Let’s build a smarter planet together.
“We work because
it’s a chain reaction, each subject leads
to the next.”
This story starts as many modern tales do:
with an email.
I pondered Piers’s question and the transformation
our firm, SY, has experienced since 2011. I found myself thinking about beginnings, and about the path that led me here—to this particular moment, with an invitation to share my story with an audience of creative thinkers.
From a single phone line and one brave client, we grew the firm. With every new question we asked,
we found ourselves going deeper and deeper into
our clients’ businesses.
We began to visualize the system as a series of relationships among people, forging beliefs about how change happens at every level.
We realized that in order to make positive change at scale, each level must be activated. With intention.
Which led us to IBM, where we had the chance to follow in the footsteps of our design heroes on an ambitious project to redefine the company’s role in
Curiosity drove our heroes Charles and Ray Eames, and it’s what’s driven our firm on our own meandering course.
With IBM, we helped create Smarter Planet. We began to learn about impact at scale, and explored the edges of IBM’s work, from urban systems to genetic science to big data.
And with that knowledge, we helped IBM honor its 100th year anniversary with an exhibit that explored how to make the world work better.
The world’s largest visualization of the data coursing through a city’s system. An immersive 24-screen movie. A deep set of expertise on dozens of kiosks. This project was the ultimate maker’s challenge—to imagine something that did not exist. And arrange
all the elements to make it so.
Let’s go back, then, to SY’s humble beginnings 20 years ago, in a storefront office in San Francisco.
After 20 years of building a business I know you have to continuously be brave in reinventing yourself as a creative person—and equally brave in reinventing your company. These grand leaps forward depend on knowing your character as an institution, and the meaning of your heritage.
Our curiosity then landed us on the Indian subcontinent with IBM, where we began to help them bring their unique company culture to a new workforce, set to make tremendous impact in the world.
Developing a platform to help transform a company culture across the world, influencing 400,000+ people, opened our eyes even further to the notion of scale, and the complexity of transforming a system.
Our work with IBM, building platforms to help their people reach for greatness, gave us the courage to design and launch Unstuck. Less than three years later, Unstuck has touched the lives of nearly a million people worldwide, and now, as of April 2014, it’s available to anyone on the web.
Our very first Teamworks customer...
Virtually all acts
of greatness are the work of an ensemble.
In making Unstuck and hearing about the moments that trip people up the most, and in seeing the struggles our clients face, we realized that we needed to make a product to help people at work, with the relationship dynamics on teams.
And it just so happens that our very first customer was a manager from India.
So, as SY celebrates 20 years, and you all continue pursuing your aspirations for greatness, I leave you with perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned.