We humans are all ‘under construction’… The Unknown is where the magic is… Truth can be found in an indeterminate world with infinite possibilities…
Our studio, PCH Innovations, emerged from my belief in intersecting exploratory curiosity, rebellious deviance, and creative invention with incumbent systems across industries, institutions, and disciplines. I pretty much wanted to turn everything around me upside down. This was an impulse that started for me at the age of five (sorry mum, sorry dad, sorry sisters).
Back in 1996, when I had the honor to participate in BMW’s iconic stealth project ‘Deep Blue’, some people in our crazy project team started to realize that, in the age of permanent disruption, it is not assets we need to leverage any more (sorry BMW), but rather very informal and highly disruptive, experimental networks of people, institutions, collectives, and organizations. After months of researching, some emails (were still rare back in the time), letters, and phone calls, we started our travels into the unknown, where we had the privilege to meet, visit, live, learn, and dream with and about a lot of unique companies, institutions, phenomena, and people including:
Seiji Tsutsumi, founder of Muji
Tatsuhiko, founder (and back then, creative director) of Medicom Toy
Honda’s robotic unit, which worked on the Asimo, which was shown to the public in 2000
Some many-generations-old ceramic and metal craftsmen families in Japan
Some former team members from the original Skunkworks crew in LA
Some former Mission Control members of Apollo 13 across the US
Some astrologers and ‘Quantum Healers’ in Sedona
Cliff Haven, a uncompromising off-grid in-cave-living-community in Utah
Lockheed Martin’s advanced research group
3M’s adhesive advanced research group
JPL’s research team, which focused on the search for life in and the nature and evolution of the universe
Tom & David Kelley, the founders of (back then, a freshly formed) Ideo
Barry Katz, one of the founders of the Stanford D‑School
Alchemy, the first automotive digital design studio of its time
Syd Mead, an industrial designer who was the ‘visual futurist’ for Blade Runner (1982), and some of his set builders
Charles Pelly, a genius designer and professor at Pasadena Art Center and the founder of Designworks (now BMW Group)
The Automotive faculty at Pasadena Art Center
Various Material Science and Digital Labs at MIT
Several (mostly illegal and sometimes not so nice) street and drag racing groups in LA, Miami, and Atlanta
Theo Janson, the inventor of the famous ‘strandbeasts’
My all time hero, Burt Rutan
Any museums and historical sites in the US and Japan
and many more
We also got to work on an oil drilling rig in the middle of the Pacific, to spend a week with the Munich Philharmonic orchestra, to visit California state prison San Quentin, and to learn from the tough patterns and drills of a Cedars-Sinai Hospital surgery team. We ideated under the star-sparkling skies of Southern California, or in a house-sized wine barrel in Sonoma, or in a hot-air balloon at 5am over the Northern Californian vineyards. We raced prototypes, concept and fantasy cars through Death Valley, on Willow Springs, Laguna Seca, and Atlanta Speedway. We visited Edwards Air Force Base, spent a profound week with Native Americans in the Appalachian Mountains. And yes, for over 18 months we worked out of a Malibu Beach House (where some of us slept in the bath tub) — thank you BMW and Deep Blue.
During this almost two-year-long project, search, quest, and pilgrimage, we started to recognize a pattern across all these brilliant minds, teams, and collectives, scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, alternative solution dreamers, and outlaws: A lot of them worked and lived in total stealth mode, and reset their lives along the same set of some extreme principles, which impressed and confused me/ us at the same time: Some of the people I mentioned above dropped everything they knew and had. They went off-grid and into almost ascetically sustainable modes — to broaden their viewpoints to understand the full scope of future possibilities and to dedicate themselves to finding and developing alternative solutions to fight the noticeable rising climate challenges, the obvious sufferings of capitalism, the societal gaps, the decreasing quality of life in growing cities, the downfall of values in cooperations and politics, etc. On the other hand, these people saw the impact of inventions like micro-processors, software, computers, and other technological leapfrogs. And they strived to repair and leverage up-and-coming phenomena without any compromise. These people and collectives also left behind the established comfort of a normal home, access to available energy, healthcare, and education (they had to pay for). Beyond going off-grid, they turned to home-schooling their kids, started tinkering and putting the first solar cells together, drilled wells, captured rain water, built their own hemp homes, herb gardens, grew vegetables and fruits, started soldering together their first networks following the footprints of Tim Berners-Lee, Ari Luotonen, and Henrik Frystyk Nielsen. They quietly connected with one another to discuss new futures, to explore new realms of consciousness, and experimented with psychedelics to open up new pathways of thought.
