The company we keep: Seth Godin and the altMBA community

The Company We Keep is a column on the CN&CO blog that profiles some of the most interesting people in our networks. Here we share the details of the lives of people we know, showcasing the extraordinary diversity of our society and proving that people truly are at the heart of everything we do. October’s piece is from Rob Christian.

October has been a highly interesting month for me. Not only did I get to learn quite a bit about life/work/life through the many teachings of Seth Godin that he has curated over the years, I got to learn even more from roughly 100 people around the world who took part in the altMBA with me recently. In a nutshell, these are the people who I have been keeping company with recently. While you don’t interact with Seth on a day-to-day basis, the system he has created lets you benefit from his 30 years of experience in marketing, business and interacting with people.

Some of the reading material that accompanies the course.

Spread across four cohorts (in four time zones), people in each cohort get together to discuss, debate and “ship” work through-out the program. Described as a “one month sprint”, the altMBA is, as its name implies, an alternative to doing an MBA. Now the distinction here is that it is not an alternative because it offers the same teachings as a traditional MBA does in a different format. It is an alternative because it offers different approaches to making change in business, life and your relationships, that could be more valuable than what you might get from an MBA.

This isn’t something that you get graded on but you can measure your effort at the end of the program – ultimately what you put in determines how much you get out. What is remarkable, though, is that it is not the usual take on online education, or even education for that matter, that one might expect. Yet it yields results for all those who embrace the process.

At its core the course focuses on how you can approach life to make change, in anything I found that many of the projects often had layers of meaning, which only once I began to unpack them did I realise how much change is possible out there. If you want to find out a bit more about the program visit the website . Know that it is designed to challenge your perceptions of the people and world around you. And know that the person who starts the program is not the same person who finishes the program, in the best way possible. I found my thought process to be more holistic as I realised “my” part in anything is seldom as important as I had previously thought.

As mentioned above, while you don’t interact with Seth, you do interact with your learning groups and there in lies the magic. Peer interaction helps you realise what is possible not only for yourself, but also what is possible for others when they are supported. Learning groups change through the course of the altMBA ensuring you interact with a variety of people through video and chat channels.

The beauty of the system is that it is a combination of group work and reflection, even for solo projects. When you are stuck with a problem, turning to your learning group to discuss it often yielded new perspectives that you hadn’t considered before hand. With the group changing throughout the month, you get to interact different people, all with their own stories, skills and experiences to learn from.

Once you post your work online (referred to as shipping) you have the opportunity to view other student’s work and critique in an honest and constructive manner. The feedback system is designed so that you get numerous people commenting on your work, challenging you to go deeper on a certain topic or explain further your thinking around situations that you might not have considered.

This is no fluffy feedback session. It is honest, direct and positive. I think most people in today’s society have lost the ability to give feedback in a constructive way and likewise most of us have forgotten how to receive honest feedback without taking it personally in a negative light. The altMBA helps change your worldview on this.

Throughout this process I was fortunate enough to interact with people from the UK, Iceland, Sweden, Israel, France, Finland, Ireland, Germany, India the Netherlands and Belgium in my learning groups.over the month of October. They challenged my worldview and ideas in ways that I had long forgotten and I hope to keep that experience fresh in my find for years to come. It was also interesting to gauge their perception of South Africa as a country, as some have visited, are planning on visiting or weren’t sure whether it would be worthwhile due to the media perception created internationally.

Combined with the individuals you interact with in your learning groups, you also have the chance to interact with people all over the world in the review and commenting aspect of each project. Reading people’s stories was really enlightening as it exposes you to diverse professions around the world.

Some stats from the course that I recorded over time (note these are specific to my experience, not necessarily anyone else in the program)

  • 44 hours on Zoom with my learning groups
  • Read 1 161 posts (comments and shipped work)
  • Shipped 14 projects
  • Created 70 comments
  • Wrote 36 754 words
  • Created a three minute video (see below)
  • Earliest Zoom call to chat with people in Australia was 02:45 AM
  • The latest Zoom call I had started at midnight
  • Joined an alumni of roughly 2000 previous graduates, in over 645 cities around the world, now in my network.

If anyone is considering doing the course in future there is an application open for February 2019. Get in contact with me if you have any further questions but the key components you need to get the most value out of this is the following:

  • Willpower – to commit day in and day out to all of the activities and projects
  • An open mind that things can change
  • It takes A LOT OF TIME – be prepared to change your priorities accordingly
  • A decent internet connection for the video calling
  • Earphones for the meetings and calls (I used my noise cancelling ones from Plantronics)
  • The mindset that this is going to be different from how you think it will be!

At the end of the day, having entered the course for myself I have realised that you come out of it with something to give others. Yes, you can think differently with the power of introspection, something we are often to scared to do in life. Yes, you can make big changes in your life if you really want to. However, in talking, watching and engaging with everyone else in the course, you come out realising that there is so much opportunity in the world that you can’t help but think your role is secondary in it all.

On a planet with over 7 billion humans, helping one person can have a ripple affect without you even knowing it. So the responsibility is now on you to go make a ruckus and make change happen, not only for yourself, but more importantly for everyone else.

Here is a short video that came out of my experiences in the course. Of course it could do with some post-production work, but that wasn’t the point of creating it in the first place 😉

I want the whole pizza