passion for start-up

I am currently in India teaching design at Indian School of Business. One of the reasons that I keep coming back here is the students. They are smart, driven, often technological sophisticated and passionate about their work. Each day, I have several students visiting my office pitching their ideas, seeking advice. Today, I met one student who wants to change the way public education is done in India. He was a former fellow for Teach for India, a kind of an Indian version of “Teach for America”. He knew exactly what were broken in the system and had a great idea to work with. Another student I met today wanted to build a map of civic complaints for the entire India. Given how the government here operates, he did not believe that Indian government would do a system like 3-1-1, which is quite successful in many American cities. Instead, he would like to have a mobile app that would allow people to post problems in public infrastructure or government services. He wants to do it, not to report those to the government, but to collect and build a map to visualize those complaints. The map will show the intensity and diversity of the problems in public service in different parts of India. Brilliant! He believes that this might trigger a change in Indian government, out of shame.
I love this! I love this type of interactions with sharp, driven, and creative students who want to do something meaningful with their lives. I am glad to be help them and inspire them in any way I can. It is a blessing!

The Artisan Soul

I started reading “The Artisan Soul” by Erwin McManus. It is a great book and I would recommend to anyone who is interested in creativity and design, whether you are a Christian or not. McManus sees us as “inherently creative beings” who live with “the fear that if we aspire to be more we will discover ourselves to be less.” For him, to live is to create; and to create is to embrace risk. He notes, “[t]he past will be our future until we have the courage to create a new one.” This is exactly the point of path creation and institutional entrepreneurship. And, for him, everyone should strive to be creative and the most important creative outcome should be our own lives. The quality that we strive for is not “great” but “good”. He notes, “[g]reat is about execution and achievement; good is about essence and ethos.” We all should aspire to do great work, he argues, without neglecting the importance of being inspired by all that is good and beautiful. In that sense, the Artisan Soul is a “good” book.


Apps & Maps summer program (1)

From July 1, 119 Philadelphia area youth (13 – 19 year old, 69 of them are girls!) are learning various digital literacy skills through projects, lectures, field trips and workshops. They spend six weeks on Temple campus,  working in different groups throughout the campus to work on various projects: designing small business app, exploring culture and youth in Philadelphia, creating heart monitoring and music app, designing monopoly game with Philadelphia map, and creating community-based book sharing site. All of them received basic web programming including HTML and Ruby. They also have a chance to listen to various speakers including a world renowned English literature scholar, a TV producer, a venture capitalist, a technology social entrepreneur, Philadelphia’s Chief Data Officer, and a digital media entrepreneur. 



Supported by the generous funding from Knight FoundationEDA, and PYN, the program’s goal is to reach out urban youth during the summer and teach them with digital literacy. The three core components of digital literacy are design thinking, computational thinking and spatial thinking. Through design thinking, we help students to gain contextual understanding of intractable complex social challenges from multiple stakeholder perspectives and their unmet needs. They learn how to visualize their ideas and the value of rapid prototyping. By computational thinking, we teach them basic pattern of complex problem solving approaches through abstraction, decomposition, and iterations that allow algorithmic approaches to a problem. To teach computational thinking, we draw on various wonderful on-line resources including Hackety HackCode Academy and W3 Schools.



A group 24 participants (dubbed as “coding group”) learned HTML5, CSS, MySQL and PHP – a basic suite of web programming languages that are used for virtually all web sites. They also learned information architecture and database design. They learn through collaborating with each other. Some kids are clearly faster learners and better coders than others. Yet, they are asked to help each other, pulling those who are falling behind.  What is truly amazing is that these students all learned how to set up an interactive dynamic web site using PHP and MySQL in four weeks! Some are now sweating to figure out how to integrate Facebook and Twitter into their sites. Watching them working on these projects is just simply inspiring. 

A group of girls working with Professor Li Bai and his graduate students learned how to program Arduino.  They figured out how to write code to monitor hear rate. I will write more about them later. Their work is truly amazing. I think they can introduce a completely new product that companies like Samsung or Nokia should be interested in.



We will have our open house to celebrate their great work next Thursday. I will post more detailed information about our open house here soon, along with many other great stories about our students. So, please stay tuned. 

