When Dynamic Complexity Drives a Dream

A Team Action Lea(r)ning — A Journey into the Future

Ralf Lippold
Aug 23, 2016 · 16 min read

A Dream that has fueled my inner passion for over a decade

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CitizenScienceLab — The Dynamics in One Picture

Originally sparked by the Google Project 10¹⁰⁰ and Monkey Business (a startup in the entrepreneurial unit of the University of Applied Science Jyväskyla, Team Academy) in August 2008.

2015 this dream emerged, accelerated by participating in the 1st u.lab MOOC, and originally sparked by a short conversation with the creator of the field system dynamics, Jay W. Forrester, into System Dynamics in Dresden (thankfully shared by Technology Review)

Several other prior pivoting steps had finally led to it. Here are a few with major impact on the path:

DresdenULabHub (2015; Presencing Institute),
(2014; MIT Climate CoLab),
#StartupAccelerator (2012, TED community),
InnoBay (2011; the event page with further background info on the project has been deleted due to the updated Rocket Hub page)
EduJourney (blogger in residence at the 2011 edition of AMPlify Festival in Sydney, and the Gathering ’11, Melbourne, Australia),
CoOrpheum (2010, the 1st prototype of a coworking space in the city of Dresden, short video clip),
LockSchuppen (since spring 2009), an envisioned small replication of Singularity University in Saxony to spark and scale innovation around the Free State of Saxony,
@occDD (2009; OpenCoffeeClubDresden in the long form; several dozen meetings with local change makers and visionaries at various locations across the city of Dresden; a concept that I had captured from my dear friend Bobbie Carlton during a visit to Boston in the summer of 2009).

The following text is the original concept handed in to the Google Project 10¹⁰⁰ announcement on September 24, 2008, which I got notice about by my Finnish friends in Jyväskyla at Team Academy as they handed in a proposal themselves:

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What one sentence best describes your idea? (maximum 150 characters)

Leading the region around Dresden and Saxony back to former economic strength: the people are the most precious asset in an economy.

Describe your idea in more depth. (maximum 300 words)

Giving Saxony back the former power of creativity and innovation (Odol, Melitta, Audi, BMW, all have started from that precious soil) the system has to change — most preferably at grass-root level and this means in education. The current business world in the region has to be changed from inside. How to do that? We have to connect actively education to the local businesses, organizations, and communities in Saxony despite the (present) lower income level as in other areas of Germany.

Starting a process consulting entrepreneurship and through personal networks at the local universities of Dresden and companies establish the groundwork for setting up an education institute. This will involve education institutions and the work world through the steady establishment of team entrepreneurship companies (very much like Team Academy in Finland. The members of the team companies will undertake real world projects in areas (establish new ways of working together to create a higher and sustainable life level in the local communities) where at present no consultants are present (due to money constraints of clients).

Through active cooperation with universities, private and public businesses this will generate growth, profit (the team companies will be paid by hourly consulting and %-part of the future expected additional profits) and value for the region, driven with a vision towards a sustainable society and economy (also in the business context, as closing and reopening of companies is not sustainable in the sense of using resources, people, machinery, financials, etc.).

As Saxony is not the only region in the world with creative and innovative people the concept will be spread through various already established social network communities (SoL Network, Lean Thinking Network, System Dynamics Network, Presencing Community) crossing present boundaries.

The ultimate vision is to grow people inside their area of living towards their strengths so they can build up an economy that is sustainable and much more resistant to the crisis that we face right now.

What problem or issue does your idea address? (maximum 150 words)

The recent and seen problem in Saxony is that jobs have been cut in the past (GDR cooperations closed and very little manpower has been needed to run newly established ones funded in great part by the state). After the time bound for subsidies has run out and economic turmoil is all around companies close their plants in Eastern Germany moving back “home” to the West. This leads to further “brain drain” of highly educated people (either in the working world or the universities, as jobs are much easier to be found in Western Germany).

Intervening into the system in order to change the dynamics that -always- ends in a vicious cycle (money infusions into the region will be necessary to keep up normal life — even with closing companies) will be the mission.

If your idea were to become a reality, who would benefit the most and how? (maximum 150 words)

Benefit will the students and people actively working in the team company(ies) as they will learn team entrepreneurship, which will enable them to actively take business opportunities (which actually lie all around — we just have to grab them) in the future not being dependant on large employers. The local business will grow into stable business networks that weave a solid ground for future growth of the region making people proud of what they have achieved on their own. Establishing to extend networks outside the region and connect with other regions in the world will generate wealth in knowledge, problem-solving capabilities and the ability to generate a future one really wants to become true in exchanging stories. In the end striving businesses will pull future prosperity in the region.

