The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes. Marcel Proust
I have always played in the brackish ebb and flow between boundaries, especially that of science and art, resisting easy categorization and developing the skills of a translator as a matter of necessity. My parents are physicists who can name an artist from across a gallery or a concerto after hearing a few notes. So, it’s little surprise that my Stanford University application had a fashion design sketched across its pages even as I sought to study chemistry or that I pursued my passion for filmmaking after declaring a major in social psychology. I relish the exactitude of process but am compelled by the whimsy of possibility. And science, if we’re honest, has always lurched forward thanks to a dogged willingness to imagine something not yet obvious or visible to the masses. Germs? Gravity? The Cosmos? Brave souls, at times decried as heretics, have always challenged accepted reality and dared to envision things differently.
In this tradition, I learned to ask how and why as reflexively as breathing. And, as each answer led to more queries, I came to appreciate the value of questions as a force for deepening our understanding of the world and exploring the nature of our very humanity. This orientation, echoed in our family motto that “the journey is the destination,” shaped the cadence of our lives, both at home in Boston and on our many adventures. It fostered a pursuit of relentless enlightenment as well as the cultivation of space for welcoming the gifts afforded by serendipity. I am keenly aware that this disposition has allowed me to drop as easily into the jungles of Venezuela or the bazaars of Cairo or the narrow passages in Edinburgh with humility as a stranger but firmly confident in my ability to create connection and find my way — curiosity has always been the wind in my sails and the engine driving my professional pursuits.
Shaped during these travels, spanning archeo-astronomical sites and cosmopolitan centers alike, I have been captivated by maps, exploration and the spectrum of human experience for as long as I can remember. And I became transfixed by how one learns to navigate when met with unmapped landscapes. The tales of ancient mariners using only a sextant and the stars are a central metaphor for the ways in which I have pursued innovating within complex ecosystems. From meteorological models to urban communities to food systems, we must now learn how to temper hubris as we see that, where we believed we had adequately mapped and understood, dynamics are changing before our eyes as the result of our rush to build roads where none existed.
It’s no wonder my interests have compounded and multiplied over almost two decades riding the bleeding edge of emerging technologies. And my perspective on tools, skill sets and mindsets has been transformed by wrestling with the evolution of arenas from interactive and digital publishing to cloud computing and social media advertising. While this journey has informed my take on the new instruments needed today, it was my disillusionment in something else entirely, which now drives my approach to the complex collaborations necessary to really foster and drive innovation in any field — the role of leadership. Too many dollars are handed to bright people trying to solve the wrong problems using the wrong tools. I experienced this painfully when I got involved with a sustainable tourism social experiment in Fiji. I witnessed how even the best intentions, when narrowly-focused or without discipline, result in real-world wreckage. Bouncing back and forth to a tiny island, I found myself on the verge of ditching it all to dig latrines, when the man I was dating issued an admonition that has led me to where I am today: myriad people can contribute only through that kind of physical labor, but you must find the unique way in which your good fortune and skills can be put to the highest use.
Several years later, having cultivated a willingness to leap and a finely-calibrated inner compass, I landed at THNK School of Creative Leadership in Amsterdam. Fittingly, it was on a wind-swept beach by the North Sea that I first got to know Sharon Chang, as we were partnered up to explore the idea of vision. Immersed in design thinking and team dynamics, sharpening an understanding of my passion and purpose in relation to other changemakers and corporate rebels, I founded Curious Catalyst as the expression of my deeply-held values and the desire to transform inquiry into impact. I began focused on applying the agile ways of innovating within technology to the volatile subject of our mega-cities and rapid urbanization. And I endeavored to incentivize opening up the underlying blueprints of systemic change, so that each effort could scale access to and amplify impact across similar contexts in more financially efficient ways.
Since then, I have come to appreciate my so-called superpowers: the ability to use my perspective as a professional outsider, honed living between cultures and sectors, to uncover blind spots, reveal unlikely patterns, connect dots, activate unusual collaborators, cross-pollinate, identify opportunities and build bridges across disciplines. And I have attracted a SWAT team of diverse practitioners who bring humility and the pursuit of excellence to bear on humanity-centered design challenges. Increasingly, I strive to balance delivering strategy and innovation solutions with investing in capacity-building and program design, to support individuals, teams, organizations and ecosystems as the most effective way to meaningfully catalyze change.
Over time, interweaving efforts with Sharon was a natural choice. We evolved our collaboration from working together on THNK initiatives to new product development sprints to deeper commitment investigating questions as I became the executive director of Sharon’s impact investing engine, Yoxi. Then, with intention and a few other intrepid explorers, we dove into the future of work, the future of family and the emerging discipline of future architecture. Before we build anything anew, it must first be imagined. As an intentional act of conjuring and orchestrating, springing from the alchemy between art and science, future architecture is at once deeply familiar given my journeying but also enlivening with its fresh promise to attract and align the many of us who have been toiling under different banners. And as Bart Giamatti, former Yale president and commissioner of Major League Baseball, describes home as “a concept, not a place, a state of mind where self-definition starts,” finding fellow future architects feels like an invitation to return to the source from which we can best envision a world made more beautiful for more people, together.