These mavericks switched their priorities because they could see that we might soon live in times of scarcity, apathy, and zero trust across all cultures and businesses. Out of this urge to change, they slowly founded a vulnerable web of parallel micro-societies to reinvent the ideals, principles, logics, and key mechanisms behind our political, economic, ecological, and societal systems. The main trigger for them was the micro-computing revolution in the 1970s, the following technological disruptions, the impact of “Reaganomics” in the 1980s, and the first signs of a poisoned capitalistic world where the point of no return had already been surpassed for a long time. And they obviously could already feel a significant societal impact of all these cumulating hype-cycles (the stages a technology goes through, from conception, to maturity, and widespread adoption; a branded tool by Gartner) in their personal lives.
They went on their very own hero-journeys and abandoned the old patriarchal power rules, which were already deeply embedded in global cultures and institutions. They started to transition from the existing hierarchical and conditioned governance to self-governed models; you could call those liquid and liberated democratic models—to turn everybody into a ‘leader’, a maker, a creator… which isn’t at all anarchy, it’s quite the opposite. Truly new orders, logics, and solutions are always and maybe only born in the shadows, in free-of-rules, informal, or even in parallel worlds (more on that later). And often, people who participate in counter-cultures are called renegades, eccentrics, or even outlaws, underdogs, or misfits.
I was called a misfit since I was six years old, by my family, my friends, my teachers—even people I’ve never really known called me that or gave me that look. It was true, I didn’t quite fit in any given institutional framework. I felt squeezed, tortured, not heard, not seen, and also not felt (beside the fact that I couldn’t feel myself until quite late in my life). And I suffered under it, big time. I got slowly traumatized without knowing (like many kids and adults do). But I slowly got out of this condition and view that I needed to be saved or rescued from what was around me. I started getting to know my own power and also how to access it. But I needed a lot of teachers to do so. One of my best and also toughest teachers (Chris Bangle, former Chief of Design at BMW and my boss) once said: “If you ask me to describe Stefan I simply do it with this sentence: “If you don’t redline once in a while you cannot win the race”… Redlighting means stepping out of the norm, running away from the cops, breaking the rules, etc.
And man, I redlighted the hell out of everything and everybody… and way more than anyone should… which hurts… badly… yourself and your loved ones. And you gradually spiral down your vibration into the lowest frequencies someone can imagine. This drives you into full isolation, even isolation with yourself, because you are entirely disconnected from yourself. You get abandoned at least by everyone who is healthy, and for a good reason.
My vibrations and frequencies back in the time were so damn low. And the universe is smart enough to respond to your frequency. It doesn’t care about your personal motivations, desires, wants, or needs. It only perceives and understands the frequency at which you are operating and vibrating. I was vibrating at frequencies of fear, guilt, and shame, and I was thereby attracting things at similar vibrations to support my frequency. I certainly didn’t get this whole frequency and vibration thing before I entered my forties, when I slowly started seeing and turning my traumas and sometimes very destructive self-pity around into endurance, into power, truly into super-powers (your super power is your existence), and therefore into my very personal value proposition. That was the only way for me to survive and for the people around me to accept me and work with me.
And I also thought (narcissistically) that society and especially companies need us misfits and renegades to push them out of their comfort zones (leaving comfort zones = level 1 of transformation, which I was a master at)…but soon enough I got that you can only do that when you swiftly turn your and their attention and energy to level 2: thinking eccentrically as well as passionately creating alternative methods, tools, and ultimately generating sustainable & balanced solutions (= level 3, which can hardly be reached by anyone).
So I basically discovered not only the need but especially the beauty of going against the grain of life… seeking the glitches in society and companies, ignoring the dogmatic morals of all governments, corporations/cooperations, even all religions, and on top of it all, the stubbornness of incomplete science. I decided to place imagination and the impossible as my focus.
