Solve for x, Citi ventures
As part of my Strategic Design masters studio, I worked on a team that designed a new business prototype for Citi Ventures. Facing a future of fractured work and uncertain employment, our venture, Solve for x, sought to create a test lab for the future of creativity by staging unexpected gatherings of strangers of all ages.
We set out to see the unexpected by harnessing our diversity of thought and unique off the wall perspectives. We called our team Averted Vision, based on a technique practiced by astronomers when looking through a telescope. If you look directly at a star, its light source seems to dim. By looking slightly to the side and placing the star in your peripheral vision it will reveal itself to the viewer in its full luminosity. That’s what we did too.
By 2025, half of all work will be freelance. As more people work alone, will freelance endanger creativity?
After 11 in-depth interviews, 40+ intercepts, 5 site visits, a deep dive on historical trends, and a robust quantitative survey, we arrived a 3 key insights that focused our work.
Freelancing makes it harder to find cross-generational mentorships.
Freelancing kills collaboration, making it more difficult to share knowledge and build new skills.
Older workers have industry experience but lack social currency
How might we make freelancing feel like being on a sports team? Increase cross- generational collaboration? Make freelance feel like SoulCycle? Can we make freelance feel the opposite of being lost in space?
Reflection on Process: If you already could answer a complicated problem with a direct approach, you wouldn’t need us. Design is, in many ways, best at being comfortable in uncertainty. And that starts with seeing things differently. To kickstart raucous and freeform thinking, we applied offbeat ideation prompts – our unique How Might We questions.
Based on our ideation, we decided to prototype experiences that could bring people together to find inspiration and make creative connections. We dreamed up Solve for x, a venture that stages offbeat design sessions; solving for problems on collaborative teams, sparking inspiration and creative connections across generations and backgrounds.
Reflection on Process: We laid out key assumptions critical to the success of our product. Defining these “fail moments,” when these critical assumptions were invalidated, focused our prototypes to make sure we were testing the most important and riskiest assumptions.
SOLVE FOR X PILOT
To truly understand what it takes to spark inspiration and creative connections through collaboration we had to do it in real life. Once we got started, we understood that our audience wasn’t just freelancers, but all “creative weirdos.” Then we realized we aren’t just making it easier to meet people and feel inspired, we’re building a new model for creativity. So, we staged the first Solve for x mission: Solve for Alien Arrival, passing out letters to interesting people on the streets of New York and inviting creative professionals of all ages to join. Participants were prompted to imagine what would happen if friendly aliens landed in New Jersey. How would they plan the welcoming party and what would be their first meal? We even crafted tin foil hats to establish the right quirky creative atmosphere.
RESULTS 100% of participants would recommend a Solve for x event to a friend. Amazing new ideas and interesting cross-generational alliances formed. 100% reported feeling creatively inspired in their work the following days. 80% said they collaborated in a different way. 20% exchanged their contact info with someone new.
PARTICIPANT FEEDBACK An interesting/creative workshop to get your weird juices flowing and meet new people. ~ I can’t wait to come back to the next one! Honestly, this is what I do at home alone anyways, now I have someone else to do it with ~ Lots of laughter, silly ideas and spontaneity ~ An experiment in creativity
Don’t just make something you think the client is going to want, make them something they haven’t yet realized they need. Even a bank cares about creativity. When I’m pitching an important client, I have to create a vibe and let them come to me. The questions you ask in the beginning of research will confine your solution only if you allow them to. Fight for ideas you believe in and don’t sweat the small stuff. Participants will be more creative and engaged if they’re having fun. Everyone loves aliens.