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Office of Innovation Labs





Author Michael Gelb in his classic How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci names Seven Steps to Genius. We love to adapt these as Seven Posture Typologies, one assumes in preparation for innovation. Here are the 7 with some examples of SMART Cities and SMART Community projects:



We were invited to represent the U.S. at an international 2 week charrette / workshop to urgently generate strategies to save Malmberget Sweden from being swallowed into a giant sinkhole. Prior to arriving, we were all required to watch the Monster Moves "deep deep down" video and we were all well aware of the significance and urgency of the problem. The town of 3,000+ people were delicately perched on a collapsing mine located just above the Arctic Circle - they desperately needed to move ASAP.


We were 40 very different design and strategy experts from 17 different countries who arrived expeditiously, dazed and jet lagged, on a snowy day in March. Some took dog sleds to our hotels due to the weather. Some hotels were located on the edge of the rim of the sink hole. After a hurried check-in we assembled at the mining companies executive offices and after a quick dinner we were given torches. At 9 pm all 40 of us marched through town with our torches in the brisk crisp cold air, to a secret location in the dead of night. As we got closer to the destination, in the pitch blacknesses, we could hear the sweet voices of all the Malmberget children singing the "deep deep down" song. They greeted us as we arrived. We were quickly ushered into the lodge where the lights soon dimmed and we watched the a video delivering our "mission" in the Arctic darkness.

The Sami people or Laplanders are the indigenous residents of the area and are protected under the international conventions of indigenous peoples. They are very important elements in the day to day life of Malmberget, and they wanted to meet with us. We all boarded snow mobiles and dog sleds and ventured into the wilderness for 2 miles. The Sami’s had seats carved out of snow with a blazing fire pit in the middle. They also had been roasting a reindeer in a teepee for two days in anticipation of our arrival.


At community discussions, some members of our group suggested that the mine must be punished for the damage they caused. But the residents forcefully responded, "why would we do that, the mine is owned by the government, and the government is us!". Through these experiences you really recognize and appreciate systems thinking and the interconnectedness of all things and phenomena. Small causes can have large effects.


In 2010 the final plan to move all the residents was finalized. The event was featured in Numerous Magazines & in a made for TV documentary: How to Move a City - by David Wikdahl. Moving cities may be a much needed core competency in the future.

6. CULTIVATE: GRACE, FITNESS and POISE [Humanizing Mumbai] 


We were invited to represent the U.S. at an international do-tank & 2 week workshop to generate strategies to humanize Mumbai. The city after having undergone explosive growth, felt it had lost some of its past grace, fitness and poise. Under the theme of ‘Humanizing a Metropolis’, Mumbai invited 40 different designers from 20 different countries (including NY-CSI to represent the U.S.) to address some of the social and infrastructure challenges facing the growing city. In order to yield more tangible solutions during the two-week workshop (from 5-19 February 2014), the Interdesign focused on the Matunga locality situated in the central part of Mumbai. The 2014 Icsid Interdesign Mumbai presented a  unique working environment and inspiring opportunity for participants to develop creative solutions for serious problems. 

Matunga is the northern part of a planned precinct characterized by low-rise residential areas, learning areas, defined green and urban spaces. With time, the precinct has changed drastically and has emerged as an educational hub with a sizeable demographic of approximately 50,000 students. The social and infrastructure services to support this academic environment have developed organically as a result and with a reduced percentage of open space. Finding innovative ways to deal with the changing fabric was the challenge of the Interdesign under the following of sub-themes: university township; learning experience; shelter for out-of-town students; health care; nutrition; financial security; markets by the students and for the students; eco-friendly transportation; and entertainment & leisure. Many of the design challenges and their solutions were later applied to other Indian metropolises and other international emerging economies.

5. WHOLE BRAIN THINKING [Operation Resilient Long Island] 


When hurricane Sandy Hit the NY Metropolitan region these students jumped into action. This is an awe inspiring story of how to start an organization and really make a difference through the art and science of structuring a new non-profit startup. Operation Resilient Long Island initiated one of the first international competitions to respond to the disruption of hurricane Sandy by crowd sourcing creativity from the world to present new possibilities and by supplying a simplified version of the changing regulations to residents. Within 2 weeks of posting the results of those efforts on their website they were getting over 75,000 hits a day. The effort also initiated numerous seminars, symposiums and lectures which activated additional resources from outside the affected area. The organization became a primary resource for residents. The organization won numerous awards for their efforts.



At the end of August every year you can't find any silicon valley executives in the office because they are all expanding their horizons on the playa in Black Rock City Nevada.  A willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox, and uncertainty can be invigorating especially when you use the venue for a retreat. However you must adhere to the guiding principles: Radical Inclusion, Gifting, Decommodification, Radical Self-reliance, Radical Self-expression, Communal Effort, Civic Responsibility, Leaving No Trace, Participation and Immediacy.

We thank our dear friends at Red Deer for hosting us. They were building this amazing interactive pyramid on the playa. In the past we used to take our tribes into the forest and hug trees and fall backwards into each others arms, today we go to Burning Man to push the limits of creativity and to embrace uncertainty.

3. REFINE YOUR SENSES [diner en blanc] 

The continual refinement of the senses, especially sight, as the means to clarify experience is extremely important in posturing for innovation. In 1988, François Pasquier initiated the first official diner en Blanc at the Parc de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne. After being out of the country for some time he returned to France and invited a few friends to the Bois de Boulogne for dinner. To find each other in the park, they all wore white. The dinner was such a success that they decided the next year, each person would invite some other friends and the event grew organically into the 10,000+ dinner it is today.


Our good friend Sandi Safi hosts the annual FLASH MOB (North American version)  Diner En Blanc. The secret dinner party takes place in NYC every year. The pop up dinner party originated in Paris France, over 25 years ago with a few close friends gathering in a public place for dinner, and has grown into a worldwide phenomenon with each event now hosting several thousand guests. For the past several years, Diner En Blanc has been hosted in New York City. What better way to refine the senses than candle light dinner with gourmet food, fine wine and 10,000 other "friends" all dressed in white. We are fans.