A new location


Our blog has been moved to http:hellercd.com

Hope to see you there.


Design Stinking


Thank you, Helen Walters, for your thoughtful piece on Design Thinking in FastCompany. In contrast, I will take a shorter, more scatological path to explaining why I think we need to stop this “exciting new phenomenon” before it kills its host.

First, it’s pretentious and unable to withstand scrutiny. How did all the invention that took place before this trope was born occur? What was Leonardo using as a method? Years ago, Jerry Mann, then president of Seagrams, told me that a new tequila I was helping them launch was a “Barbie Doll Tequila”. That it needed credentials and that our job was to develop them. This is what Design Thinking feels like to me.
Continue reading ‘Design Stinking’

I am currently a coach in the NYU Stern Business Competition. I focus on the Social Venture side – including ventures that have a social mission and are for-profit, non-profit, and hybrids. Candidates will spend the year honing their pitch and plan with our coaching and rounds of judging. Social Venture Competition winners get the $100,000 Satter Family prize.

In round one of coaching, candidates used Angel Fund software to profile their ventures. The core idea, market analysis, basic numbers, and competition are all analyzed concisely on the sheet. What’s not there? Collaborators. My co-coach Janet Becker, noted this gaping hole and disadvantage to those profiling their ventures.

The signs of silo-ed business strike again. It made me think back to Cheryl’s talk with She Says at the WeWork space.

What would it be like if ventures were forced to think about collaboration and integration from the first steps of conceiving their concepts and viability? How would that change the game? Tech, traditional, and social ventures alike would benefit from the analysis that offers integration and innovation with it. Let’s stop creating the wheel and dig into the complexity of our overlaps and ability to serve each other.

In one of the thousand conversations I’ve had over the past month, somebody said, “You can always recognize the pioneers, they’re the ones face down in the mud with arrows in their backs.”

Two people that I care about and admire deeply have recently been removed ungraciously from the organizations they founded. One is Jeffrey Hollender, the other is a friend who would prefer to remain anonymous. In both cases, it’s been attributed to Founder’s Syndrome, what is commonly meant as the time at which a visionary leader should extract himself or herself from the enterprise they created to make room for people who can “ take the organization to the next level”.
Continue reading ‘The real dilemma of Founder’s Dilemma’

I spoke last night, along with Ellen Lupton, to a wonderful gathering of women at the She Says monthly event in Soho. While I have always been a bit jealous of people who can use the same presentation enough times to deliver it flawlessly, I typically end up writing something different for each occasion, making it endlessly time consuming and never a performance so much as an exploration into new territory. (Staying true to my personal motto that “There must be a harder way to do this.”). Last night I tried out some logic for what has been on my mind lately, which is, to be concise, how women can solve all the world’s problems – at once.
Continue reading ‘One single answer to all the world’s problems: Women.’

Game on


Guess what my favorite work-out is?

I did it every day for a month to win the prize of a free following month. My accomplishment was slighted, though, by the fact that I did not manage to become the FourSquare Mayor of the workout studio. Hana H., whoever you are, I tip my hat.

FourSquare — the company that helps you “find new ways to unlock your city” by sharing locations with friends and winning points, badges, and “Mayorships” of locations they go to more than anyone else in 2 months time – is a phenomenon. It seemed as if it would be threatened by the advent of Facebook Places and SCVNGR’s use of camera phones and text messages to win themed scavenger hunts, but they’ve held strong.

Guessing games, competitions to create the best content, Mayorships, points, badges, and other awards are all the rage. People are even getting married over FourSquare mayorship competitions. People say they love the friendly competition. Meanwhile the New York Times wondered last week, will this trend ever break into the mainstream?

Points and games are not the issue here, though. It’s a matter of Communication Design – building and enhancing relationships the spaces where possibility arises and invisible connections already exist.

Continue reading ‘Game on’

Bad communication design is a highly dangerous thing. Two examples from a trip through JFK and bus side seen from a taxi on the ride home.

IBM’s “Let’s build a smarter planet.”  Actually, the planet is genius, homo sapiens are too stupid to learn from it. If only we were smart enough not to destroy the one we have.

Continue reading ‘Once you see it, you see it everywhere.’



Yamboy* was a young student in Nairobi who was turned into a yam when he accepted candy from a witch in his schoolyard. Identified by his schoolmates and taken by his teacher to the local police station, Yamboy was held for observation for several weeks before being released to begin his new life as a tuber. We caught up with Yamboy on his way to the Amanpuri Resort in Phukett, for some much needed R&R.

* The story of Yamboy appeared in USA Today. The article ended with the simple statement that belief in witchcraft is still prevalent in Nairobi. Continue reading ‘Yamboy’

“Going off the grid” is an expression designed to make us think it’s about nothing but sacrifice – a perfect example of framing as George Lakoff describes it. Because it quite literally says we’re giving something up (Oh no! Not the GRID!!!), we’re pre-conditioned to anticipate a loss. As with fossil fuels, so it is with that one-way fire hose of car crashes, fear, loathing, violence, corruption, lies and terror that our competitive 24/7 world of journalism has become. Continue reading ‘Living off the news grid: Communication re-design.’

Lying in a hammock under white pines, I count the tiers of branches to recognize the years the tree has stood sturdy over the space. Generations ago, old-stand white pines were harvested to stand tall over ships and the merchants who made America. Living and harvested woods — both — have been invaluable parts of business and culture for generations. Now, in a warehouse where Red Hook winds whisper tales of a manufacturing past, Pickett Furniture is using new ways to communicate to drive the business of building pieces that last in harmony with the wood.

Our first connection with Pickett through his tweets. At the #promise conference, @PickettFurnitur spoke honestly and was funny on the live twitter feed. Exploring his blog and tweets, we saw that he embraces new communication and practices in tune with our conviction: old ways of communicating for business are dead. Pickett’s voice and engagement online is driven by and driving an authenticity that is absent in old communication. Twitter, his blog, and facebook highlight the humanity of business and are relationship builders and creative tools.

Continue reading ‘Handcrafting & Communication Lasts through Generations’

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