why I opted for the unpredictability and serious highs and lows of starting my own company

Jan 21, 2015 · 5 min read

(this is not an entrepreneurial how-to)

They say its best to start by starting

so here goes

This is my first blog post in over five years.

In 2006, I started a now-defunct blog, The Web is Social dot com, merely as way to personally explore the issues I cared about: the intrigue of system change that the internet represented in The Cluetrain Manifesto; the future of a changing advertising, marketing and communications industry; the “dissent from within” theories of early Web architects; and then more practically, the emerging “Web 2.0" and newfangled approaches to web design and development that would eventually change the entire way in which we behave, communicate, market, sell, organize, even how we fall in love, get jobs and find homes. It was my little mental sandbox, a journal of roughly-cut ideas and emerging points of view about what seemed to be a wild west of possibilities.

The field is ripe again for techno-cognitive intellectual foreplay (with real business implications)

Its taken me years to get back here, the mental sandbox, to share roughly-cut ideas and emerging points of view about what seems to be a new dawning “wild west” of possibilities, namely: the rising Internet of Things and the ancillary Quantified Self and bio-tech; the Post-Supply-Chain-Economy (3D printing, dematerialization, Graphene, technological unemployment, cognitive surplus, oh my!); Algorithmic Business and the adoption of wearables in the workplace; the increasing validity of VRM as a viable economic construct; The Quantum Mind, AI, Virtual Reality and the implications of Non-Local Consciousness; and, of course inherent in all of these fields is the continuing sophistication and marriage of Big Data, Deep Learning, the Smart Cloud and Nano-tech. #SometimesBuzzwordsAreRealThings

Things currently occupying my thoughts, courtesy of Q’s visual team>>

Its taken me a while to get back because I spent the last decade as part of the marketing disruption wave, primarily focused on creating a strategic discipline around social media marketing at agencies, and diving into the world of corporate innovation and change-making. Acceleration up the corporate ladder while in my twenties led to inevitable burn-out, and what would become known lovingly among my friends as my year of “eat, pray, love” in 2012 (I’ve never read the book, but I did travel solo to India and to Bali, among other places, and spent most of the year doing some serious “self-work,” and eventually falling in love with a European).

But I digress.

Truth be told, contrary to what my resume or LinkedIn profile may indicate at first blush, I am not a marketer, and never really was.

I used to tell people that I only got started in the industry because of two motivating factors (both of which are true):

1) I was a writer whose subject was simply future reality. I read the Cluetrain Manifesto in 1999 the summer before my freshman year at college. How humans connect and communicate seemed like an obvious starting point to explore future realities.

2) I wanted to change the nature of advertising (perhaps one of the stronger forces gobbling up cognitive surplus in the world), sort of a “dissent from within” style approach, I suppose. At this time I also had a subscription to AdBusters and had just been introduced to Chomsky’s “Manufacturing Constent.” (#SoCollege)

When people used to ask me around 2006/2007 whether we “could have predicted the rise of social media?” beyond the titillating experiments of the early BBS, Prodigy chat, Friendster, MySpace and AOL chat rooms, my response was usually, “sure, just read Tim Berners-Lee’s original 1989 ‘Information Management’ proposal at CERN,” the very paper that would lay out the foundational vision and architecture for the WWW. “The Web is more a social construct than a technological one,” indeed, Mr. Berners-Lee.

But I understand the question. It wasn’t really a question about social media per se, it was a question about future-telling. Pattern recognition. About the predictability of change, and more importantly, the predictability of systemic change. And my answer, equally, was not about social media’s rise per se. It was about the power and possibility of pattern mapping, of system-seeing and predictability.

My answer was an under-handed passive-aggressive show of devotion to the idea that it is ultimately the responsibility of every engaged, thinking person to notice the patterns of change, to knit together interdisciplinary clues that create new possibilities, new innovations and new transformations in the world.

Here’s where I get to the point about Q…

So here we are. Q just turned 1 year old today. What is Q? Well, for the short answer, we are an innovation accelerator focused on helping bold and ambitious companies anticipate, lead and thrive in moments of disruption. (In layman’s terms: we consult companies on future trends, and create strategies around how to organize, operate, innovate and produce value in the world given those trends. We also build technology products we love.)

The long answer? Q is our new thinking and making sandbox. Q is for the intellectually curious, the emotionally intelligent, the cognitive integrator, the pattern-tracker, the system-seer. Q is where we challenge our thinking at the line between what is, and what is possible; then, attempt to smash that line by working on projects we care about. From technology systems to human organizational systems, to exploring the intersections between space, sensory input and human experience, we are focused on meaningful contributions to systemic transformation.

Whatever I end up writing in the future here, in this little sandbox, is experimental by design. I don’t have an agenda other than the agenda of humanity. I don’t have a POV other than there is an immense reality of (trans)human possibility just beyond the curtain of our current economic, social, political, cultural and technological systems. This is where I want to put my energy, in problem-solving for our current and future realities. And that, dear friends, is precisely why I started Q.

Thanks for listening, I hope to be learning many new things from you soon. #ToTheFuture




Written by

unpolished thoughts by Alisa Leonard, founder of Hello-Q.com, a futures consultancy challenging its own existence.

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