What are the initial steps required to get this idea off the ground? (maximum 150 words)

Starting as a single entrepreneur by the end of 2008 getting first projects going, that will give real sustainable benefit to the partners and clients involved. In the meanwhile grounding the already in place networks to act as a fertile ground for founding the “Saxony Team Entrepreneurship”. Scanning the area of Dresden for an appropriate building that would suit the needs of a team learning organization that will be evolving through the future team entrepreneur company(ies).

Describe the optimal outcome should your idea be selected and successfully implemented. How would you measure it? (maximum 150 words)

The optimal outcome will be that “Team Academy“-projects like the one described will spread slowly around the world and will be the seeds for future sustainable economic wealth and growth especially in regions that are in economic struggle — there are many around the world.

In times where oil and logistics will become more expensive as it is at present stated through prices the idea of web-based knowledge communities will become more important especially as we face more complex issues in our communities and societies as ever before.

The described education-work model will enable communities (of every size and remoteness) to grow on their people’s personal strengths — and what you don’t know somebody around the globe knows already, you just have to find and connect with him/her.

Timeline of supportive actions taken since 10/2008 (newest on top)

[2020 — STEP 43] Joining the #GAIAjourney organized by the Presencing Institute as an positive collective positive force out of the worldwide Corona virus pandemic. Initiated another coaching circle, now called Social Solidarity Circle meeting on a bi-weekly basis.

[2019 — STEP 42] Moving into the year 2019 a prototype (you have to register for free to see the complete info or find the same here on Medium) as part of the Transforming Capitalism Lab has evolved out of the learning being part of a government-funded project to foster economic prosperity in Saxony through bringing closer together digital startups and SMEs. Through specific matching formats the intent is to lower the challenges of digitization (transforming (business-) processes from analog to digital) and digitalization (creating new business models out of the digital data/information) through joint projects, making decision makers of SMEs see new opportunities for their businesses, and hold and grow expertise locally.

[2018 — STEP 41] As the MOOC u.lab is coming to an end in mid-December, and the Transforming Capitalism Lab will be transforming early in 2019 into the Societal Transformation Lab (requiring teams of 4–5 members to work on projects/initiatives to improve society at scale) I contacted the CEO of HeroX (a crowdsourcing platform). I had a one-hour call with a member of the management team on my idea. This together with the challenges at my present work (bringing together startups and SMEs to enable a prosperous future of economics, and, as a positive “side-effect”, well-being of society in Saxony) led to conceptualizing an incentive prize, Vision Saxony PRIZE.

[2018 — STEP 40] Emerging out of attending of the Transforming Capitalism Lab (see STEP 37) is a prototype sharing insights from my work, and asking for your questions, comments or insights that might be helpful to improve the projects and overdeliver (eventually), being able to give learnings from this.

[2018 — STEP 39] Enrolled in the MOOC u.lab 0.x and right after that into the full-scale MOOC “u.lab — Leading From the Emerging Future” (AKA u.lab 1.x) once again (after four prior attendances since early 2015). Now leading a 6-person Coaching Circle focusing on supportive dialogue and deep listening each other week via a one-hour Zoom-call.

[2018 — STEP 38] End of April I started a new job, actually out of asking for free wifi at a Meetup at SAP some weeks earlier which happened to be a little challenge. At the next Meetup of this group a colleague of the organizer’s core team had managed to preset wifi for me but I could not attend that day. The day after we met by coincidence at Globalfoundries Fab1 over an event on new technology (sensors) and he mentioned that I had been missed at the last Meetup. At this chat he also mentioned that there would be an open position where I’d fit perfectly with my skills, connections with the various tech communities within the city and my deep passion for exponential technologies. What followed was a phone call, an interview, a week of “test work” and then I started (together with a colleague).

[2018 — STEP 37] On April 1st (it’s seriously no joke) the Transforming Capitalism Lab (#tcl or #TransformingCapitalism is the used hashtags on Twitter), a joint project of the Huffington Post and the Presencing Institute got started on the question “What is going wrong in our current economic thinking and acting around the world?”

