Snapshot: Charlotte Hochman (France, 2017/18)

Jun 15, 2020
Charlotte Hochman profile

We need new spaces in which people can connect, collaborate, innovate and grow. We need these spaces to be online, and to bring similar results across cultural and social contexts. Learn to be a part of the solution of the post-COVID-19 world.


The need for new spaces

One of the things that have excited me most recently is the need that the disruption has caused to create new types of spaces online. The health crisis is an unsuspected opportunity to create new spaces in which people can connect, collaborate, innovate and grow. We need these spaces to be online, and to bring similar results across cultural and social contexts. For that, we need to create and host spaces that are inclusive and incite people to be the best of themselves.

Organizations need to get in touch with people’s needs, not push through their own agenda. They must provide a space for depth and joy. They must make the space look like the people they’re talking to. There is a huge demand from different organizations - including Fulbright commissions - to learn to do so, and I wrote this series partly in response to this need.

Read the mini-guide, stay in touch with us, and do write to tell us how you’re getting along if you’re embarking on a similar adventure.

Read the mini-guide


The need for new conversations

From where I stand in the world of innovation, I witness every day the fact that the economy needs new points of views on existing systems and behaviours.

Having worked in innovation, entrepreneurship and education for the last 15 years, I feel that we, in these sectors, need help. We need new points of view, new ideas, new models. And especially, new conversations. Innovations that another “9-steps-to-success” article won’t give us. Perspectives that can be powerfully shaken up by a unique interaction with someone who comes from a different standing point in the system.

That is partly why I value the Fulbright community so deeply: we have all chosen to stand at a different point than the one we had built for ourselves, and look at how the world appears from that perspective. This genuine journey modifies, I believe, the way most of us think about the world.


How do you "create" a point of view?

My weeks are spent in a surprising paradox. Half of my time, I’m equipping people who possess all the codes of leadership to think and act “out of the box”. The other half, I’m equipping people who are “out of the box” to develop the codes of leadership.

I spend half of my days typically helping universities, companies and the start-up world be more innovative. The challenge for them is to come up with new ideas, new ways of seeing things. So I create cultures and spaces - both physical and online - that disrupt the old ways of looking at the world. This is my work with Wow!Labs, an agile innovation company that I co-founded in 2011.

The other half of my days is spent running a spin-off from Wow!Labs called PLACE. PLACE is one of several projects we launched to explore how innovation may come from unsuspected parts of society. It’s an experiment looking at how refugees and migrants may be a source of innovation for Europe.

I’ve come to believe that everything is a matter of where you stand. Physically as well as figuratively: a big share of the value that we have as individuals comes from the fact that we are a unique product of our world, of our individual history and how we respond to it with our unique personalities. We do not choose our generation, gender, ethnic or geographic background, yet these factors determine, along with other factors, the way we apprehend the world. And the resulting unique point of view is precious to others who are stuck in other bodies, minds and pieces of history.

I don’t decide the ideas that I come up with, not more than you do. Our ideas are products of our own experience and vision of the world. That’s why for new ideas, we need people who stand and have stood in different places - literally.

People looking to create the conditions for more innovation often talk about creating “cross-fertilization”, or crossing points of view. But here’s the catch: it’s hard to create a diversity of points of view, without having people who have had different experiences leading to these points of view.

In a time where meaningful innovation is more needed than ever, the Fulbright community, constituted of people who are passionate about “standing” in different places, is immeasurable to build new bridges between ideas and places.


Charlotte Hochman is the Executive Director of Wow!Labs, accelerating innovation for companies, cities and universities in emergent situations. She has founded incubators and designed curriculums for leading institutions and teaches at the crossroads of design, social innovation and entrepreneurship. Charlotte was a 2018 Fulbright scholar and Designer-in-Residence at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco on these topics. Her Fulbright project focused on the intersection of design with interculturality. She also leads PLACE network, a European project bridging innovation and migration in practice. Charlotte is an Entrepreneur-in-Residence at INSEAD, a BMW Foundation Responsible Leader, and a panelist at Obama’s Presidential Summit. Discover her work and access her guide "People spaces: How to create, convene and take part meaningfully in new spaces online.


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