It's never easy to pinpoint the genesis of an idea that may have been percolating for years, waiting for the right conditions to bloom into being, seasoned in a stew of opinions from friends and colleagues, but this incarnation of Curious Catalyst is the direct result of my fellowship at THNK, the Amsterdam School for Creative Leadership. A new program - which is part EMBA, part accelerator, part d.School, part professional coaching (those of us who have survived it jokingly describe it as "summer camp for overachievers looking to accelerate a mid-life crisis) - THNK is on a mission to "develop the next generation of creative leaders that will have a significant societal impact in our world" while balancing the needs of innovating for people, planet and profit.
The first six months of the program are a firehose of methodologies, philosophies, tools for pushing design thinking beyond its cliche and jargon, and hands-on examination of how teams work best, all in the context of a challenge. I joined the program while heading up strategy and operations for a cloud computing company, with the aim of finding the best way to combine my nearly two decades of experience in shaping emerging platforms with my passion for social impact. And I was assigned to a challenge team tasked with reducing greenhouse gas emissions using machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies. It was more than a rollercoaster...as this short study in delirium at the end of the first module highlights.
But we reveled in navigating complexity theory frameworks and examined how best to employ the mechanics of scaling dynamics. And the heady promise of combining multi-disciplinary thinkers and rapid ideation and prototyping tools in a pressure cooker of 14-hour days again proved the magic of what I've seen time and again at technology companies: it is not only possible but likely that you will generate new insights and push your product thinking beyond what seemed certain.
Players changed teams, we made discoveries, interviewed Subject Matter Experts from utilities to user experience, and my team launched a JV called BotTalk, which is currently exploring the impact of a public platform like Twitter in the Internet of Things.
More importantly, I was able to identify and align all of the elements and factors that matter most to me in the form of Curious Catalyst. This new consultancy is a way for me to have a positive impact on the city in which I live and toil; to get back in the trenches with an exceptional group of framework thinkers who deserve to find the right home for their multi-faceted talents in LA; to use mechanisms I've employed in the technology world, like agile project management and open core licensing, to disrupt entrenched urban challenges; and to amplify our findings for the world at large.
Years ago, the founder of an early digital agency texted me after a meeting I'd arranged for him: "kaz, you are a curious catalyst"...I have no doubt he was scratching his head when he tapped out the note. But it stuck with me, and I've understood it more and more deeply over time. If you're a curious catalyst, too, I hope we'll be working together soon!