Simplicity on the other side of complexity often sounds like common sense. That is the point.
CommonWise is a social innovation design lab that launches and scales ethical enterprises.

Learning from Business4Better in Shanghai, China

Last week I traveled to Shanghai to speak at the Business4Better China Summit, sponsored by UBM and chaired by my dear new friend and inimitable connector, Richard Hsu. The gathering, called “100×100”,was a convening of one hundred for profit and one hundred nonprofit businesses that share a common intention, as the mission of Business4Better states,

Designing for Human Energy as a Precious Resource

Depending on your job, your political persuasion and where you call home, the word “energy”, conjures images of solar panels, windmills, gas stations or coal mines. Or, it can bring to mind oil spills and oil bills. For the most part – humans being humans in the twenty-first century – we tend to think of

The last methodology you’ll ever need to learn.

We live in a time when self-evident, practical truths about life emerge from the mouths of self-proclaimed pundits as genius revelations. They are the kind of truths we know we know already, if we would only pay attention; the kind my friend Cheryl Kiser calls “the cutting edge of common sense”. But somehow we don’t

The American Dream in Black and White

A design approach to a just economy Within the international development community, there is a growing interest in the role that design can play in solving poverty and injustice. The Gates Foundation has commissioned a study to better understand how to integrate design thinking into its work, and a recent request for proposal from the

AIGA Studio of The Future

It seems more than a little ironic that on the day I sit down to write about the studio of the future, I have received from storage a delivery of the contents of my home studio from three years past – things that were once precious enough to pack and store and move to a

Peace Without Boundaries

The real work of social innovation is to fix our broken human systems; the way to do that is by inviting real diversity into our lives; seeing and then removing the boundaries between us. It might look something like this. Memories from the week before Thanksgiving include pink sunrise skies with clouds like bubbles on


Business and social innovation are not traditional bedmates, but have much to learn from one another as the thinking behind this rising class of design entrepreneurs positions them as true leaders. “Big design”, as we know it, evolved to serve the needs of business. Everything about its hierarchical structure, project-based approach, revenue model, values and

Where Ideas Really Come From (We Are All Bird Brains)

What’s called “big data” is the staggering number of bits and bytes in the trails that we all leave in our everyday computerized lives (think every phone call you make, every time you swipe your credit card, email a friend, tweet, download a song, open a web page, drive through an automated toll machine –

Please Stop trying to change the world

I just finished Vivian Gornick’s wonderful book on how to write personal narrative, called The Situation and the Story. In it, Gornick explains how crafting personal stories with broad appeal—rather than boring personal anecdotes (the “I guess you had to be there” stories)—requires detachment. Only by putting some distance between ourselves and our own personal

Empathy begins with language

Lucy Kellaway writes funny commentaries on business in her podcasts for the Financial Times. On the 16th of June, in one called “Descent Into Drivel is a Sign of Apple’s Fall” she takes on the language of Apple’s recruiting ads as a sign of its impending demise. Her point is well taken. Apple says they’re

Design for Social Innovation, Moving Past the Assembly Line

The most pressing challenge businesses face isn’t finding new opportunities for growth and market share; it’s changing the

You Gotta Get Out More

Why being humbled by nature will make you a better social innovator (and a better human). I was knocked out by the responses to my recent post on “Creating our Way to Well-Being”, particularly by the number of people who shared their relationships with nature. And, I was saddened by the stories of glorious times

Heller Good. An Accidental Visionary Mashes up Design, Social Innovation

It’s hard to sum up Cheryl Heller. She’s a fine artist, CEO of Heller Communication Design, chair of

Sappi Design Partners Awarded Top Honors in Design Industry

This year AIGA, the professional association for design, is recognizing 24 design leaders, among them Cheryl Heller and Dana Arnett, who have been vital to shaping the Sappi brand over the past two decades. Patti Groh, who has been with Sappi for 21 years—first at SD Warren, then Potlatch—has worked closely with both of them, and

The Start of Sappi’s Ideas that Matter: Cheryl Heller

  In 1999, Sappi received a suggestion that we start a cause-related program for designers and end-users. The goal of the program was to recognize design on paper that benefited worthy causes. Not only would this new program help bring attention to the power of design and communication on paper, but it would also reinforce