It is the breath of fresh air when
you come out of the city, the view on
the open sea. An act of deliverance,
a way out of daily routines.
It provides time and reveals
As we snake along California’s infamous Pacific Coast Highway toward Los Angeles, the moon glints off the oscillating ocean, distant high-rises pockmarked with lights reveal the ever-working pulse of industry, a flock of pelicans traces the horizon in fluid flight, our car hugs the turns between mountains and sea, and we’re reminded why we named our company after this very stretch of the PCH. How it inspires our devotion to innovation. Why so many visionary companies, artists and individuals evolved their craft here. Because Los Angeles, in its vastness, is a site of preeminent possibility; inspiring imagination and cultivating creativity. It’s no wonder why so many fantastic stories have emerged here. And we strive to participate in that rich history, driving the narrative forward.
It is now more imperative than ever to not only reflect on our current condition, but to de-familiarize and restructure the way we experience ourselves temporally and corporeally. To break away from frozen forms, experiences, rituals and expectations. Rather than assume the linear progression of ideas and their materialization along a predefined chart of incremental progress, we fanta(sta)size new rituals, experiences and all possible manifestations of such practices. We infuse our innovation work with terms native to science fiction and theoretical play: indirection, distraction, disruption and displacement.
Our work can only be performed through a highly collaborative process and in constant exchange with provocative thoughts from diverse fields. We combine research intelligence and empathic analysis with design fiction, 360-degree insights and rapid prototyping to obtain new perspectives on relevant questions—separating stagnant procedures from fertile focal points to cultivate alluring, marketable products, services and new business solutions beyond the commercial mainstream. Our vision of the near future arises from our imaginations, materialized as fictional scenarios, as movies with strong narratives and palpably expressive products, services and new business sectors.
We believe that meaningful transformations and innovations occur at the intervention of previously unconnected and unrelated planes of thought. Therefore, we choose the latest impulse of possibility, an audacity of hope, a mind-set that innovators, creators, strategists, academics and authors call “Dreamtelligence”. Based on fluid, real-time intelligence and deep knowledge, Dreamtelligence describes a new flow of energy and visionary dynamism. Future challenges can’t be tackled single-handedly. One way to reach this envisioned state of deep knowledge is to mirror our intuition and imagination by tapping into the wide and creative spectrum of science, technology, philosophy, art, architecture and fantasy. Embracing these disciplines helps us to discover the most pertinent responses to upcoming changes and to create solutions that are as fantastic as they are revolutionary and unexpected: imaginative, innovative solutions engendering a transformative impact on how we live as individuals, families, societies and cooperations.
We inhabit an age of relentless possibility, yet it’s unclear where we will land along the scales of chance and opportunity. Will we reach a new golden age? Or collapse first? Global problems and economic uncertainties are forcing us to think beyond what is possible and logical, and to use our imaginations, dreams and intuition to identify visionary solutions for problems such as climate change, food shortages, power shifts, global poverty, energy shortages, increasing population, lurching economies and religious & environmental fundamentalism. In the next ten years we will have to solve issues of civic disorder and socio-economic, corporate, governmental, geopolitical, environmental and technological instability and volatility. Subsequently, we will see lows, but there will also be incredible highs, if we learn to adapt and to transform.
People trigger societal shifts and transformations, which simultaneously influence people’s needs. Current events and trends reveal mass discontent with linear, rational, over-regulated, backward, exclusionary and excessive systems. Industries and governments are forced to innovate because of increasingly conceptual, experimental, fantastic and emotional consumer needs. An emerging form of mass intelligence is kick-starting a new, positive and futurist age based on social connection, data commons and democratized tools and technology.
We’re making promising and questionable progress in many areas: Mankind has essentially found ways to decrypt the human brain and build complex models of the mind. There is almost nothing we cannot hack into and access. Human-data interaction has emerged as a core discipline with expansive resonance. The oceans of the world are becoming a new key source for energy, ecology and engineering. We are acquainting ourselves with new, synthetic materials that are reshaping our relationship to the natural world. The next great engineering revolution lies in the manipulation and reconstitution of biology from the bottom up—including all positive and negative consequences.
These remarkable changes drive us to fundamentally question everything—to become economically viable and optimistic about the future. We must understand that nothing is permanent. Everything flows. Events occur in real-time, with perpetuance and increased connectivity. Thus, we call for a proactive perspective that incorporates a holistic view of higher-level systems and interdependencies.
We must harness our imaginations to proactively envision and create our future. We have to construct rebellious and daring narratives that free us from today’s restraints and limitations. The ability to switch perspectives and to dream; to create value collaboratively, with open authorships, hybrid capital and shared knowledge; to identify what might otherwise be hidden and to innovate what previously could only be imagined will increasingly distinguish the winners from the losers.
“History, progress, and the future are consistently balanced upon the struggle between two opposing forces; there are typically two concrete outcomes to most situations, a choice between one thing or the other. But, occasionally, a third choice appears, and it takes something special to find this. People and institutions that have the ability to find the elusive 3rd way push the world forward.” That is PCH Innovations artist-in-residence Rob McNally’s wise interpretation of choice.
Individually and collectively, part of the choice we are faced with is: How can we become the best versions of ourselves? How can we create the best possible version of an environment in which to live and thrive? How can we envision new forms of product development and manufacturing? Ones that take into account the best possible ramifications for the largest number of people. How do we shape our identity as people who unify their membership without alienating the differences that make us unique? What are new forms of personal, product and brand identity? What is the relationship between the individual and the brand, the product and the idea? And how can these relationships be encouraged to interchange in the most potent, integrated and effective manner?
By finding answers to these questions, we can create new experiences, routines and rituals, giving rise to an engaging narrative from which to derive tangible, radically innovative products, services and new business models. This is what will drive the movement of movements: with the power, creativity and vision to change the course of human history. Each of us has a role to play in the uprising: demanding change; offering and demonstrating visionary journeys toward vibrant democracies rooted in equity, ecological sustainability and a solidarity economy; helping foster and steward a healthy and peaceful planet. This is what it now means to be real game-changers.
TEXT by Stefan Liske, Alexander Nolte and Louis Gropman
PCH Innovations is an innovation agency for marketing, engineering and design with studios in Berlin and Los Angeles, founded in 2005 by Stefan Liske and Alexander Nolte. PCH is named after the Pacific Coast Highway, which runs along California’s coast and connects Los Angeles and Malibu.
Robert McNally is currently Artist-in-Residence at PCH Innovations. Born in the UK, he exhibits internationally.