The Case for Collisions

I became enamored with this concept of creating collisionable opportunities once I heard Tony Hsieh of Zappos drop the idea.

Through planning and design, it is about creating points of bottleneck, tension and intentional collisions of humanity.

Through those collisions – you are accelerating serendipity in the hopes those unplanned moments will spark creativity and ideas.

Whether inside the office (which you can do by decreasing the amount of physical/individual space employees have) or outside the building (by decreasing the number of entry points, putting a shared distance between where they park and work).

Tony is planning out these opportunities for collisions and serendipity in the development of the Downtown Project in Las Vegas.

We are a group of passionate people committed to helping to transform Downtown Las Vegas into the most community-focused large city in the world. We are doing that by inspiring and empowering people to follow their passions to create a vibrant, connected urban core.

Our primary goal is to help to create an environment that encourages serendipity…the opportunity to unexpectedly collide with people from different backgrounds. Serendipity encourages people to connect with each other, exchange ideas, and accelerates learning

Here’s Tony’s slideshare presentation on the project.

This idea came full circle at the end of the day when I was introduced to the geek-artist Leo Villareal (my moniker for him), who is the visionary behind The Bay Lights So inspiring from both an artistic and public project perspective.

But what resonated the most had to do with the true public component of the piece – and its visibility from San Francisco’s Embarcadero. Leo eloquently shared how part of his desire was to create a conversation piece for the public. So that those watching and enjoying the piece would have a shared experience with the stranger next to them, leading to a conversation and exchange of thoughts and opinions. And perhaps that serendipitous sharing of thoughts could spark something else.

I see it as a focal point, something people can gather around. People who have never talked to each other are suddenly talking and it’s literally creating community. It’s almost become a digital campfire

Synapses are definitely firing now on how to create these collision opportunities in my own world – both within my agency and my community.

(Not quite the same as being there – but here is a live web cam to get your Bay Lights fix, as well as a Vimeo channel)


The Lineup of Ideas

While I was listening to the live stream of the Aspen Ideas Festival (because my track had not started yet so I couldn’t be ‘in’ the room) I inadvertently heard the theme to what I’m going to be experiencing

Planned Serendipity

Leave it to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to drop the knowledge on his Theory of Serendipity: creating collision opportunities in planned environments so that you can accelerate serendipity, and therefore collaboration, creativity and idea generation. (more on this concept when I tackle his Downtown Project)

While I don’t think I’ll be head on running into people around the Aspen Institute campus (tho I might, because I am socially awkward in foreign locales and also quite the klutz), I do see the collision opportunities. Hell, even before my track has started I’ve been close enough for some amazing OH moments with Justice Elena Kagan, astronaut Anousheh Ansari and a table of folks from the CDC.

Plus – the lineup of ideas I’ve selected for the 3.5 days takes me out of my comfort zone and into different fields. Here’s the plan so far:

    Saturday, June 29
  • Afternoon of Conversation:
  • Featuring House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Henry Paulson on Sustainable Urbanization, Eric Lander of the Human Genome Project, Playwriight Anna Deavere Smith, Violinist Robert McDuffie, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, and Supreme Court Associate Justice Elena Kagan

  • Fire and Lights:
  • Mankind Illuminating the Cosmos at the Planetarium

  • Bay Lights| the Most Remarkable Public Art Project in America:
  • Artist Leo Villareal discussing his light sculpture in San Francisco

      Sunday, June 30

  • Experts are Passé, What About Leaders:
  • Andrew McAfee, Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business

  • The Future of Your TV:
  • Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, fmr FCC Chair Julius Genachowski & Sony Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton

  • With All This Data, Will We Come to the Right Conclusions?:
  • RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson, MIT Director Andrew McAfee, MAYA Design CEO Mickey McManus

  • Your Brain on Stories|Why You are Hardwired to Think and Learn through Storytelling:
  • Master Storyteller & Consultant Kendall Haven

  • Matter of Debate|Is Privacy Paramount or Should We Live in a Transparent Society?:
  • Legal Affairs Editor of The New Republic Jeffrey Rosen, Columbia Law Professor Tim Wu. (This is underwritten by Booz Allen Hamilton, which I find awesome & timely

  • Envision, Invent, Inspire:
  • Three PhD candidates from MIT Media Lab present their research.

  • Designing the Human Interface:
  • CCO of Jawbone & CEO of fuseproject Yves Behar, CEO of Nest Tony Fadell, CEO of Flipboard Mike McCue, CEO of Path Dave Morin

  • Build on It|Designing Our Educated Future:
  • Los Angeles USD Superintendent John Deasy, CEO New Classrooms Innovation Partners Joel Rose

  • The Literature of War|Who Gets to Tell the Story?:
  • Author Lea Carpenter, Author Ben Fountain, Author Karl Marlantes

  • What does it Mean to be a Journalist in the age of PRISM and Wikileaks?:
  • Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman, HuffPost Editorial Director Howard Fineman, Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, Finance & Economics Editor of The Guardian Heidi Moore, WSJ Weekedn Review Editor Gary Rosen

      Monday, July 1

  • NPR’s “Tell Me More”:
  • Live show with John E. Deasy, Anand Giridharadas, Steve Inskeep, Shirley Ann Jackson, Joel Klein, Madeline Levine, Paul Tough

  • Beautiful Complexity|Design, Business and Technology in the Age of Trillions:
  • CEO OF MAYA Design Mickey McManus

  • The Cool War|The Future of Global Competition:
  • Harvard Law Professor Noah Feldman

  • Surprising Synergies|Game Makers, Policy Makers, and Educators:
  • CEO of ESA Michael Gallagher, CEO of Woodrow Wilson Center for Scholars Jane Harman, CEO of Dreambox Learning Jessie Wooley-Wilson

  • Art in a Post-Conflict Society:
  • Fmr CEO Viacon Tom Freston, CEO of Moby Group Saad Mohseni, CEO of Season of Cambodia Phloeun Prim

  • Crowdsourcing Solutions to Messy Problems:
  • TED Curator Chris Anderson

  • Future Footprints|Expansive Landscapes and Enduring Cultures for the 21st Century:
  • National Geographic Fellows Sean Gerrity and Chris Rainier

      Tuesday, July 2

  • The Rise and Fall of Curiosity:
  • Williams College Senior Lecturer Susan Engel

  • The Rule of Law on the Move|Challenges and Disasters:
  • Associate Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer

  • Love It or Leave It|Can You Design Love into Your Brand?:
  • PepsiCo Chief Design Officer Mauro Porcini

  • Activism Anew| Dispatches from the Front Lines of the War on Women:
  • Jane Harman, Author Courtney Martin, Planned Parenthood CEO Cecile Richards



    Off for a Little Inspiration & Intimidation

    It’s early and I’m airport-bound.

    Destination – Aspen.

    Not for a celebrity jaunt – though I am sure I will see a few rich & famous folk.

    I’m headed to the annual Aspen Ideas Festival, “…a conversation-packed exploration of some of the most important ideas and pressing issues we face.”

    How can you not be energized by a description like that? The issues on tap, the mix of conversation opportunities and the amazing speakers on the lineup awed – and intimidated – me.

    This is year two of my quest to attend gatherings that challenge and expand my thinking.

    Last year? World Domination Summit.

    This time around, more inspiration than domination.

    Ideas, pure and simple, can be inspirational. They can plant seeds where none existed. They can morph an existing thought into quite another. They can introduce us to worlds of thinking we have never considered, thought about, imagined… And that’s why we like to share them!

    Here’s to serendipity, planting seeds and doing epic shit.