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Institute 101: Reflections and insights from the 2024 edition

May 21, 2024
Institute 101: Reflections and insights from the 2024 edition

A few weeks ago, our Montreal office had the pleasure of hosting the 2024 edition of The Institute 101. Colleagues from across the AVENIR GLOBAL network converged on the city for a three-day immersive experience. During this time, nine enthusiastic participants from NATIONAL engaged in enlightening training sessions, led by the Firm's leadership team. The focus was on honing their business management and core communication skills.

The Institute 101 served as a unique platform for our newly joined colleagues to gain insights from seasoned experts and an opportunity to foster a spirit of mutual growth and learning. This gathering also provided a chance to build meaningful connections with peers in a collaborative environment.

We were delighted to have nine participants share their unique perspectives and experiences from this enriching learning journey.

What new skills or knowledge did you acquire at this year's event that you feel will enhance your work as a consultant?

Vincent Pilon, Associate, Montreal: The main lesson I've learned from Institute 101 is to be confident in my skills and to be able to challenge ideas when necessary. I also believe that I'll be better able to use the resources at my disposal.

Alissa Muller, Associate, Montreal: I learned a new approach for analyzing briefs, emphasizing on probing the "why" behind problems. Sometimes, what you're presented with is only the tip of the iceberg. This method aids in understanding the root cause, refining solutions, and seeing the bigger picture, which I believe will enhance my consulting work.

Véronique Thomas-Lortie, Associate, Quebec City: The main lessons I've learned are how to trust my abilities and how to understand a problem by asking the right questions to be able to propose the right solution. I also acquired knowledge about the role of AI in consulting which will help me to optimize the use of the many resources provided to us.

Emily Crane, Senior Consultant, Toronto: I learned that it’s important to challenge the brief, when necessary, and consistently ask questions to gain clarity. This reinforces the need to zoom out for context so that we don’t get stuck on the first solution that comes to mind. It’s also crucial to lean on and trust your team, collaboration is key!

Avery German, Coordinator, Ottawa: The panels really emphasized the importance of asking questions about everything. Curiosity can help solve problems we didn’t even know we had, and questioning everything (even when we’re nervous to) can break down an issue to smaller pieces and lead to more creative solutions.

Rachel Campbell, Consultant, Vancouver: My key takeaway is that to find the "golden" insights from data, it’s important to really dig deep—analyze it from multiple angles and perspectives, consider the broader context, and identify information gaps. Also, when using AI, you must be aware of the delicate balance between convenience, privacy, and security.

Patrick Cookson, Associate, Halifax: The way I’ll be approaching problems will be different. I think one of the biggest takeaways for me was the importance of taking a moment to stop, examine a problem, and give some thought to the best solution instead of charging into the quickest solution.

Hannah Langille, Consultant, Halifax: I learned so much more about what my colleagues and our partners do across the network. The new connections I’ve made has given me new perspectives and more opportunities.

Amelia Machum, Account Supervisor, Time & Space: The event cemented a few ideas that will be an area of focus over the next year: patience and learning to adapt. This applied to all aspects, from adapting to how people work, to new technology and day-to-day changes, and bringing patience into everything.

What aspect of the session did you find most challenging and why?

Vincent Pilon: The brief. It was hard to start from scratch, working with people we weren't used to working with, having little time to come up with an idea, and having a brief that didn't contain a lot of details. Once we'd broken through the inertia, the ideas came to life.

Alissa Muller: The most challenging part was learning how to become strategic. Being a more junior member of the team, this is somewhat of an abstract concept to me. I would love to improve this skill.

Véronique Thomas-Lortie: Having to prepare a pitch for a client with little information and little time.

Emily Crane: I found the brief and pitch exercise the most challenging because the assignment could be interpreted in many ways. Working with a group of consultants with diverse expertise, we each had different directions we wanted to go into. It was a helpful exercise on how to leverage each other’s skills and trust your team to deliver the best possible outcome.

Avery German: Having to develop a business solution and pitch with a brand new group with so little working time was definitely the most challenging and intimidating! It felt like there couldn't possibly be enough time or information to solve the problem and have a presentation ready by the end of it. I think we were all surprised by how the ideas came together when we collaborated and broke down the assignment into steps.

