Close Encounters of the Pollywog-ian Kind
A Pond Water Sampling
At age 4, I perched beside a pond in Hawaii and dipped my styrofoam cup into the warm, verdant waters. In the next few seconds, minutes, hours by that pond, I passed through four stages of wonder: an Aha! Ah!! Haha! and Huh! moment all rolled into one. Working with clients to find these moments of discovery — scientific, aesthetic, humorous, and pure wonder — is where I thrive and deliver lasting value.
After years of wiggly zigs and zags, I’m an innovation strategy Pollywog with a simple formula for motivating teams to arrive at novel solutions:
- Love thy customers
Connect with their unfulfilled needs and aspirations
- Embrace uncertainty
Shift team thinking into the liquid space between building and dreaming
- Model beginner’s mind
Suspend judgement and put expertise on the back burner
- Identify and pursue shared aspirations
Build kinship and trust
Here are some close encounters of the pollywog-ian kind — FIVE recent innovative spaces or ponds I’ve wiggled my way through:
Pond 1: where AI meets Ethics
Pond location: Cornell Tech
Fauna: Computer scientists and researchers
Flora: Talks for the Digital Life Initiative seminars that explore societal perspectives surrounding the development and application of digital technology, focusing on ethics, policy, politics, and quality of life.
Chronicle 30 talks in a way that casts light on issues confronting us today,
from algorithmic bias to intimate partner violence, from privacy and equality
in smart cities to digital arts ownership.
Pond 2: where NLP meets 3D graphics
Pond location: The Metaverse
Fauna: Creators of all kinds, artists, gamers, storytellers, influencers…
Flora: A no-code, language-enabled world-building platform where creators can conjure up 3D worlds with simple language, add behaviors and animations with just a sentence or two, and then invite others to play.
Continue role as co-founder, providing on-going strategic support and communicating the capabilities of the platform for different use-cases, from education to gaming to AI-supplemented entertainment to supporting brands and NFTs.
Pond 3: where Big Tech meets Freedom of Speech
Pond location: Knight First Amendment Institute
Fauna: Thought leaders in the media and privacy space
Flora: How the dominance of a small number of technology companies pose a
threat to the online speech environment.
Translating seven panels covering the breadth of issues into thought-provoking poster imagery. An interview with Knight creative director Lorraine Kenny about our process.
Pond 4: where Wellness meets Wellspace
Pond location: Delos, Inc.
Fauna: Technologists, UX/UI designers, development labs, and researchers
Flora: Work with expert teams to widen product opportunities and accelerate
speed-to-value on a range of digital and spatial wellness solutions.
Conduct large scale virtual FIGJAM sessions to drive new thinking; exploring solutions across multiple customer journeys and spaces, from mobile to home to hospitality to office to hospital.
Pond 5: where Aspiration meets Discretionary effort
Pond location: “Everyday Superhero,” Penguin Random House
Fauna: Organizations of all kinds
Flora: A new vision of leadership, designed to help companies take on the challenges that organizations face and create lasting change in complex and chaotic times.
To craft a hero’s narrative around a middle-middle manager and her journey to overhaul outdated leadership systems and instead prioritize people, their aspirational purpose, and their discretionary effort.
I recently drafted a guest piece for d.school Jeremy Utley’s Creativity blog entitled, “Make Leaps Happen.” As with other twists and turns I’ve taken, this froggish title took me by surprise. But during a time of rapid disruption driven by COVID, AI, cryptocurrency, the Metaverse, politics…, dramatic leaps are required for companies to produce new and sustainable ponds.
I embrace this change to a higher amphibian life form :-)