The Idea: Following is the most recent edition of AHA!: my proposal for a virtual ‘Discovery and Learning Centre’ that would use state-of-the-art tools and techniques to tackle business problems Monday to Friday, for a fee, and then on weekends tackle larger international social and environmental problems, on a volunteer basis.

I‘m still refining this, but I’m at the stage where I’m looking for more comments. What I would especially appreciate your thoughts on::

  • Is  the enormous difference between what AHA! offers and what other ‘solution centres’, educational institutions and large consulting organizations offer clear enough?
  • I’ve thought of incorporating the entrepreneurial skills training that I advocated recently, in the AHA! offerings (it’s not at all inconsistent, and is also ‘virtual’), but I suspect this might be too much, and change people’s conception of what AHA! is all about. What do you think?
  • What should I include in the ‘elevator pitch’ for AHA!?
  • I recognize that we’ll probably have to start small, and not try to run before we walk. What do you think we should do first?


Our Vision
Imagine if there was a place where the worldís brightest and most creative minds from widely diverse fields ñ scientists, artists, businesspeople, engineers, philosophers, social and technological and political thought leaders — got together physically and virtually to collaboratively help each other.

Imagine if this place taught the critical skills and techniques needed to envision and realize better ways to do things, quickly and effectively.

Imagine if visitors to this place were surrounded by artefacts of the worldís most astonishing human accomplishments: the eradication of smallpox, the moon landing, the abolition of slavery, the unravelling of the human genome ñ and inspired and charged in their tasks by the words from the greatest speeches and most moving calls to action in our history.

This is the vision of AHA! , the means to get things done, a catalyst for change, a vehicle for applying human ingenuity and collaboration and passion to bring about extraordinary results: The right people, the right skills and techniques, the right intensity, an environment of creativity and learning, and a spirit of exuberant, reciprocal collaboration.


aha2ìYou never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsoleteÖI look for what needs to be done. After all, that’s how the universe designs itself.”

     (Buckminster Fuller)

ìNever doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

     (Margaret Mead)

ìWe can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.ì

     (Albert Einstein)


Better decisions and more creative ideas and alternatives

Improved work productivity, processes and results

Better understanding of needs, challenges, opportunities

Improved life-long competencies and learning

Improved collaboration, networking and innovation

Better morale and deeper commitment

Stronger relationships, greater trust and empowerment


AHA! provides:

~ A focused curriculum to impart the critical skills you must have to get things done (Learning Sessions);

~ A flexible, creative approach to discover, explore and achieve a deep understanding of your needs, challenges and opportunities, and surface powerful insights about them (Discovery Sessions)

Unlike consultants and training centres, we offer:

~ A dynamic environment that inspires, facilitates and teaches you to understand and address insightfully your own challenges, needs and vulnerabilities, rather than depending on outside ëexpertsí

~ A process you can use whenever and wherever you need it to become more innovative, more collaborative, more able to discover and tap the wisdom of others: customers, employees, citizens

~ Access to some of the brightest and most creative thinkers on the planet on a reciprocal (you help them, they help you) basis


Critical Skills and Enablers:

The Discovery Session Framework (diagrammed above)

The Environmental Scan

The Accelerated Discovery and Learning Processes

Insight Portfolios and Idea Markets

Cultural Anthropology

Open Space Technology and Appreciative Inquiry

The Four Practices

Creative Thinking, Imagining and Visioning

Critical Thinking, Systems Thinking and the Thinking Hats

Effective Collaboration

Attention Skills: Listening, Observation

Entrepreneurship / Natural Enterprise Skills

Tapping the Wisdom of Crowds

Building Communities & Networks

Story-Telling & Narrative

Self-Organizing in a Complex, Chaotic World

Effective Research and Analysis

Project Facilitation and Improvisation

Getting Things Done: Personal Productivity Improvement

Natural Design, Rapid Prototyping


AHA! Assets

Director, Research Staff, Technical Staff

AHA! Certified Advisor Network

ëReciprocal volunteersí: Global thought leaders who contribute their time and energy to othersí sessions in return for reciprocal time and energy of others on their sessions