Now, as I look back at my last 53 years, I realize that many of the experiences that made little sense to me at the time they occurred were simply prerequisites for what was to come later. Let me share some life-shaping parts of my internal and external journey that otherwise I would never get out of my head and write down. Over the next few lines of writing, I don’t want to focus so much on the career-related parts of my story (only some for context) — I’ll rather share a bit of what goes on inside a human being who is undergoing all these experiences and what finally led to this catalog you hopefully hold in your hand. So let me lay out first my own thinking as an (unfortunately still too busy to truly, meaningfully create) engineer & designer, an (always dissatisfied) innovation scientist, an entrepreneur (with the usual business‑, client- and project-related fears) — before I turn to being a loving husband, father, passionate dreamer and idealist, dealing with slowing myself down, getting less dependent on reassurances from my environment, keeping more silent and private places in my head, gradually dropping all my labeled categories, and un-learning my very well adopted habits and patterns, un-conditioning my conditioned mind, dropping sugar as my favorite booster, and learning to say “no” more often.
I reached my most recent inflection point simply because I turned 50, my kids reached teenager and university age respectively, and I found the love of my life. I also reached a kind of peak and strictly positive exhaustion point as an innovation scientist and entrepreneur when I could feel something else coming. I didn’t know what it would be. But I could feel its presence, and I knew that I needed to make space to seek for it, to find it, and to develop it into something. I knew I needed to make space in all of its dimensions: in my mind, my heart, my job, my attitude…simply
in everything. That was my missing piece… The part needed for my own (hero’s) journey and in my life puzzle…to clearly see my patterns. This was also the connection point that led me to this book. So, with having my last 27 years of rich and challenging innovation work along with the many facets and practices of personal growth in my rearview, I faced my undeniable inflection point. At the same time, I was in total conflict with my usual anxieties over financial security, my existence, and also my responsibility for others—to not turning everything upside down and ending up with ‘nothing’. I knew I had to overcome these thoughts and fears, because this decisive moment was so clearly presented to me, it felt ‘big’. It felt important for my life, my marriage, for my fatherhood, for my last 10–15 business years—but especially for the need to explore who I am, who I wanna be and hereby maybe getting wayyyyy closer to myself!? I wanted to (re-)define my being, my life, and what I’m gonna do with my next (and also last 30+) years with my loved ones here on Earth.
As I wrote before, I was always a daring and sometimes an annoying rebel… and I wanted to trace and carefully understand this trait and its various incarnations: from off-slope skiing to racing cars and bikes and flying airplanes, solo rock climbing, summitting a couple of 4/5/6 thousand meter high mountains in Europe and the Himalayas, doing almost 2,000 bungee-jumps and hundreds of cliff dives, crossing the Alps on inline blades, practicing Karate up to the first brown belt, playing the trumpet in concert halls and churches with a couple of hundred people listening to it, etc., etc., etc. And hell yeah, with a lot of really bad consequences, which drove my parents and friends crazy because they were always so afraid and mad at me: I damaged a couple of my dad’s quite expensive and always brand-new company cars (and didn’t tell him, but he figured it out anyways).
With my best school buddy Ingmar (‘Eschek’) I totaled our neighbor’s Audi 200 at the age of 15 and certainly without a drivers license.
Also with Ingmar, during our epic Sahara bike desert tour back in 1987, I broke my spine three times and crushed all of my ribs when I jumped off the 42 meter (or 137 feet) high Cascades d’Ouzoud waterfall in Morocco.
I broke all of my 10 toes while solo climbing a 16-meter rock in Switzerland, and two weeks later crossed the Alps on inline blades with my friend Nikolaus (as the first people to have ever done so, and under the heaviest pain you can imagine).
I broke my right wrist because I wanted to prove that there is a genius off-piste track all the way down from Zugspitze.
I broke my left wrist because I wanted to perform a one-handed motocross ramp-jump.
There were a couple more of these fun but also devastating stories… and I don’t regret a single second of it.
School was another (totally useless) challenge for me, one that made for tough relationships with my teachers, my parents, and my classmates. Primary school was kind of ok, but in high-school I reached 27 suspensions in seven years, they made me repeat two classes, I got booted out two times; it took my father quite some effort to convince the principals to allow me back in. I turned myself in at the local police station because I thought I deserved better, before I thought to break into the local grocery store to get some money and run away… thanks God that didn’t really go as I was hoping, simply because I didn’t manage to break in… bummer. Then I thought I had a genius plan and signed myself out of school to become a pilot in the German army. But father was faster, and two days later I sat back on the school bench. So ok, I gave in and found (lucky me) two teachers (Latin and history) who somehow liked me and gave me all their support to successfully graduate, although with really mediocre grades (honestly, I never ever needed grades again, because even in my later high-profile job interviews nobody ever asked me about my grades).
