Business Model Myths in the Circular Economy

Today at 11 EST I’ll be giving an online talk for the virtual Circular Economy “Dif” Festival put on by the Ellen MacCarthur Foundation.

What was planned to be a thorough analysis of common business model mis-conceptions has changed in light of recent events.

We will discuss:

  • Equitable outcomes.
  • Ray Anderson.
  • Circular economy. Business model myths.
  • People-centered capitalism.
  • Business model innovation as the strongest tool for survival and resilience


Join us online at 11,



Designing for Climate Action

Join me and my students from SVA’s Products of Design Program at Design for Climate Action @svaPoD for an evening of open innovation. Inspire a group of students who have the skills we need to start pushing the right levers of change (systems thinking, design, programming, communications, everything that I should have learned in grad school). Wednesday, September 30th, in NYC.



Get Tickets Here ($10)

Event Description: Designing Climate Action is an open-innovation forum for entrepreneurs, designers, scientists, and activists to collaborate to accelerate climate action. Through an iterative and participatory workshop hosted by the Products of Design community, the event will bring together industry leaders with activists to foster inter-disciplinary partnerships and seed endeavors. Select ideas generated during the event will be developed by Products of Design masters students throughout the fall semester, and publicly presented in December 2015 to align with with COP21 proceedings. Products of Design is a Masters degree program at the School of Visual Arts.

Who should attend: Designing Climate Action calls for participation from entrepreneurs and business leaders building new more sustainable economies, designers and communicators creating movements to mobilize consumer action on climate and social justice, scientists working to foster urgency on climate change, and community activists whose stories should be front and center in the climate conversion.

A call to action: For the workshop please bring your challenges, ideas, and opportunities which can only be achieved through collective action. By pulling together this network of experts and activists, the Products of Design community hopes to create a forum to collaborate with you and/or your organizations to realize projects with high potential to galvanize action on climate change, by incubating them throughout the fall before releasing them to the public.

NYC BigApps: For Profit or Non Profit?

A strange question started popping up in my classes at SVA PoD, NYU ITP, and in various apps and tech and data competitions:

Is my concept best suited to become a company? Or a non profit?

Strange, because when I graduated in the 90’s – this question might apply to one’s career path, but it was pretty clear that non profits were for those that wanted to do good, and for profits were for those that were ambitious, and wanted to make money.

Now there are multiple, myriad ways to form an entity, and “good” is not the provenance of the mission driven 501 (c) 3.

A better way to answer this question – follow the funding sources that accelerate scale.

I’ll be speaking Saturday, June 21, at the NYC BigApps Big Build

8 Principals for Designing for Dignity in Health Tech

Thanks all for the great discussion, in real time at StrataRx and on the Twittersphere.

Is it enough to design for a great patient experience, improved health outcomes, and overall cost reductions in health care? While incentives may soon change, the idea of data-driven solutions to improve health care is not a new one. Yet why have technological solutions so frequently fail on all three of the triple aims? We need to be able to ask deeper questions, and experiment with more humanistic approaches.

Looking at specific interaction examples from incumbents and startups in health tech, I will contrast the current approaches for data-driven solution development, and how they fall short at the moment of interaction. Incumbents deploy top down approaches that comply with regulation, and meet the needs of payers and providers, but famously fail to deliver engaging patient and practitioner experiences. New entrants want to disrupt the entire system, but often struggle to understand deep unmet patient needs, and how to demonstrate evidence-based outcomes.

For each solution born onto the health tech scene, can we ask: Are patient’s lives enhanced by the addition of data? Do doctors become more wise? Do nurses feel more empowered? Do spouses know how to effectively intervene? Do adult children of aging parents get more time in their overly stretched days? And do these collective interactions actually result in improved population health?

This talk will outline an approach to design for a higher aim and enhance the lives of everyone who seeks care from the health care system.


Here are the slides:


Disrupting the Self : The Mindfulness Continuum

At Startupfest Montreal at the invitation of curator extraordinaire Alistair Croll and his amazing sister Rebecca Croll. Tomorrow’s discussion: Disrupting the Self: Lifelogging, Wearable Computing and Society. I promise a deep, context setting and likely provocative discussion with Dulcie Madden, one of the founders of Rest Devices – who provide “human centered devices that make people healthy and relaxed” – including the launch of this sensor-packed babe onesie. 

The Mindfulness Continuum

The Mindfulness Continuum

I’ve been thinking about life logging since the year 2001 – when I had the opportunity to work on the Stress Eraser with an extraordinary team at Frog Design’s New York studio. I was the Managing Director but thanks to a post 9/11 effort to make the organization lean, I got to roll up my sleeves and do project work. Before there was Quant Self and the Lean Startup Experience, we had been engaged to work with a single company founder to build a product and help devise a business for breathing coach device that measured heart rate variability. We applied design thinking techniques- building a hypothesis of the target persona, and interviewing people directly.

In fact, we helped devise what would now be known as a pivot. Our founder entrepreneur had envisioned designing this device to meet the needs of yoga instructors, who would then recommend this device to their client base. But each yoga instructor we met rejected the idea of a device guiding the breathing and relaxation experience. Instead – yoga instructors sought mindfulness – a state of not having to be data driven, and in fact not having to use cognition to achieve a state of rest.