[2017 — STEP 36] 4th active participation in the MOOC “u.lab — Leading From the Emerging Future” including leading a coaching circle of five active participants (Italy, Germany, South Africa and California)

[2017 — STEP 35] Next round of the MOOC “Foundations of Learning Experience Design” (currently #LXD5, link is to the upcoming one starting on Oct 30, 2017) in which I got, together with about a dozen other course alumni, appointed to Learning Coach (THANK YOU Novoed!).

[2017 — STEP 34] Thankful to be part of Adam Kahane’s newest book “Collaborating with the EnemyHow to Work with People You Don’t Agree with or Like or Trust” — currently I am looking for supporters/publishers who would also like to see a German edition to become reality (Are you interested?)

[2017 — STEP 33] In July 2017 a former participant, Augosto, from an earlier MOOC that had I participated some years ago approached me and let me know not just about his new book “The Mystical Swing” but also about an upcoming MOOC by Novoed called “Foundation of Learning Experience Design” (the course is currently running, and enrollment for the next run is already open).

[2017 — STEP 32] Honored to be invited as one of 117 catalysts of the MIT Climate CoLab helping to accelerate the impact of the ongiong competitions through helpful feedback based on expertise and knowledge in the relevant fields.

[2017 — STEP 31] Initiating a prototype (as part of the MOOC u.lab) to use digital technology (big thanks to dotSUB and especially David Orban, ex-CEO of dotSUB and adivisor to Singularity University) to translate the course intro video into languages (through subtitling) that are spoken by non-German citizens in Dresden. The intention of this was to enable a dialogue between different groups, raise the inclusion of foreigners and attracting people to participate in the upcoming MOOC u.lab in September 2017.

[2017 — STEP 30] Registered for u.lab 2x ego2eco MOOC (a prototype MOOC for the next full-scale #ulab MOOC starting in September later this year in September 2017; application has been opened recently)

[2017 — STEP 29] Applying for the Global Studies Program (formerly Graduate Studies Program) #GSP17 at Singularity University (actually the 5th run, one successful in 2011, when I could not take the offered place due to a $25k “price-tag” at one week’s notice); here the video (“putting myself on the line”) as part of the application process. Just before Easter I got notice that I am not part of the 80-person cohort for this summer’s GSP

[2016 — STEP 28][2016–11–13] Application handed in to become a TED Global 2017 Fellow

[2016 STEP 27] Supporting the first #ShapersUnited event organized by Global Shapers Dresden Hub, and active as a mentor and advisor for the local team (for about a year)

[2016 — STEP 26] [2016–08–15] Participating in “u.lab — Awareness Based Systems Change with u.lab — How to Sense and Actualize the Future” (introductory course, 1 week, 90 min) and the MOOC “u.lab — Leading from the Emerging Future” (8 weeks, full program)

Anybody based in Dresden or Saxony please feel free to join our public Twitter account @DresdenULabHub or our private Facebook group DresdenULabHub, and quite recently we have also a public Facebook group Theorie U/ Theory U in Dresden. Or check the global map of u.lab Hubs (stand 2016) around the world provided by the Presencing Institute.

For more general background check on Presencing Institute, Otto Scharmer’s blog, Otto’s profile on the Huffington Post, oder für deutsche Leser dieser lesenswerte Artikel “Entdecke die Möglichkeiten” in brandeins wissen (2007), der das Konzept von u.lab bzw. Theorie U anschaulich und knapp verdeutlicht.

One of the prototypes I am currently working (as a passionate side project) on (since the 2nd u.lab last September) is CitizenScienceLab — A System Dynamics Think Tank for Dresden

[2016 — STEP 25] the story around the evolving story from “Team Lea(r)ning Experience” to CitizenScienceLab got featured on the System Dynamics Society website with the title “System Dynamics in Dresden” (search: Ralf) — as part of the approaching 60th anniversary of the founding of the field system dynamics by Jay W. Forrester in 1957

[2016 — STEP 24] [2016–06–06] taking part with HTxA — HighTech x Agency in the Idea Showcase (p.33) at the futureSAX Innovation Conference 2016 (an initiative of the Saxon State Minstry for Economy, Work and Mobility, SMWA)

[2015 — STEP 23] 3rd participation in one of the MIT ClimateCoLab competitions with CitizenScienceLab (which had become the prototype out of the 2nd u.lab MOOC in late 2015)

