Category Archives: Thoughts

Overdue for a post! General update.

Not going to lie, I have quite neglected the blog the past couple of weeks! My last review did not go quite as planned, but I have bounced back and am back on track with the project. Please take a look at my current working thesis abstract as well as a mock up for my final exhibition and descriptions of the 5 projects I will be displaying. More to come about each of the projects as they continue to develop in the near future.

System Map v4.0 (work-in-progress)

Working on the system map… Work-in-progress, but looking nice and sort of insane / frantic. It has been interesting to illustrate the entire project as an algorithm / system as opposed to just the business plan generator. More soon…

[thesis project brief]

Project Conspiracy ~

I believe we are headed towards an era of sameness – an era in which innovation by the human species alone is impossible because all humanly perceivable problems are solved. While, to some, the elimination of problems may seem to be a great success, I find it to be the most pressing dilemma of mankind. Entrepreneurship, the design of new stuff as a result of our innate empathy towards others, is what makes us human. To strip innovation and ingenuity out of the human equation is to strip the very thing that makes us unique as a species.

Three signals that point towards this predicament, the end of entrepreneurial practice, are identified: Knock-Off Products, Feature Companies, and Product-Enhancing Products. In the 20th Century we saw an abundance of innovation – the Personal Computer, the Pocket Calculator, the Xerox Machine. I argue that, made visible by these signals, the current landscape of innovation is driven by enhancing that which has already been innovated, as opposed to creating that which is new.

Project Brief ~

These signals are a visible cry for help, a sign that the practice of entrepreneurship is on it’s last leg. My thesis offers a speculative alternative to human innovation by inventing the “Dehumanized Entrepreneur” (DE), a machine that aims to heroically aid mankind in entrepreneurial practice in order to raise dialogue around this predicament. The project is split into three parts: Creation (Dehumanized Entrepreneurship), Dissemination (Business PLANting), and Discovery (Deployment Strategies).

Part 01: Creation (Dehumanized Entrepreneurship) ~

DE is brought to “life” through the development of a Business Model Generator (BMG). The BMG is trained to create computer-generated executive summaries, the basis of any and all business. Why is this possible now? The three signals that point towards the end of innovation (highlighted in the above project conspiracy) show that entrepreneurship is beginning the journey towards it’s demise. The ability for humans to perceive problems is not currently distinct, but it is on the cusp of distinction, making right now the perfect moment to write this software – before it, too, becomes unperceivable.

The algorithm works by first creating a templated structure for the summary. This template is created by comparing a series of publicly available business plans, in order to create an “average” executive summary. While the algorithm itself is not true artificial intelligence, it creates the illusion of a complex AI system through the development of content creation strategies for the database the algorithm is pulling from. By designing and leveraging systematic strategies, the generated content becomes more removed from subjective human authorship. Also, the development of these systems for data collection aims to add to the project’s story as a whole by authoring the approaches in a matter that speaks to the components of my thesis (more on that in future posts to come).

As for the DE’s outputs – they are neglected upon export, and are to be immediately inserted into X amount of time capsules. The capsules will remain unopened in an attempt to preserve the content of the executive summary until the era of sameness, the time in which we run out of perceivable problems.

Part 02: Dissemination (Business PLANting) ~

X amount of these business plans will be planted in Silicon Valley, a space that serves as a metaphor around the world for innovation and entrepreneurship. I propose to create an additional system / routine (as implemented with the process of discovering words in Part 01) to objectively inform the placement and burial of each of these plans – a kind of extension to the algorithm itself.

The burial, and planning leading up to, will be treated as a hyper-documented performance of sorts. Each burial site will be marked with a plaque that will be designed specifically to welcome those who discover it in the future scenario (during the era of sameness).

Part 03: Discovery (Deployment Strategies) ~

The project will cultivate in a diegetic business meeting to be held the night of the final exhibition, April 18th. The meeting will be comprised of 3-5 entrepreneurs, and will be set in the time of the era of sameness. Live, for the duration of the show, the entrepreneurs will discuss the plan that was discovered under the surface of the earth, and will spend the evening conceptualizing the strategic means of developing and deploying the concept in order to bring it to market.

Rules: The company purpose will be unknown to the “actors” until the night of the event. The performance will not be rehearsed.

What is left behind: Artifacts of the brainstorm, as well as a visualization(s) of the lifespan of the plan itself (conception to birth to burial to discovery), will remain in the gallery after the night of the public performance.

Introducing Steven J. Kukla

I’m excited to introduce you to Steve Kukla – By day, Steve is a project manager for eBay, and by night Steve is an entrepreneur and composer for film and concert music. I have brought him on as technical director for my thesis project – specifically to make my vision for the business plan algorithm work. Steve and I met in 2007 and, coincidentally, Steve taught me a lot of what I know about business. Over the years we have brainstormed countless of business ideas, and his entrepreneurial spirit is strong. I prepared a series of questions for Steve below.