Intellectual & Technological Assets:

The Critical Skills and Enablers of the staff and certified advisors, and the online Critical Skills and Enablers Bank and software toolkit

Knowledge Bank of global trends and opportunities across all social and economic segments of our world

Needs Bank of identified social, environmental, business, economic, technological and educational challenges, needs and opportunities

The Network Bank: A global directory of AHA! Certified advisors, session participants from customers, and ëreciprocal volunteersí


Physical Assets:

AHA! is a completely portable and virtual environment; Since Discovery and Learning sessions can be more effective if at least the first meeting (and, for participants uncomfortable with current conferencing technologies, subsequent meetings) are face-to-face, the AHA! Team can operate effectively in any meeting or conference facility

AHA! is considering certifying qualifying meeting and conference facilities as Preferred AHA! facilities which will be able to advertise themselves as AHA! Discovery and Learning Centres


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10 Responses to AHA!

  1. Is the enormous difference between what AHA! offers and what other ‘solution centres’, educational institutions and large consulting organizations offer clear enough?”Unfortunately, I don’t think it is. We live in a cynical, quick fix, flavour of the week, business management world. I think that you need a short “manifesto” as your elevator pitch. Maybe you should have a competition for the elevator pitch?I’m with you all the way though! Also, I’m not sure if you should walk before you run. Go ahead and run with it :-)

  2. kerry says:

    The ultimate AHA community should close the circle by beginning at the beginning…in Africa…where a collaboration between the most advanced and most original knowledge may inspire the greatest balance in the way forward.

  3. Wendy says:

    Dave, it’s great to see the outline of this concept. In terms of where to start, I have two thoughts, the first is that it would be great if you brought together a real group that is tackling a challenge, an expert in the field (yourself or someone else), and create the first real collaborative event – perhaps a single session as opposed to an extended course of study. Then, you could document a real case study, and also learn from the first experience and keep refining the vision, get feedback from actual participants, etc. I love the idea in the vision of capturing artefacts of great accomplishments. However, I wonder how you plan to do that, and my second thought is that if you haven’t already done so, you could create a site map of what this virtual community would look like. This would help others, like me, to see the tactical way this community will shape up, and perhaps help solidify your thoughts. Perhaps you could create a section of this blog dedicated to AHA and start building pieces of the community (starting with this posting and other things you’ve done before related to this concept) in one place, and keep that section running in parallel to your daily posts, or reference that section of the site as it is updated and grows. Finally, in terms of your elevator pitch, I was looking at your original How to Save the World essay, and you have a few concise sentences that seem to summarize the goals of this community: “I’d like to start a think-tank, to make respectable the idea of Saving the World as a full-time job, and help those that are informed enough, and committed enough, and courageous enough, and self-sacrificing enough, to start working together on some bold, revolutionary answers. And I’d like to start a Model Intentional Community, and use it as an opportunity to teach young people about nature and Natural Enterprise and critical thinking and creative thinking and a better way to live”Wendy Siegelman

  4. Dave Pollard says:

    John: Thanks for the links.Harold: Appreciate the honesty. I think I’ll start with a ‘story’ explaining how it would work, and then perhaps go to the elevator pitch from there.Kerry: Great idea. I’ve also had some expressions of interest on this, and the entrepreneurship training, from Latin America.Wendy: I’m pitching this to some conference facilities as a centre-within-a-centre, so I’d expect to do the artefacts of greatness exhibition physically first, and then ‘translate’ it to the virtual. I like the idea of AHA! having its own category on HtStW as well as its own site. Not sure how Natural Enterprise and Intentional Community formation would fit yet — they both fall naturally under the mandate and methods of AHA! but they might overburden it if they’re layered on too soon.