[2015 — STEP 22] After 2014 now the 2nd time taking part in the MOOC #ScalingUp by Stanford professors Huggy Rao and Bob Sutton where I was able to form an awesome international team around the scaling of CitizenScienceLab to produce the final team project CSL Team Project (please excuse the sometimes rough sound due to technology shortcomings)

[2015 — STEP 21b] Fireside chat with Jay W. Forrester during the International System Dynamics Conference on the future of system dynamics — to get the public to understand the dynamics of complex systems which is the intention of CitizenScienceLab

[2015 — STEP 21a] Being invited by the MIT Technology Review to extend my comment on the article “The Many Careers of Jay Forrester” from June 2015 into a more elaborate alumni letter to the editor with the title “System Dynamics in Dresden” — this was certainly one of these ‘magic moments’ in life I am so grateful for. THANK YOU!!!

[2015 — STEP 21] Twice attended the MOOC #ULab in February (2015) and September (2015), from which the prototype CitizenScienceLab has evolved for the time being, pulling together civil society, research community through system dynamics and presencing — having worked with a wonderful and dedicated international team that just met online (yet) was inspiring and encouraging at the same time bringing forward to original 2008 idea forward. THANK YOU ALL!!!

[2015 — STEP 20] Being one of the official vanguards for the XPRIZE Global Learning Prize #LearningPrize, helping to grow awareness about the competition in Germany, and in personal global networks, as well as supporting the Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to raise $500k. Initiating the XPRIZE Think Tank Dresden (active on Twitter) together with Prof. Gianaurelio Cuniberti (TU Dresden) and Gunther Neumann (MDR)

[2015 — STEP 19] Invited to become the Ambassador of the Networked Society Project for Germany — I can’t say how honored, and humbled I am!

[2015 — STEP 18] Official social media partner of Dresdner Lichtjahr 2015 #LichtjahrDD in order to grow the awareness about the technology advancements, and activities in the field of light-based technologies especially from Dresden as an active part of the International Year of Light 2015, #IYL2015

[2014 — STEP 17] A Mission to Bring World Changing Ideas from Singularity University to the World made possible together with Angela Incampo on invitation by Jazeel Badur Ferry — founder of the social media aggregator Eventifier (which became also official supporter of the Dresdner Lichtjahr 2015)

[2014 — STEP 16] Entering MIT Climate CoLab Global Competition with a proposal on a Green Tech Accelerator in Dresden, From Railway Hub to Tech Hub — your ideas are welcomed here

[2014 — STEP 15] Crowdfunding of [STEP FOURTEEN] has been successfully achieved, Tweets from Singularity University GSP14 now captured (with blogs, pictures) at http://bit.ly/SingularityUniversityGSP14 - my big thanks to all supporters who have made this possible!

[2014 — STEP 14] #GSP14Eventifier — an ad-hoc ‘nano-scale’ crowdfunding campaign to capture the Twitter conversations from Singularity University (June 14 — August 24, 2014). If you are INTERESTED feel free to check, and support the project. We have been kindly supported by Eventifier who allowed us to combine the crowdfunding with their social media content aggregator

[2014 — STEP 13] #AppliedResearchAccelerator (— after Prof. Gianaurelio Cuniberti’s panel discussion at #TechForum14 organized by The European House Ambrosetti together with Singularity University’s VP of Innovation, Vivek Wadhwa, and his short interview “Linking fundamental and applied research

[2013 — STEP 12] #FoundersAccelerating as part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week 2013 & Gründerwoche 2013 with Boston-based entrepreneur & author Halley Suitt Tucker & Athens-based, entrepreneur and founder of soundmap.co, Stathis Kassios (see his crowdfunding campaign to make the trip to Dresden, one of the most underrated entrepreneurial hotspots (currently) in Germany, possible). Additionally the call for projects for the 1st KUWIPrize 2013 DZWK e.V. (Dresdner Zentrum für Wissenschaft und Kunst) was part of the same event.

[2013 — STEP 11] Supporting Prof. Manfred Buchroithner and the Institute for Cartography of the Technical University Dresden, bringing the 26th International Cartographic Conference (Angela Incampo & myself created the official hashtag #iccDD2013, also on the conference website) into the global community via digital real-time communication. See here the tweets that came in only during the conference between August 25–30, 2013 on Eventifier. On the sideline a crowdfunded scholarship could be put to action as part of a Stanford Design Thinking MOOC benefitting @mapmakerin to come to the conference. She has been one of the most active participants on Twitter during the conference.