What is your relationship with entrepreneurship?
I’d say that, as an artist, I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship, but I’ve always called it something else or looked at it in a different guise.  At first, I considered entrepreneurship to be something “business people” did.  It was about having big meetings in board rooms, pouring over numbers, making more money.  I avoided it, because I really didn’t give it the time of day; I wanted to do my thing, to write music, to hear people’s reactions, and then to write more.  In high-school and college, I began to realize that entrepreneurship is really just another word for creation.  It’s about making stuff, expressing something you love, getting that thing to as many people as possible, and then making it better.
We’ve obviously brainstormed about 1,000 business ideas together over the past 5 years or so… what do you think makes an idea great? Where do ideas come from?
For me, a great idea is something that I can identify with and get excited about.  It’s something that makes my life easier and more rewarding.  A great idea is one for which the “what” is clear, even though the “how” isn’t.  It’s something that makes somebody say “Okay, that’s awesome.  I have no idea how to accomplish yet, but I’m willing to do everything to make it happen.”
As far as where ideas come from… I think that at the heart of every idea is a root “problem” or challenge that somebody has recognized at some point in their lives.  The “what if?” question comes about when somebody wants to do something but can’t.  Ideas come from personal inspiration, too — somebody hears a piece of music or sees a piece of art that moves them.  Finally, I believe that inspiration for great ideas often come from enthusiastic collaboration. I really enjoy working with a group of people who can come together to work on something larger than themselves.
My thesis is speculating a time in which entrepreneurial practice comes to a halt as humans lack the capability to perceive problems. What’s your take on this scenario?
In terms of your thesis, I think the question isn’t so much whether or not humans will lack the ability to perceive problems, but rather, it will be whether or not humans have enough interest in finding solutions for them.  Too often, I think people are more concerned with saving time and money then they are about finding the best solution to the real problem. Nobody wants to “re-invent the wheel” because it’s there already and it works; why should they? The idea of creativity and art as it relates to problem solving is extremely important; the more creativity and art is fostered in schools, in the home, in the workplace, the more people will be able and willing to think outside the box to come up with really great ideas.

Reinterpreting the Role of the Designer

I am so excited to announce I have been nominated (and selected) by the Pittsburgh community to deliver a TEDx talk on “Reinterpreting the Role of the Designer” at TEDxCMU.

The talk will open by talking about the evolved role of designers – from creators that make “facades” to thinkers that design systems. This shift in focus within the industry, I argue, has transformed the practice of entrepreneurship into a medium of design. I will go on to discuss the designer’s obligation, with this new tool, as well as the opportunity that I have discovered, in the social sector.

The talk is March 4th at CMU’s University Center McConomy Auditorium, and will bring 400 audience members from all around to share in ideas.

Defining a Project Direction

I have decided to continue pursuing the algorithm, as my final project. To actually build this thing, make it work, and then create a series of interventions (residing on both the fictional and non-fictional spectrums of the interests), in order to play out the idea of a human’s reliance on a piece of software to generate new ideas. More specifically, I want to bring to life potential scenarios of how this thing would exist in the business world… How would a meeting with an angel investor, in which the person is forced to pitch an idea generated by a machine, go? What would it be like to play these machine-generated ideas out, strategically, in a conference room? What kind of response, if any, would a venture capital firm provide upon receiving 1… 10… 100… of these business plans? These are the three questions, or three projects, that I will be pushing towards for the end of the term.

“Jargon Madness” by Forbes

Forbes just released this hilarious NCAA-style bracket competition highlighting the most used business jargon.

“The next time you feel the need to reach out, touch base, shift a paradigm, leverage a best practice or join a tiger team, by all means do it. Just don’t say you’re doing it. Because–and please believe us–all that meaningless business jargon makes you sound like a complete moron.

To help rid the earth of this poisonous gobbledygook, we crafted a bracket, similar to the NCAA college basketball tournament, featuring 32 abominable expressions. Each day, for 32 days, readers will get to vote, via Twitter, on one matchup. The goal: to identify the single most annoying example of business jargon and thoroughly embarrass all who employ it and any of these other ridiculous expressions.

To play, simply find the day’s highlighted matchup, choose the more annoying of the two expressions, click the “Vote” button and cast your vote on Twitter. (Note: Clicking the “Vote” button will take you to Twitter; you will not receive a confirmation that your vote was cast, but indeed, know that we have received it.) If you don’t know what an expression means, click on it and you’ll be given what passes for a definition.

Share the bracket with your friends and colleagues. With any luck, we’ll encourage a new best practice:real communication!”