Learn How To See

Our Design Partner Greg Hart on Building What's Next

by Krista Malden, communitynowmagazine (February 2021, Volume 3, Issue 6)

"Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else." --- Leonardo da Vinci

“I like this quote because it has two enduring truths in it - one that tells us about the nature of the world (everything is connected) and one that gives us a tool for interacting with it (seeing). The systems view of life is very poorly understood and generally not part of conventional education even though it is how the universe operates (as Donella Meadows said, ’There is no AWAY in which to throw things!’). Everyone has influence, no one has control. And seeing … substituting the words ‘I see’ for ‘I feel’ or ‘I think’ invites people into a shared experience of this interconnected and emerging reality rather than hiding in our own subjective experience which we can SEE is the road to fragmentation and meaningless conflict.” - Greg Hart

Thin Air Labs is ‘building what’s next’ with their experienced team of investors, entrepreneurs, designers and community leaders. They have been making waves for Alberta; in Alberta, across Canada, and globally.

But what is ‘building what’s next’; design, architecture, medical advancements, growth for our economy, educational advancements…all of the above? Is ‘building what’s next’ for one industry or one aspect of the economy or is it bigger?

According to Greg Hart; Thin Air Labs Co-Founder & Design Partner, the importance to ‘building what’s next’ has two levels of importance… “The first level - the strategic one - is that there are certain qualities to what’s next. The current trajectory of our way of life ends in collapse but as William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here, it just isn’t evenly distributed.” So we have an obligation to invite, amplify, and accelerate those pieces of a different future - a more regenerative future where we thrive within the planetary boundaries and build on solid social foundations - to build a new trajectory both locally and globally. That is the ‘what’s next.’ Not more of the same.

The second level is a more tactical one. Everything is emergent. Plans go awry especially in the world of venture creation. So once a venture has a good fix on a meaningful strategic outcome, the only question is, ‘What’s next?’ What is the next iterative step that reduces the biggest risk or answers the biggest question, or allows us to recover from the latest mistake or unhappy outcome. So for us ‘Building what’s next’ is a clear statement of purpose and process.”

Greg has been an influencer and leader for many years; starting his entrepreneurial journey as a young disc jockey, hosting dance parties out in Toronto. Receiving a degree in kinesiology from the University of Calgary, being a professional lacrosse referee, building businesses, but Greg’s true superpower is creating solutions for big challenges; Greg is a “designer”. (Although; his kids will tell you he is a spy.)

Being a designer is someone who is an ideas architect, systems thinker and agile master planner. “‘Design’ is about finding ways to solve challenges.” states Greg. What makes ‘design’ Greg’s superpower is that he is a people-first designer with a future-forward intuition.

A perfect example of Greg using his super power aside from teaching, refereeing, building businesses and creating solutions for ventures: is he co-created a program with a Dutch university to develop alternate urban futures for Calgary and surrounding communities that have been running for almost ten years. “I’ve spent enough time in the Netherlands that I have learned to semi-effectively understand and speak Dutch,” said Greg.

Whether, Greg is cycling across the city in +20 or – 30, he is always on his way to designing more for others in education, ventures, business, innovation and sports.

When asked what skills transferred over from refereeing lacrosse to business, Greg stated “Box lacrosse, the indoor version of the game that I refereed, is incredibly complex and fast, perhaps one of the toughest sports in the world to officiate. There is a lot of physical contact and emotion. So there are two things that I take from that: (1) it is VERY hard to be good at it like lots of things in life and it requires a dedicated approach and practice that never stops evolving (2) being able to remain calm, a steady and reliable eye in the storm of emotions, is a powerful practice that can be applied in many situations.” Everything Greg does, is about purpose and process…designing solutions for any challenge he comes across and once that challenge is solved, Greg asks “what’s next?” By continuing to ask the question, and push people to be make an impact on our ecosystem for people and the planet, Greg will continue to build & inspire others to ‘build what’s next’ and by asking the question “what’s next” Greg is showing leadership!

"Leadership to me is ... always improving and learning and it is always looking for ways to take the rocks out of the road while showing where the path might lead.” --- Greg Hart, Design Partner

When Greg was asked about leadership and what makes a good leader he stated. “Not surprisingly I see leadership as an act of design and the design of something - a venture, a product, a process, etc.- is what determines what people can do with it. How hard it will be to change, how flexible it will be under different circumstances, how much opportunity there will be for someone to bring their special gifts and make an impact. Leadership to me is keeping the meaning clear and the supporting design to make the most of that meaningful purpose possible. It is always improving and learning and it is always looking for ways to take the rocks out of the road while showing where the path might lead.”

So what is ‘building what’s next’? It’s asking the question, looking for and creating solutions to problems that our ecosystem faces, it’s being innovative, curious and creating opportunity to be and do better for people and the planet.

“My favourite part of my job is learning about wicked challenges and designing the approach to dealing with them as a team. Humans are built to overcome meaningful challenges and this is my lifeblood. Combines curiosity with imagination and execution.”