Bricks and Management Education


I started using bricks in my design workshop program. This means that I need actual bricks of different kinds as a part of my program. Since I deliver this program in different places, I often need to ask local hosts to buy these bricks for the session. This is a picture sent by an individual who is helping us for a program that I will deliver next week in Florida.

Books for Philosophy of Science

Here are the books that we will be reading this semester.


Organization Design with Toys

Yesterday, my class discussed Sony case. The case covers how the traditional organization structure that Sony had with product silos led to its failure to respond to digital challenges. Instead of discussing the case, I ask the students to build 3D representations of Sony to explore the problems deeper. Then, we discussed how Frank Gehry uses his projects as a way of organiz-ing, drawing on “From Organization Design to Organization Design-ing“. Based on the ideas from the discussion, they modified their models to develop concrete suggestions for Sony. Here’s a brief summary of their works.

Group 1: From Walls to Spaghetti


This group was trying to depict the “walls” separating different product groups and redundant knowledge resources (represented in different colors of Play Doe). They discussed the possibility of “back-channel” rogue communication attempts among engineers which are often thwarted by the management (you can see a small black tube through a wall in the back). The senior management sits on the top of the wall, not really connected to the day-to-day reality of each product groups.


Their revised model resembles Spaghetti organization. But, in fact, it is more like a matrix structure with a couple of twists. Each chunk of Play Does in different colors represents a community of knowledge. Each circle represents a convergent projects. Different color lines represent design visions that pull certain members out of their own home base (communities of knowledge) to join these projects. They felt that the firm still needs some type of central unit that coordinates these de-centralized efforts, which is represented with the Play Doe can in the middle. They identified that a key challenge here is preventing the central coordination unit becomes the innovation Nazi, enforcing the central vision. Yet, at the same time, separate project teams need some type of resemblance in order to maintain the sense of identity as a firm. Also, they kept the bended construction paper after removing the wall — noting that the scars from old structure will likely remain.

Group 2: From Vertically Integrated Silos to Core Integrative Platform


This group represented each product group within a small circle. The tall structure in the middle of each circle represents a vertically integrated product structure that is managed within the narrow band. What is not shown here (because I took the picture before they finalize it) is that the location of senior management. The group built a high tower in the middle of these circles to place all the senior management. Again, similar to Group 1, that was meant to represent the isolation of central management from the grounded realities of each product group.


Their revised model shows a series of convergent product built on a shared platform (represented by a large flat panel). The three circles in the middle represents three core integrative capabilities that they identified (they did not specify those capabilities). These elements represent the core of the organizational structure – that remains stable. The periphery structures with different products are dynamic teams are brought together for specific innovation opportunities. These ideas are crowdsourced within the firm. The strength of their models was that they tried to represent both product and organization structures simultaneously, trying to explore relationships between the two.

Group 3: From a Maze to Whirlwind of Innovation


This group represented the old structure with a maze. This was meant to represent a micro-level experience of an individual engineer who had a break-through idea. He or she might want to have a conversation with another engineer from different product group, but finding the right person feels like an impossible task. Each product group again has redundant resources. Senior management is gathered in an isolated location (HQ).


The modified vision again was represented from a ground-level view from an individual engineer’s perspective. Here, each Play Doe can represents a community of expertise. The firm has established an integrative design process by which individual ideas can be swirled into a whirlwind of innovation that is propelled by a design vision. The product (represented as a lump of Play Doe of mixed colors) shows a complex mixture of different knowledge resources (both in and outside of the firm). Unlike the other two groups, they focused on a micro structure of the new organization design.

Evolution of Charlie Bit Me

This is a short video clip that I put together for my class last night. It shows many different adaptations of Charlie Bit me video, which was originally posted in March 2007. Since then, this 55-second video has been watched almost 130 million times. A quick search on You Tube with “Charlie Bit Me” produces 13,900 different videos. Through this clip, I wanted to show the nature of unbound innovation with digital technology to my students. You see how Charlie evolves move to different countries, ages, and gender over time. Then, you see a group of kids doing Charlie. Then, you see a series of animations including Charlie Brown, Unicon, and even Lego characters. It ends with a hip-hop remix of Charlie video and a live performance by a using the track.