As one studying organizational psychology, I'm always looking for people and communities who are pushing the limits on human possibility.

Specifically, I'm interested in experiential learning environments that reshape the identity, psychology, and behavior of the people within those environments.

We live in what is known as "The Experience Economy" where what people are buying now is experiences. If you cannot create transformational experiences, you are behind the times.

But who are the people innovating this concept of Experience Economy?

I had the opportunity to interview Jeff Rosenthal and Brett Leve, who are founders of SUMMIT.  The goal of SUMMIT is to shape experiences that create transformational communities.

The SUMMIT-LA18 event is happening in the next few weeks and I wanted to know what specifically they had planned to create a unique and transformational experience for those attending the festival. 

For SUMMIT-LA18, there will be a 3-day festival hosting a wide array of talks, performances, wellness classes, art installations, gourmet food, and experiences designed to foster relationships and inspire new perspectives.

In my conversation with Rosenthal and Leve, this is what I learned:

The More Diverse The Input, The More Complex And Impactful The Output

The goal of SUMMIT is to intentionally create an intense diversity of people, backgrounds, cultures, perspectives, industries, and experiences.

Rosenthal and Leve have watched billions of dollars generated in collaborations through their events because all the silos which once separated industries are breaking down. 

There is a huge push at SUMMIT to "gender balance" the environment and community to ensure a wide variety of voices. Everyone in the environment sees their work as a vehicle for transformation, and the goal is to create mixtures of perspectives and skill sets to develop the most unique transformations possible. That's what business is for and about to this community.

How Do You Ensure The Culture Remains Strong?

I wanted to know how they ensure that the desired culture they are trying to create not only exists but embeds itself deeply into the environment and identity of those going through their transformational experience. 

Rosenthal and Leve said they have both explicit and implicit cultural guidelines for the community and experience. 

98% of the people who attend SUMMIT events were referred by a present member. That's a very high referral rate. In order to attend an event, each person goes through a screening process with the "Community Team," which enforces that the culture is operational. 

Clear expectations are generated upfront so that everyone attending an event knows that they are to be players, not spectators. At a three-day immersive event with art, food, experiences, and education, it can be easy to hold back for a few days. That doesn't happen at SUMMIT because they design the expectations and environment to ensure that people are going ALL-IN as soon as the event begins. The goal is for people to go deeper and deeper into the experience each successive day. And the curation of experiences, from the foods people taste to the smells and sounds in the atmosphere are meticulously designed heighten consciousness and productivity.

Rosenthal and Leve said that they have an intentional "cadence" of events that keep the experience going. People don't get bored, and they are actually meant ultimately to "choose their own adventure" among several possible scenarios. This is intended to be a multi-track experience. 

Why "Immersive Art"?

When I found out that a large component of SUMMIT events was "immersive art," I was very intrigued. Indeed, I've studied the science of how art can transform identity and belief systems. 

For instance, Semiotics is the study of the signs and symbols that imbue meaning and meaningful communication. It includes the study of signs and sign processes, indication, designation, likeness, analogy, allegory, metonymy, metaphor, symbolism, signification, and communication. Semiotics has been recognized as having important anthropological and sociological implications by many of the greatest innovators behind the respective disciplines. 

For SUMMIT, very intentional art has been placed throughout the environment with political and cultural messaging. The goal is to stir up people's emotions and shift their belief systems. The art is intended to move people to action so they begin more fully living out their lives and making the positive impact on the world that deep down they want to make. 

How To Create A Peak Experience?

My final question for the SUMMIT gentlemen was, "How they defined a peak experience?"

Indeed, they had mentioned throughout the conversation that a large purpose of their work was to design peak experiences for people. 

The goal, they told me, is to stretch the comfort zone where people can access new ideas and emotions-- often strange emotions. 

Peak experiences stretch the elasticity of a person's typical experience and accelerate human potential, they told me. To quote Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., "mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

According to Abraham Maslow "Peak experiences as rare, exciting, oceanic, deeply moving, exhilarating, elevating experiences that generate an advanced form of perceiving reality, and are even mystic and magical in their effect upon the experimenter." 

According to Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who coined the term and framework for self-actualization, a "peak experience" is "rare." However, having peak experiences certainly don't have to be rare.

The reason peak experiences are rare for most people is that they don't step into immersive environments and take on new journeys. For the adventurous, SUMMIT might provide them for you..

Published on: Oct 31, 2018
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