Rachel Campbell: I found the time constraints when developing our pitch the most challenging, though the sessions leading up to the pitch were super helpful to guide us along and dig deeper into the brief. Shoutout to “The Tree”!

Patrick Cookson: I can be slow to wrap my head around a brief, problem, etc. For that reason, the early stages of planning our pitch was tricky because I felt like I wasn’t fully contributing to my team. Once I understood the direction we were heading in, I felt like I was really able to contribute to the conversation and help shape the pitch into what we landed on in the end. Shoutout to Rachel, Elisavet, Summer and Hannah—you’re all awesome.

Hannah Langille: The pitch was challenging. Trying to create a pitch in limited time with a team of more than four, for a concept we just developed, was difficult, but well worth the experience!

Amelia Machum: It was a fun challenge to be pushed to respond to a brief with new people and a short period of time.

How has the program influenced your understanding of the Firm's values and culture, and how do you see yourself contributing to them moving forward?

Vincent Pilon: Previously, it was a little difficult to identify the values of AVENIR GLOBAL as a whole, being mostly exposed to NATIONAL's ways of doing things. Now I can see the contribution of each brand within the network and I'm able to identify the added value that each of them brings, as well as the values that unite us. I feel more able to collaborate with colleagues from all over the world, whether they're from Halifax, Minneapolis, London or elsewhere!

Alissa Muller: I now understand how important the healthcare practice is for AVENIR GLOBAL’s PR service offering. Being part of the healthcare and life sciences team at NATIONAL, I realize we are a small part of a whole, which includes AXON, Madano, and teams all over the world. Also, I previously thought that our sister brands didn’t really collaborate with each other. However, as we did the case study, I sensed that AVENIR GLOBAL’s aims to create a tighter and more connected network. As we had seen during the main exercise, we are stronger together than in silos.

Véronique Thomas-Lortie: It was very interesting to learn more about what it means to be part of the AVENIR GLOBAL network in which many talents are brought together to offer varied expertise. Although the network is large and diverse, the culture and values remain on a human scale, which amplifies the sense of belonging. I'm looking forward to continuing to collaborate with colleagues across the network.

Emily Crane: I gained a deeper understanding of the AVENIR GLOBAL network, the unique offerings of each agency, and how we are all connected. Meeting colleagues from across the network and learning more about their roles, projects, and how they work together was fascinating. I feel inspired to explore more ways to collaborate and learn from each other in the future, by tapping into our collective resources to maximize results for our clients.

Avery German: Learning about all the different brands and offerings at AVENIR GLOBAL, it became very clear how each of us comes together as parts of a larger, global picture. Learning about the unique skills and experiences of each of our colleagues who attended the Institute, as well as how their brands contribute to the firm as a whole, showed me how much value collaborating across these boundaries can bring to our clients.

Rachel Campbell: The Institute really brought to life the interconnectedness within the network, highlighting the value of collaboration and sharing resources. I look forward to continuing the relationships built during the program and seeking out new opportunities across the network!

Patrick Cookson: Oh 100%. I think it really hit home that I’m not just a NATIONAL employee, I’m an AVENIR GLOBAL employee. I’m not just one of 40 communicators in Halifax, I’m one of hundreds of communicators across the globe that are all working to be the best that they can be for the sake of our teams, our firms and our clients.

Hannah Langille: The importance of collaboration and building a strong network stood out to me as a strong value for AVENIR GLOBAL.

Amelia Machum: As part of the newly acquired brand, Time & Space, it was eye opening to see the passion from people at all levels, focusing not only on clients but on caring for your team. Jean-Pierre Vasseur, President and CEO of AVENIR GLOBAL, spoke on how coming together is so important, and I see myself going to the office with a new attitude towards a hybrid environment.

What one word sums up your weekend in Montreal?

Vincent Pilon: Teamwork

Alissa Muller: United

Véronique Thomas-Lortie: Enriching

Emily Crane: Insightful

Avery German: Collaboration

Rachel Campbell: Special

Patrick Cookson: Unreal

Hannah Langille: Encouraging

Amelia Machum: Whirlwind


Written by Hugo Morissette

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