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Move Fast




The not so Secret Project.

For the past 11 years we’ve been running an experimental program called Project M. M was inspired by the work of Samuel Mockbee, what he called an “architecture of decency,” and the Rural Studio, the off-campus design build program he co-founded with D.K. Ruth in Hale County on behalf of Auburn University.

Like the Rural Studio, Project M operates in the communities it serves. M inspires and empowers young creative people to identify needs and come up with ingenious solutions to challenges facing the people living in those communities.

While Project M’s spiritual roots are in rural Alabama, we've run sessions in Baltimore, Connecticut, Detroit, Kansas, Maine, Minneapolis, New Orleans, and Oklahoma—and internationally in Costa Rica, Germany, Ghana, Iceland.

Project M sessions always produce ingenious small bets. Some have been short-lived, while others have gained momentum—producing learning, insight, and impact over time. That momentum has generated sustainable impact locally—as well as international interest, news coverage, and acclaim. One of our most notable projects is PieLab, covered here in the New York Times Magazine

The good news.

Project M has produced hundreds of alumni out in the world who are using rapid ingenuity to take on some pretty daunting challenges. Take +Pool, a floating, water-cleaning pool for the rivers of New York City, by M alums Archie Lee Cotes and Jeffrey Franklin. (Go PlayLab!) 

The bad news.

Given our day jobs running Think Wrong Blitzes for corporations, start-ups, foundations, non-profits, and government agencies we can only run so many two-week Project M sessions in a given year.

The better news.

We've found a way to increase the number of young people we can introduce to rapid ingenuity. We call them 48-hour Blitzes. To date we’ve run dozens of them at universities across the U.S., in the U.K., and in Australia. 

Check out how some students used the Make Stuff Practice to take on the challenge of changing the eating habits of Americans during their 48hr Blitz at the University of Kansas. 

The best news.

For the past 5 years, we’ve been searching for the right academic partner to extend the reach of Project M—and rapid ingenuity. Surprisingly that partner was right in Future’s own backyard. When Steve Beal, President of the California College of the Arts (CCA), approached me and said “We’ve been thinking of doing something like M.” I knew we had found a partner who was not afraid to experiment and who shared our passion for eduction and our zeal for driving positive change in the world.

So, now the cat's now partially out of the bag. This Fall CCA is launching a new program called Secret Project, that I will have the honor of leading. Soon the secret will not be so secret. Stay tuned for updates and announcements about Challenge Blitzes, partnerships, and an ingenious building that might just pop-up on CCA’s back lot in San Francisco.





Have you ever wondered “How long would it take for security to show up if you were to pull into Facebook’s corporate headquarters in Menlo Park with a Cricket Trailer, unhitch it, push it into a parking spot, start popping the roof, and wind down the steadies?”

Well, we have an answer.

It’s a little less than two minutes.

But to give the security guy credit he was on a bike, someone had to see us on CCTV, wonder what the bloody hell we were up to, communicate it to him, and then he had to find us. Two minutes in that context is a pretty rapid response. Kudos to Facebook security!

Once we explained to him that we were there to see Tim Campos the CIO, and yes we were planning on meeting him in the parking lot—in the Cricket, that had transformed into a mobile-blitzing-lab-come-conference-center he was mightily impressed, and as the Cricket is now a giant dry erase board Greg wrote “Approved by FB security” on the front and we were good to go (that apparently is all it takes!).

We then had to convince Tim’s executive assistant that we were not going to kidnap one of the most influential CIO’s in the world, we're pretty sure he was only 22% joking about that.  Upon inspection, he agreed that our conference room was far superior to any on their campus* and he went inside to return with Tim.

*He may not have said that, but it was pretty obvious what he was thinking!

Greg had used his illustrative talents to draw, amongst many things, a picture of Tim on the side of the Cricket along with his quote: 

“Technology matters, but talent matters more”. 

Some people, like John Bielenberg for instance ;), might have thought such a thing creepy, weird and slightly stalker-esq… conversely we thought it mildly sidesplitting and with John being in Maine at the time, what was he going to do about it?