So we then went to the opposite of mindfulness – people who suffered anger management and anxiety issues, who had actually been diagnosed by a clinician and who were advised a course of treatment. While the tenor of these conversations was challenge – it took a while to establish trust and get to the underlying issues, we realized we had found a deep, truly unmet need. These potential customers were struggling to access a sense of themselves that would provide a window into their condition. When we finally tested the prototypes, it was often the first time this cohort was able to connect the effect their actual breathing had on their sense of stress level and anxiety.

The ultimate health was to never need such a device, but there was a substantial and likely growing group of people that needed this assist to cross the chasm – from non awareness to initial awareness. In systems thinking this is called double loop learning  where participants not only get feedback on their decisions and consequences, but over time change their mental models and decision rules. Yet for someone who has a lifetime of unhealthy breathing, eating, or exercising, it may mean that life change will require continuous support for this learning process. (More on single and double loop learning here in a course I teach at NYU ITP – Bodies and Buildings) and this study of meditation and mindfulness by Jerath Barnes and Wright in Frontiers in Neuroscience.

Flash forward to today, and the next 3 years of massive change in the health care sector, and we will see many startups and large companies repeat this exercise, getting that initial target customer wrong, over estimating the desire of people to be gamified into sleeker, healthier, smoke free versions of themselves, and using the wrong triggers. So how to think about the opportunity? Design for Mindfulness. Erika Carlson at Washington University in St. Louis recently published an excellent study on mindfulness as a goal. Drawing from cognitive, clinical, and social psychology, Carlson outlines a theoretical link between mindfulness and self-knowledge that suggests focusing our attention on our current experiences in a nonjudgmental way could be an effective tool for getting to know ourselves better. We will not truly move to a data-driven, transparent future of reduced cost, improved patient experience, and improved health outcomes (The Triple Aim) until we are first able to reach people at the right point on the mindfulness continuum.


Best of Strata: Data is Not a Business Model

Update July 2, 2013: My talk is now available on YouTube:


My talk is being broadcast at an upcoming Webinar brought to you by O’Reilly:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

5 AM San Francisco | 1pm – London | 8am – New York | 10pm – Sydney | 9pm – Tokyo | 8pm – Beijing | 5:30pm – Mumbai

Big data does not necessarily lead to big business outcomes. It is a rare business leader who even asks the biggest questions of what big data can do. Everyone is looking for ways to define data as an asset that can be monetized. But data itself will never move the needle for the Fortune 1000. Data is a means to an end. The end is not just insight, or knowledge, or brief moments of wisdom (when marveling at gorgeous data visualizations). The end we seek is wise action.

Looking at examples from health care, advertising, open government, publishing, and financial services, I will contrast the current approaches of big data business models with a more innovative, scalable, and effective action-oriented approach.

I will outline the key pitfalls data geeks fall prey to, and how you are most certainly too smart for your own good when talking to us MBAs. I will show how your service can deliver evidence-based decision-making to the people that matter on the front lines, and at the highest levels of the organization. I will also show you how to design data services that get people to care about their jobs, and their contribution to their company goals.

This talk will help anyone who is tasked with determining how to get more business action out of data.

Register here for the webinar.

My original presentation slides are available on Slideshare.

And I’ll be at StrataRx this coming September.

Government Plays VC in CleanTech

For Open Forum at Inhabitat:

Futuristic Projects

Futuristic Projects

“If we can get three home runs, that’s terrific,” announced Steven Chu, the DOE Secretary at a press conference on Monday, October 26 at Google’s campus in Mountain View, CA. Chu was at Google to deliver 37 energy technology projects funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy program (ARPA-E), the DOE’s first effort at funding $151 million in experimental energy technology grants, focused on high-risk, high-payoff projects.

A 3 out of 37 home run success rate is hoping for an outcome better than Silicon Valley venture capital odds. Yet the DOE’s choice of companies and organizations is starkly different from those selected by VCs. While, 43% are small businesses, 35% went to educational institutions, and 19% to large corporations.

Grants to independent companies focused primarily on those with strong university research ties, such as MIT spinouts 1366 Technologies, SunCatalyx, FastCap Systems and FloDesign Wind Turbine. Several universities received funds such as MIT for an all liquid metal grid-scale battery low cost energy storage, Stanford for sensors, software, and controls to track and improve energy use patterns, Michigan State for a gas-fueled electric generator, and others to Arizona State, Ohio State, and more.

Large corporations were also included in the grant awards, to companies such asGeneral Motors for an energy recovery device that converts waste heat from car engines into electricity, du Pont for the production of advanced biofuel made from seaweed, and United Technologies for Synthetic enzymes that capture CO2 from coal plant flue gas streams.

Venture capitalists typically focused on early stage companies in order to focus on the potential high growth technologies of the future. The DOE’s mandate is different, choosing technologies that will transform the way we consumer energy in the future. The ARPA-E grant is the first investment in alternative energy technologies since the US began investing in technology R&D after Sputnik. What do you think of the government’s ability to pick winners? What odds would you give the Department of Energy?