Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Meetings At The Aspen Institute Are 'Classic'

By Darlene Donloe

You can have an ordinary meeting, or you can have an extraordinary meeting.

You can do what you’ve always done and get what you always got. Or, you could have your next meeting at the Aspen Institute and you and your participants could come away with a life-changing experience.

Since 1950 the Aspen Institute, housed at Aspen Meadows Resort (a Dolce Resort), has hosted a unique and transformative two-week leadership program that has been attended by heads of state and corporate leaders from around the world. The program, which has since been reduced to six days, has sessions that are based on readings of the classics – everything from Chekhov to Martin Luther King Jr.


Created by industrialist, Walter Paepcke, whose thought was to bring together some of America’s top leaders to exchange ideas, motivate and instill in them another point of view, the leadership program, called the Aspen Seminar, is unlike any other, which makes it one of the most popular and one of the most effective.

With text-based dialogue, the purpose of the Aspen Seminar is to challenge leaders to think more analytically and intensely about what they call “the good society”.

The leadership program is not designed to pacify by any means. Its purpose is to encourage though-provoking dialogue that can increase one’s leadership qualities.

It’s all about a conversation!

Before attending the program, participants are sent a reading list that includes some of world’s most critical thinkers and philosophers. The reading is not easy. In fact, it’s anything but. But it stimulates a dialogue that reveals some personal characteristics from the participants. The readings, which are not designed to lead you to any particular conclusion, form the focus and content of the Socratic discussions.

“Our hope is that the seminar will help you develop your internal compass,” said Todd Breyfogle, director of seminars at The Aspen Institute.

Moderated by Breyfogle, the leadership program, conducted as participants look out onto the Colorado mountains, actually begins with a group dinner that is designed to disarm and relax.  At the gathering attendees are asked to reveal something about themselves that can’t be found on their resume. It sounds simple enough, however, for some, it’s a struggle.  Do we define ourselves by our work or by our lives? Are they one in the same? It’s a simple, but poignant query. From the beginning the leadership program requires everyone to do a self-examination.

The next day, armed with the readings, a skilled moderator and 15-20 attendees sit around a conference table and begin to dissect such classic and contemporary readings as ”Letter from a Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr., “The Danger of a Single Story,” by Chimamanda Adichie, ”Nicomachean Ethics” by Aristotle, Machiavelli’s “The Prince” and Anton Chekhov’s “Gooseberries.”

Heady reading indeed!


The moderators aim is to cultivate three complementary conversations: a conversation with the ages; a conversation with your fellow participants and a conversation within yourself about what constitutes true meaning.

After what can become an intense discussion, participants can emerge renewed, refocused and ready.

The Institute is designed to help leaders clarify their core values and those of their organizations, build teams of trust and vision, deepen and broaden their thinking about fundamental values and global trends, develop stronger institutional and personal clarifications of purpose and reassess fundamental components of work-life

“The Institute’s unique method of text-based dialogue is highly interactive, refreshing and rewarding as a signature approach to the integration of mind, body and spirit in professional and personal life,” said Breyfogle.  “The Leadership Fundamentals Package is an exciting and unique addition to any organizational meeting and provides a first-hand introduction to what CEOs, government leaders, entrepreneurs and non-profit executives the world over have found to be one of the most important course they’ve ever participated in.”

Quotes from past participants bolster Breyfogle’s sentiments.

“The Aspen Seminar helped me better understand my own government decisions and actions…I recommend the Aspen Seminar to everyone.”---Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State.

“I took the Executive [Aspen] Seminar more than 20 years ago and it changed my life. It challenged me to think about fundamental ideas in new ways, and it began my long affiliation with the Aspen Institute. It’s that experience that brings me back to Aspen every year for more.”---Wolf Blitzer, CNN

Part of the seminar also includes exploring the outdoors. But, once again, there’s more to it.
A hike through Maroon Bells is about more than experiencing gorgeous vistas, beautiful water and heavenly mountains.  While the hike isn’t treacherous, it is long and slightly steep.  Once you’ve hit a certain mark, the hike leader then asks each participant to find his/her favorite spot on the trail, have a seat and reflect.  The deal is – you can’t speak. You must remain silent for a certain amount of time. You’ll find it’s much more difficult than one would assume.

The Aspen Meadows, a Dolce Resort, is the home of The Aspen Institute. The Institute, as a special to customer staying at the resort, offers two-hour, half-day and full-day Leadership Fundamentals packages.   The Resort is located on 42 scenic acres along the Roaring For River in the historic West End. It has 98 guest suites. There are both one and two-bedroom suites. Nearly every mountain activity imaginable is found at its doorstep. It is also a pet-friendly facility.

There is complimentary high-speed wireless internet, 24-hour shuttle service and access to the resort’s health club. 


There is a world-class meetings and conference facility, which includes 22,000 sq. ft. of International Association of Conference Centers (IACC). There are 14 meeting rooms that can accommodate groups ranging in size from 20 to 800 persons.  Plato’s restaurant is also on the property.


As a leader in the meetings industry, Dolce hosts some 30,000 events and 4 million group clients globally every year.

Inspired by classic Bauhaus design and unique in aesthetic and d├ęcor, the 98 spacious guest-suites boast floor-to-ceiling windows and feature contemporary furnishings. Every suite is designed with separate living, working and sleeping areas to accommodate both business travelers and leisure guests.

The Aspen Institute is an enlightening, one-of-a-kind experience that is a must for a leader or a would-be leader. Actually, it’s a phenomenal experience for anyone.

And when the seminar is over, it’s quite possible you will go from good to GREAT!

For information: www.aspeninstitute.org and/or www.aspenmeadows.com