  5. dilys says:

    I am immediately suspicious of this: “Access to some of the brightest and most creative thinkers on the planet on a reciprocal …basis.” And you are going to put me in active touch with the equivalent of Ken Wilber, Albert Einstein, Ghandi, etc., just how? And their incentive is just what? Or is it a playground for self-certified Progressives?Otherwise, I’m firmly with Wendy and others.1. Envision and “furnish” it virtually as completely as possible. That’s the contemporary way for a Learning Organization building an economical model.2. ASAP apply it to an actual problem with a measureable result.I’m satisfied with your skills and neurological bent you can map what works during and after the fact. Feedback loops are critical and you will mine them richly.So far, I don’t see the Difference That Makes a Difference distinguishing AHA, without a presige and money Angel.Good Luck. I’m often wrong.Dilys

  6. Greg says:

    I’ve got to agree that the differentiation factor needs more explanation. I’d keep the entrepreneurial aspects out of it at this time. More dittos here on the “get a realworld project” as a good first step on the operations side. On the marketing side, I’d work on some of your phrasing and ordering of materials. I’ll email you some markup I’ve been doing on this post.Greg

  7. dave davison says:

    I agree with John Maloney that AHA feels a bit like the old Knowhere store where I lived for several years, and very much like the VentureStream Accelerator my colleagues and I built in 2000 in the SF Bay Area in conjunction with the Ernst and Young HiGrowth consulting team. The ASE facilities of CGEY have similar environments in a number of cities around the world and there are probably over 100 qualified knowledge workers who can function to design and manage events in these facilities.I think that the key ingredient is funded sponsorship, offering not only money but the credibility of a draw for inviting participants — getting really smart people to contribute time and ideas to the AHA process will require both. AHA needs to be both physical( in the form of design events) and virtual ( in the form of pre and post event continua – and a lot of the power of the F2F events can be captured in visual mural form by talented graphic scribes – which can form the archive of the event and be served out asynchronously to many more people than can attend or participate in the F2F events. Have you checked with CGEY to see if their ASE spaces could be booked on an as needed basis?Have you thought about who the right strategic sponsors would be? Is it likely that this list might include folks like Jeff Skoll and Pierre Omidyar and their social entrepreneurship visions and large foundation assets? – These and other venture philanthropists might be excited to join in such an endeavor.Can the process serve the Small is Beautiful world as well as the BIG?Can you focus your thoughts and efforts sufficiently to drive the priorities of AHA beyond your RESISTANCE level?Do you really, passionately, want to do this?I’d be honored to help from a Silicon Valley base.

  8. I like the model and the comments in response to your inspiring concepts. I am in Columbus,Ohio doing the work with both patience and agression. I find this site to be one that I relate to every visit not because of the How’s but the What’s. AHA is another great example of a conceptual framework to utilize in the NOW- to play with the ideas today or another solution based vision to deflate with premature How? How? How? There are not shartage of thought leaders and resources. What am I willing to do about it??? Count me in!

  9. Dave: WOW! What’s in the water up there? Whew! Hats off to you for going for it! I love the sheer scope and inspired vision of AHA! It’s huge and has great reach That’s also what concerns me. Its SO huge that it might take several lifetimes to pull off. Is there a subset of the project that you could begin with and springboard off of? Is there an organization or company whose work you value and who might play a sponsoring role, i.e. they hire you to bring AHA in.. they provide the resources and funding to build it…without you losing “creative control.” It almost feels as if you’ve created a model for an entire NATION to adopt… maybe a forward thinking country who has identified the same need you have. Denmark? If I were to fast forward, I would predict that you will be hired to be a DIRECTOR OF INNOVATION for a forward thinking Canadian corporation in the next year.. and that your AHA DISCOVERY CENTRE will become the model for what you will do there. The challenge, as always, is to maintain your creative freedom amidst the weird creepings of organizational hierarchies. Let me know how I can be of value to you in this extraordinary venture of yours. The world needs something sublime like this!Mitch Ditkoff

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