From Prototype to Fruition (Session 3)


The last session of this three-week workshop discussed how we assess risk and test our assumptions.

For the first part of the class, we wrote down three key risks on stickies and assigned them to a box on the Lean Canvas – mine were around whether our paying customers were interested in design thinking methods at all, whether our funding model would require us to spend the bulk of our time catering to our paying customers rather than our low-income beneficiaries, and (if we focus on teacher training over student engagement) whether a lack of resources would prevent teachers from being able to implement what they learned.

Reading through the notes articulated by others in our class made it clear that the most well-articulated risks are those that have an implicit benchmark and are measurable. Continue reading

From Prototype to Fruition (Session 2)

Lean Canvas 1

Last week, we discussed some challenges around the lean canvas – from clear descriptions, to unique value propositions vs. solutions, to the different between a for-profit business idea and its form(s) as an impact venture. We also started assessing the risks inherent in our ideas.

Thinking in this way is new to me, and doesn’t come easily. To stretch my muscles, I tried to envision Building Bridges as a series of different ventures and assess the risks inherent in each (I’d love to hear feedback in the comments!). Continue reading

May: From Conflict to Collaboration


Nobody likes conflict, and we’ll often do all we can to avoid it. The problem is that agreeing too much is just as dangerous. It’s possible to end up with the unpleasant situation that management expert Jerry B. Harvey calls the Abilene Paradox, where everyone agrees to a course of action that nobody really wanted. It happens when everyone just ‘goes along’ with an idea because they wanted to please the group, and causes a lot of resentment and blame-shifting.

But it’s inevitable that we will disagree with someone in our family, on our team, in our community, online, on the bus, at the supermarket, and especially with people who don’t share our values. What do we do then? Continue reading

From Prototype to Fruition (Session 1)


I’m using my time as an exchange scholar at Stanford to take a number of short pop-up classes at the; I’m hoping they will provide some useful tools for both incorporating into current Building Bridges programmes and for thinking about where we are heading next. One of these is From Prototype to Fruition – it’s a three-week taster taught by Stefanos Zenios and Matthew Glickman, drawing from the two-quarter GSB course Start-up Garage, and it’s offered within the to encourage a quick-and-dirty, iterative approach to developing business models. Continue reading

April: Future Visions, Current Actions


The first three challenges for the year focused on identifying our strengths, tracing how personal history shapes our sense of self and values, and how to use these insights to clarify what we do, who we do it for, and how to leverage our personal networks of power.

The next three challenges revolve around leading and working with a team. While there are countless resources out there, it can all feel a little overwhelming. Where do you even start? How do you manage the delicate balance between leading and managing, macro-visions and micro-tasks, or present operations and future visions? Continue reading

March: Calibrating your compass


The first challenge for this year was to consider our strengths – who we are and how we function when we are at our best. The second challenge involved mapping out how significant life events, as well as our socio-political networks more generally, have shaped our sense of self. This month’s challenge incorporates those insights in gaining clarity in terms of why we do what we do, and who we do it for. You’ve probably read a lot about the power of storytelling, and these two elements are key to crafting the story you can tell yourself when you need to calibrate your personal compass. Continue reading

Exponential Ideation


Yesterday I took part in a pop-out class called Exponential Ideation, with Elysa Fenenbock and Aithan Shapira, and it was chock-full of activities and prompts that I plan to steal shamelessly for Building Bridges. In fact, I would almost describe it as a (six-hour marathon) BB workshop for adults. At an art gallery! Today’s focus was on brainstorming as someone else (and reflecting on what that felt like), empathy as a form of ideation, translating ideas across media and industries, and changing constraints through unusual pairings. Here’s a run-down of what we did today, in case you find it as useful as I did. A note, though – I haven’t edited this post for readability, just used it as a brain dump for future use, so I apologise if it’s hard to get through. I hope the emphases and spacing and pictures help! Also, did you know that massaging your face can make your brain feel better? Continue reading

February: Signposting and Mapping


This month’s challenge has two parts: reflecting on your life as it is being lived out (i.e. your personal identity), and then digging deeper to take historical, cultural, and political factors into consideration (i.e. your social identity). If the first part is about identifying the signposts on your life-path, the second is about seeing that path winding through the map of its cultural and political context. All links are included at the end of this article to reduce distraction while still providing rabbit-holes (and citations).

Part 1: Developing your ‘life narrative’

This exercise draws directly from an article in The Leadership Quarterly we read in my MIT class ‘Leading Creative Teams’. It talks about different types of leadership (we’ll get more into that in upcoming months), asserting that one trait common to all outstanding leaders is how they respond to crises. Continue reading

January: Identifying My Strengths


Last year, I took a class at MIT called ‘Leading Creative Teams’ and one of the major assignments was to complete a version of the Reflected Best Self (RBS) Portrait. The RBS is a feedback-seeking exercise developed by researchers at Harvard and Michigan that I found to be really insightful for three reasons:

Firstly, it focuses on identifying strengths rather than areas for improvement. As a perfectionist trained to spot errors, glitches, lapses, contradictions, mistakes, anomalies (you get my drift) it was refreshing to seek out, for once, what absolutely shines. The RBS reoriented how I evaluate myself. Continue reading

Experiments in finding clarity: 2017 edition

As 2016 draws to a close, I am grateful that I can look back on a year that was often overwhelming and exhausting with a sense of clarity. I can see when I said ‘yes’ too often, when my efforts to attain perfection were misplaced, when I could have jettisoned activities without guilt, and – most importantly – how I will fill my life with in the new year.

I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such a sense of calm or joy in anticipation of a new year.

This feeling is certainly influenced by a Building Bridges planning session with co-conspirators Irfadha Muzammil and Amalini de Sayrah this morning, and the monster spring (winter?) cleaning session I undertook in anticipation of my impending move to Stanford for the first half of 2017, but that’s not all it is. Continue reading