Mercifully, Tim’s team saw the hilarity, and he himself was impressed that he’d said such wise words.

Tim Campos and the Cricket Trailer

To the meeting itself, is there a better environment in which to describe a Blitz than a hacked Cricket, that was born from a Blitz, out in a parking lot, sipping delightfully chilled REBBL tonic (born from another Blitz), from the onboard refrigerator? Let’s examine:

  • Be Bold: We think showing up in a Cricket adorned with the CIO’s face on the side is pretty bold.
  • Get Out: Well yeah—not only did we get out, but we gave the Facebook team the opportunity to get out of their environment too, to be receptive and invite serendipity.
  • Let Go: This was most definitely not the same old same old meeting!
  • Make Stuff: We were sitting in a space that was living testament to making, and the Facebook team engaged having fun with the physical space, playing with the writable surfaces and the Cricket itself.
  • Bet Small: The worse thing that could have happened is thinking it was a little weird and having the meeting in a conference room instead.
  • Move Fast: The Cricket was still a Cricket until a week before, and we had no way of moving it. Plus, it is a conference room that can go about 70mph—that’s a pretty fast conference room.

There was serendipity of doing all this at Facebook whose culture fosters the traits of blitzing and the Think Wrong Practices themselves, and we're thankful the team was more than willing to return serve with us, how’d the meeting turn out? 

You’ll just have to wait and see.

P.S. If we did it again, we would put beer in the cooler!





What happens when a Cricket Trailer finds itself within sight of a blitz? 


Solve Next friend, founder of Taxa, and inventor of the distinctly awesome Cricket Trailer Garrett Finney lent Project M one of his early Crickets to use in their adventures. Via the M-ers inHALE effort said Cricket ended up at The Think Wrong Lab, where it collided with the Future Mavericks and their Blitz.

One of the moonshots conceived in their Blitzing the Blitz Blitz was Milk—a mobile rapid ingenuity lab.

Huh, what existing resource do we have that’s mobile and already ingenious to make a small bet?

Oooo – a Cricket Trailer!

We had 5 Mavs for 5 days, and Mav Anthony hanging around for a little longer. Sweet. Let’s do it! Let’s hack the Cricket. We had no collective experience in doing this sort of thing—how hard could it be?

Here’s where we started… we gutted the Cricket.

We took out all the seats, rewired it, moved the batteries to provide room to accommodate 10 people, all while not losing utility so that John could use it on “expeditions” (his words, John clearly is  unfamiliar with a hitched Jetta’s ground clearance).

Speaking of hitches, here’s one—you’ll note I wrote Garret lent us the Cricket, but here’s what John had said “Garrett GAVE us the Cricket”— what he meant to say was “Garrett gave us the Cricket TO USE”, five letters, big difference in meaning!

Thankfully, Garrett was beyond agreeable telling us to “go mad” —good, after the fact, given what we’d already done!

 We primed, sanded and finished the exterior turning it into one giant dry erase board using IdeaPaint.

By the time we were done, we’d converted the interior walls and hanging table-come bed into white boards, added a projector screen, storage for our blitzing accouterments, and seating for 10—and John could still be expeditionary. 

So what does this have to do with Facebook?

It’s Tuesday and Anthony added a potted plant as a finishing touch before heading home to Kansas City. We’ve never towed it, the Jetta still doesn’t have a hitch, we don’t know what it takes to get one (it’s more than you think!), and the Cricket looks insane. Greg and I have, what we consider to be, a brilliant idea for an incredibly important meeting with Tim Campos, the CIO of Facebook and his team on Friday.

John’s response to our brilliant idea, “Is that a good idea?”. When John—the conceiver of Think Wrong—verbalizes concern regarding the potential wrongness of our thinking you’d think we’d pause.

We didn’t.

What could possibly go wrong?

Find out what happened next in our next blog post!

*** For a different perspective check out Anthony's blog here — it's where we stole a bunch of pictures from ***


The Toxic MBA

Think wrong about toxic MBAs

The problem-solving orthodoxies they teach you in business school kill ingenuity. Greg Galle explains why at TEDxGrandRapids.