There’s an apocryphal story about President Kennedy visiting Houston in 1962 that has always sparked my imagination. Kennedy is visiting the city to tour the NASA facilities when he meets a janitor in the halls. “What do you do here at NASA,” Kennedy asks. The janitor earnestly replies, “I’m putting a man on the moon.” End scene.
Imagine the clarity of purpose this would require. Consider the uniform commitment to a vision that would be needed to extend a glimpse of an unlikely possibility to be embraced so deeply. Imagine how fully the community would have to believe in something impossible to see the pushing of a broom as the fuel for lunar exploration.
Kennedy was in Houston in 1962, that’s true. And, among the 45,000 people that joined him at Rice University Stadium, there were thousands of students, boy scouts, marching bands and certainly a janitor or two. And, in a blazing heat that would cause 46 people to “keel over from heat exhaustion,” Kennedy set about to make the case for spending more money on the impossible vision of a moon landing. It’s in two sections of this brief speech that we see the challenge and the possibility.
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”
“But if I were to say, my fellow citizens, that we shall send to the moon, 240,000 miles away from the control station in Houston, a giant rocket more than 300 feet tall, the length of this football field, made of new metal alloys, some of which have not yet been invented, capable of standing heat and stresses several times more than have ever been experienced, fitted together with a precision better than the finest watch, carrying all the equipment needed for propulsion, guidance, control, communications, food and survival, on an untried mission, to an unknown celestial body, and then return it safely to earth, re-entering the atmosphere at speeds of over 25,000 miles per hour, causing heat about half that of the temperature of the sun--almost as hot as it is here today--and do all this, and do it right, and do it first before this decade is out--then we must be bold.”
Then, we must be bold. It’s one of the most dramatic understatements in the history of humankind. It’s also enough to convince a man with a broom that he’s essential for achieving the impossible.
Today, we’re announcing the launch of an impossible idea. We believe that through our collective work⸺of discovering, designing and launching communities for courageous people and the organizations they love⸺the global business community will come to value and recognize the power of deep, generative connection. And, we’ve decided to call it We Must Be Bold.
We’ve spent the last year building an incredible team from six states and a variety of backgrounds. We’ve brought together network and community theory, relationships of influence, and word of mouth movements into a shared space and created something uniquely ours that we call community design. We’ve worked together with some incredible organizations and individuals to prove concepts and approaches. We’ve carved out things we deeply believe and things that we just don’t believe about our work.
We believe that communities are the only recession-proof, pandemic-proof and technology-proof structures that organizations can rely on.
We believe that the best ideas are not created on agency whiteboards, but revealed through conversations with the people who love & bring organizations and brands to life.
We believe that insight can come from anyone.
We believe that the best teams are those uniquely built for specific work and led by best-in-class creative talent.
We believe that investing in people always has positive ROI.
We do not believe that transformative work comes from overgrown in-house agency teams, but that it can only come from intentionally designed teams.
We do not believe that content should ever be the goal.
We do not believe that communities can be managed, controlled or scheduled.
We do not believe that likes, retweets and shares are the measures of success.
This work is both brand new and decades in the making. Our work is proudly led by Hall of Fame marketer and the guy who literally wrote the book on word of mouth movements (two of them, actually), Director of Community Strategy and Design, Geno Church. His incredible creative partner of over twenty years is our Director of Accounts, Cathy Harrison. We’ve recruited an extraordinary educator to be our Director of Culture and Curriculum, Philippe “SPN” Celestin. We’ve been blessed with a world-class visual communicator in Chad Ziemendorf, our Director of Outreach. We’ve recently welcomed one of the leading creative executives in the country as our Director of Creative Operations, Erika Abrams. We also have two incredible emerging talents in our Community Strategist, Leticia Oxley, and our Community Designer, Evan Richards. And, I serve as Managing Director & Director of Moonshots.
So, what is We Must Be Bold?
Our work⸺through internal initiatives like The Great Discontent and Institute of Possibility, as well as client partnerships⸺is to provide the communities we design and support, across age, identity, ability and achievement, an experience designed for belonging, reciprocity, reward and shared experiences. Sometimes it looks like a virtual party for a quarantining community of cheese lovers. Other times, it’s a tweet up with Kid President, Common and Oprah. Occasionally it’s a strategy to amplify the voices of those working to exonerate the wrongfully accused or to support school-aged designers redesigning a more just world.
We’ve done this work for bold organizations and leaders across a multitude of industries including design, media, entertainment, higher education, technology, health care, government, tourism, and nonprofit. If you’re part of an organization that you believe has the courage to discover, design and explore, we’re ready to talk with you today.
Today, in addition to announcing our studio, we’re kicking off a weekly series of live conversations, engagement prompts and emailed insights called Invisible Orbits. We'll share thoughts on community design, word of mouth movements, relationships of influence, community stories, shared identities and transformative experiences with anyone courageous enough to explore. As we launch this grand effort, we hope that you’ll join us.