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The Art of Making Things Happen

What I want to learn

It takes skill to help teams bring great ideas to life.  In particular, I have noticed that several of the main tools-of-the-trade used by innovative business schools (like KaosPilots and Team Akademie), design companies (like Maya and IDEO), and incubators (like New Leaf and Co.Lab) include:

  • Project Design
  • Business Model Design
  • Human Centered Design (aka Design Thinking)
  • Systems Thinking (aka Whole Systems Thinking, Big Picture Thinking, etc.)

Said another way, if I want to be able to help people make things happen, I should be able to:

  • Help a project team develop and follow through on a project plan.
  • Help an entrepreneurial team develop and rapidly prototype business models.
  • Use tools of human centered design (e.g. ethnographic surveying).
  • Be able to quickly see the big picture, connect dots, and recognize patterns, leverage points, and opportunities for cooperation.
How I hope to learn it

These are not skills one can really master from the armchair.  I hope to master these skills by first familiarizing myself with each of them and then applying and practicing them repeatedly through real projects until they become old hat.  To make sure I am applying these concepts and to support myself throughout my Open Master’s, I will be actively seeking work and side projects over the next few years that afford me those opportunities.  Over the next few years, I will aim to:

  • Work for an incubator or accelerator program- such as The Future Project, New Leaf Initiativeco*lab Halifax– or a social innovation center at a university… or complete a series of projects with several of these over the course of at least a year.
  • Document my use of HCD methods (or methods from the Stanford d.school Bootcamp Bootleg) on any 6+ month-long project.
  • Enter three design competitions with my business partner and friend Jeff Bordogna.
  • Help facilitate a local group of a hybrid class on skillshare using the Business Model Canvas
  • Play with the Systems Thinking Playbook with some friends (possibly through a Citizen Circle).
  • Create three or more systems diagrams about any system(s) that fascinate or confuse me.
  • Create three or more asset maps for a community I am working with.
  • To deepen my intuition for pattern recognition, read A Pattern Language and use a photography project to try out some of the concepts in my day-to-day life.
  • For fun, have the Buckminster Fuller Institute’s “Cosmic Tripping” experience.
  • Anything else that I discover in the process of doing the above.
Time and Costs

Unlike other sections of my Open Master’s plan, I expect to earn the income I’ll be living on throughout my Open Master’s through some of this work for this section of my plan.  I do plan on spending some money and unpaid time buying books and working on fun, unpaid projects as I play around with these skills.  But, meanwhile, I will also be seeking apprenticeships, fellowships, residencies, and even full-time positions with incubators or other organizations who are advising, coaching, mentoring, organizing, teaching or otherwise supporting entrepreneurs and innovators.


If you know of any work or project opportunities that would give me the opportunity to learn and practice these skills on a daily basis, please share your ideas with me.

Recognition of Mastery

To vouch for my progress, I’ll be looking for:

  • A Letter of Endorsement from an adviser, mentor, or director of an incubator or other similar program, stating what I did and how I added value to their program.
  • Evidence of helping a project team take an idea from the idea to prototype stage.
  • Evidence of taking at least one of my own projects from idea to prototype stage.