Inaugural Boot Camp Breaks New Ground

Mauricio Mota, president of Wise Entertainment and executive producer of East Los High, discussed the importance of cultural competency in transmedia storytelling and how it drives greater understanding.

On October 5 and 6, the USC Annenberg Center for Third Space Thinking held its first leadership development Boot Camp for high-potential executives. A total of 25 participants from a diverse set of organizations attended the two-day camp, including:


Held in the Wallis Annenberg Hall on the campus of USC, the Boot Camp was designed to help the participants improve their interactive skills, specifically on the five core competencies the Center has identified as critical to success in today’s digitally disrupted world, yet are grossly under supplied in the marketplace.


Teams competed in the ultimate test of adaptability – building the tallest structure out of spaghetti, string, tape and a marshmallow. All in 20 minutes.

An Interactive Learning Experience

The participants were immersed in a rich, actionable learning experience that featured an in-depth exploration into the five key soft skills; hands-on exercises; case studies; and group problem-solving sessions.

An impressive array of academic and professional facilitators led the sessions, including prominent faculty from Annenberg as well as Bill Simon, global sector leader, media and entertainment, Korn Ferry/Los Angeles; Mauricio Mota, president, Wise Entertainment and executive producer of East Los High; and Caryl Smith Gilbert USC men’s and women’s track and field coach and the first African-American female to coach both a men’s and women’s Division I track and field team. Talk about being Adaptable!

In addition, a highly engaging panel discussed the value of Third Space Thinking at different career stages that included the head of human resources at the Los Angeles Lakers (Millennial), a senior engineer from NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (mid-career) and the former president of Sony Pictures Entertainment (second career).

Personal Insights and Proprietary Mobile App

The participants also discovered personal insights and received feedback into their proficiency on the five core attributes by completing a proprietary Third Space Thinking Assessment that was exclusively available to the participants.

Ted Kraus, investment director, TechCode AI Accelerator, led the Third Spacers through a unique mobile app that allowed them to solve problems through the lens of the five attributes and connects them with a growing community of Third Space Thinkers.

And to cap things off, the participants had a once-in-a-life-time opportunity to observe up close and personal an on-field practice with the USC Trojan Marching Band – talk about the ultimate 360-degree experience!

The Third Spacers worked in teams to solve a real-life problem presented by one of the participants through the lens of the five attributes.

A Special Event

By all accounts, the Boot Camp was a huge success and broke new ground for the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. In fact, 90 percent of the participants rated the Boot Camp excellent or good.

So what made it so special? The Boot Camp brought together a wide variety of highly visible private and public organizations together with an impressive line-up of instructors all organized around a fresh, new way of communication-based thinking built specifically for our rapidly evolving world.

With the first Boot Camp behind us, The Center has a number of exciting upcoming offerings focused on our three core program areas – leadership development, education and community engagement.


  • The Third Space Boot Camp was very valuable. Soft skills are going to be priority number one for most companies.

    Rebecca Waits, Executive Vice President, People Services, PMK*BNC

  • I knew the importance of many of the core attributes, but didn’t see how they all tied together. What I saw here is, ‘these things apply to me and can really help me.’

    Eric Thomas, Senior Manager of Internal Communications, Quest Diagnostics

  • I believe every leader should have an opportunity to attend one of these boot camps because it makes you a better leader. Sometimes we forget that soft skills can make you perform much better.

    Paula Barifouse, Corporate Communications, Director for Latin American Caribbean Region, Western Union

  • I think anyone can buy or access hard skills, but it’s the soft skills that are the differentiator. They make the difference between the company that wins and the company that comes in second. And we want to be the company that wins.

    Susannah Thurston, Corporate Communications, United Airlines

  • I think Third Space Thinking is critical to success of any company, large or small. We’re seeing new generations of people coming the workforce and new ways stakeholders are consuming our content, so as a communicator I need to understand who and how they are consuming my content. Using these types of soft skills is one of the only ways I see success in the long term.

    Scott Cook, Manager of Public Relations, IBM

  • If we’re not developing soft skills we’re not getting the most potential out of our people. The hard skills are important, but it’s the soft skills that are additive and the plus one.

    Christie Lee, Direct of Strategic Communications, AECOM

  • I think the Third Space Boot Camp is essential for younger executives, someone early to the middle of their careers, who are looking to accelerate and develop their leadership potential.

    Bill Simon, Senior Client Partner, Korn Ferry International

Stay tuned. This is just the beginning of a new, exciting venture.

About The Center for Third Space Thinking

To learn more about the USC Annenberg Center for Third Space Thinking, click here.