings from the semester, and had turned these insights into a practical and useful card game that they could use for future projects to unstuck themselves. I don’t think I have ever been so proud as a teacher. It was A+++. Their project was incredible as it was. But this unexpected additional tool was just beyond.

What book are you reading right now?

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Dragons are strange creatures. First of all they don’t exist. Which is strange enough in itself. They also hoard gold, which is also bizarre. And on occasion they keep virgins or princesses in their lairs, too. They are terrifying. They may eat you. They are chaos. The world is full of dragons. And we can live our lives perpetually afraid of them. Some of them start out small. An unexpected letter from the IRS, could be a recent example. If we pretend it’s not there, we are just stuck in the fear. The dragon eventually grows bigger and even more scary. But we can also decide to face the dragons in our lives. To handle the situations as best as we can. They might still eat us up. But if we succeed, we will learn something valuable. Life is about facing these dragons. To make order out of their chaos.

Another, equally important one, is this: we are all free to do whatever we want to do. This one can be hard to grasp fully. I recommend reading Illusions by Richard Bach for a deeper examination. But I think we often forget this. It’s easy to feel limited. But I think it’s really true: we are all free to do whatever we want to do. This requires that we actually know what we want to do. And it’s important that this is true for everyone. This means that what we do may have consequences. We are not free from consequences.


Follow Mathias on Twitter!