[2012 — STEP 10] Running workshops on Lean Startup and a terrific Opernnachmittagkaffee with Soprano Jessica Muirhead within the Global Entrepreneurship Week 2012 (Gründerwoche 2012. Jessica Muirhead now is part of the ensemble at the Aalto Musiktheather Essen — Congratulations Jess!!

[2012 — STEP 9] [2012–10–28] Working to bring the Lean Startup Machine to Dresden (500 people needed leaving their email address by 1st of December, HALF OF IT we already have) — we did not quite make it. Well worth a try.

[2012 — STEP 8] Applying for the SU Graduate Studies Program 2012 at Singularity University (a gained place to GSP11 couldn’t be taken in 2011 due to high tuition of $25k to bring up within less than a week, instead I became blogger-in-residence for AMPlifyfestival 2011 in Sydney Australia — many thanks to Annalie Killian who invited me); more about it on BlueFuture2012 and on TED.

[2011 — STEP 7] …. creating a digital communication agency (an ongoing project), HTxA [HighTech x Agency], to enable companies, institutions, and conference organizers to spread the word about their work, services, and research facilitating digital information technology. The origin of it goes back to 2011 while sitting in an interview with head of Semperoper, Dr. Ulrike Hessler (she died July 30, 2012), http://www.ideaswatch.com/startup-idea/htxa--hightech-x-agency

[2011 — STEP 6] Connecting [STEP TWO] with local stakeholders, and putting it to operation in a LeanStartup approach (small steps a time, using resources at hand, getting quick feedback on what works, and what doesn’t, improving the MVP (minimal viable product) or MVA (minimal viable action).

[2010 — STEP 5] Further action research prototypes (done, and in the making): #InnoBay (2011), Dresden Innovation Nights (in cooperation with Bobbie Carlton, MassInno) (2010), HTxA at ideaswatch (since 2011), blogging about Semperoper performances (connecting with my personal past work, and group dynamics experience; since 2010), keynote speaker at forthcoming Symposium Change To Kaizen (2012), tech blogger at various technology conferences in Dresden, Brussels, Sydney, and Melbourne

[2010 — STEP 4] Prototyping of CoOrpheum, Dresden’s first official coworking space (revitalization of a for 10 years practically unused ballroom in Dresden’s creative hot spot Dresden-Neustadt, and building ground to its use by move:elevator with 5-year contract) together with Marco Dziallas who provided the business plan. Ville Keraenen and Charles van der Haegen visited Dresden and the CoOrpheum on their learning journey through Europe in November 2010. See here the announcement.

[2009 — STEP 3] DresdenOpenCoffeeClub, (a formerly weekly, now monthly meetup on creating the future of Dresden, also on Twitter #occDD)

[2009 — STEP 2] LockSchuppen — FutureLab2056 — SingularAcademy — CollabSpace (the SingularAcademy, an envisioned part of LockSchuppen, was mentioned in the BRANDEINS 12/2011 story — “Der Mann ohne Geheimnisse” (“The Man without Secrets”, page 108–112); this was the extension of the Team Lea(r)ning Experience due to a comment by the management team of the Sächsische Aufbaubank GmbH (the responsible institution running the Saxon Business Plan Competition futureSAX back in those days). The comment, “It is not possible to convince potential partners of your envisioned project by not having a solid building and tangible assets! Digital and coworking is not enough.”

[2008 — STEP 1] Team Lea(r)ning Experience Dresden (as sent in to Google-Projects in October 2008 and for futureSAX Business Plan Competition in January 2009) all sparked by two visits to my friends at Team Academy in 2008/2009 …. already evolved into the project and three revisits from my Finnish friends to Dresden in September 2008, November 2010, and June 2012 (in time with the 20th anniversary of my alma mater, HTW Dresden, where I studied from 1995–97 business administration with an already earlier applied (at universities in Mainz and Bamberg) economics background)

[2008IGNITION] A surprise visit to Team Academy in August 2008. The most profound experience was to witness the start of the new semester and getting to know that the students of Team Academy are teamed into so-called ‘team companies’ at their first day (Monday), and on the second day (Tuesday) they had already registered their company, and shared this learning experience with the other members of Team Academy at the general Welcome Party. Unbelievable, yet true — I witnessed the process myself while being there. It certainly triggered something bigger I had ever imagined before.

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