Visionary Product Leadership
Of all the ideas about the birth of breakthrough products, one element is widely agreed to be irreducibly required – a powerful founding vision. This vision must come mysteriously into being, brought forth by an ineffable mystic with access to capital.
I'm here to tell you that this is half true. To do something new it really is necessary to see further than others. But visionary leadership need not be mysterious. Human creativity is a mature field of research and these matters are amenable to scientific enquiry. There are techniques available to nurture, discover, recognise, articulate and develop visions of a better future, just as there are proven methods to stifle, hide, ignore, obscure and destroy them.
Three years ago I was asked to lead a program at our national science agency to upend how science is done; to utterly revolutionise it by harnessing AI and other emerging technologies to realise bold, transformative visions of the future. At that point, no specific vision had been identified. That was my job.
Fortunately, human collective intelligence and creativity has been my research topic and subject of fascination for over a decade. So I gathered some likeminded souls and we set about deploying the science of creativity to build a program that could elicit and articulate visions from a population of a few thousand brilliant scientists and technologists, and then synthesise and manifest them through the good offices of our product designers and engineers.
Viveka Weiley is a leader in socio-technical design strategy, creative intelligence, invention and innovation. He builds and nurtures interdisciplinary design and technology teams to invent the future and he always hires ethnographers.
He led R&D at the ABC and CHOICE, running breakthrough experiments and scaling award-winning innovations into new experiences and product lines. The resulting products have made national news, charted on the app stores and helped make markets more fair, just and safe for all. His work is relentlessly cutting edge; in 1999 he founded the startup that delivered the first 1cm resolution virtual Earth to the WWW, his 2008 honours thesis was on geographically distributed collaboration in mixed reality, and he is relieved that his 2013 patent on social commerce has lapsed. Today Viveka leads the strategic program to reinvent science at CSIRO (Australia's national science agency).
Viveka has served as an advisor to institutions from the Australian Treasury to university schools of Software and Design, and on ACM conference committees in roles from volunteer to program chair. He gives talks, keynotes and guest lectures on collaborative creativity around the world and has recently taken up Japanese woodworking.