I somehow always made a bit of money: at the age of 15 I started working at McDonald’s (and learned a lot), I went on and assembled computer circuit boards, washed our neighbors’ cars (and totaled them) and then my dream job came around the corner. Through my Karate-buddy Mikey, whose dad was the head of BMW’s prototype testing department, I had access to BMW’s test and prototype fleet of cars and motorbikes. I mean, I had been driving cars and riding bikes without any license since I was 12; so as soon as I had my drivers license, we took Mikey’s parents’ cars and bikes to the woods, to the gravel roads. Then we started taking professional driving training, and we learned fast. This made BMW’s chief instructor of the driver training aware of us, he took notice of our really wild but very precise driving skills. So we got the opportunity to take advanced classes on Europe’s finest race tracks and in BMW’s finest cars. And we were admitted to become instructors ourselves. We leveraged that to the max… the best cars, on the best tracks, and the wildest trips. And with that official ‘batch’ we had an easy entry into the world of being test drivers. That basically means the automotive company sends you to the loneliest mountains, deserts, and racetracks with their most capable vehicles. So for years we travelled the world, testing cool cars and bikes; it was exhausting sometimes, because it is not only about driving, you also have to test. And that means cycles, many cycles of driving, data analytics, documentation, fixing cars, tinkering when they break down. But this was a dream, and that is when I really felt in love with machines.
Reality kicked back in when, after my bike trip to Africa and my devastating waterfall accident, I returned to Munich, Germany, and had a hard time finding entry into the world of universities. But my father had it already planned out: while I was in Africa he had signed me on for mechanical engineering. After many discussions I finally did it, and it very soon became torture. We were 1,100 (mostly male) students in the first semester, I couldn’t find any interesting stuff in the lectures, it was crowded and boring. So my focus shifted again toward sports. I basically skipped university and went skiing, I started to take fencing classes, I tested cars, and got lost without any career plans. Then I came across an interesting small group of people: extreme skiers, climbers, paragliders, and mountain lovers, who constantly tried out new adventures. And that’s how I became one of the first people in Europe to bungee jump. And to build my/ our own bungee cords. It was wild, because we started with huge rope jumps from bridges, then we bought hundreds of meters of expander rubber in sporting good stores and duct taped them together, put huge rocks on them and threw them off bridges.
After a few tests it was clear that somebody had to jump, which was me because I was the lightest one. This is how we, as a group of eight people, started to build a quite successful bungee and stunt company, which still exists today (I’m not part of it anymore). Within two years, we had more than 150,000 people jumping our system, we were technically and medically certified, we sold 24 franchise companies across Europe, built up a team of 250 people… and made really good money, had endless fun, and created something the world hadn’t seen before. This was my family, my school, my university, my bank, my life. I jumped from every high tower, building, bridge, and crane that we could find and rent (because most of these jumps were official). I bungee jumped with a bike, motor bike, car, with 12 people on one bungee cord, I did the first tandem bungee jump in the world, and we as a crew held even a dozen world records.
The good thing about this whole bungee and stunt enterprise was I learned so much for my life and I had enough money—to e.g. hire the best tutors, which prepped me for all my tests (after failing my first two exams). So I barely attended my mechanical engineering classes. The only university stuff I was really into were my industrial design classes.
The bad thing about that time was my lifestyle. We were literally consuming everything that was around us. At the age of 24 (back in 1991), I spent 12,000 Deutsch Mark for my first cellphone. I bought a BMW 530iX and a Jeep Wrangler and paid in cash. We flew to New York, Business Class,
no luggage, no tooth brush, nothing, because we bought what we needed wherever we flew or drove. The success turned us into assholes. And payback time certainly came around the corner. After five years of this life I had a fight with my partner (over a woman). Also, my partner was a gangster in the sense that he didn’t let us fairly participate in our joint success, he took all the credit of what we created together. So this all led to a painful but much needed end of this chapter. I lost everything, my team, my stunt family, my reputation, my perspectives (and my cars, my cell phone, my watches, my house… honestly, my parents had to bail me out at the bank). I had a breakdown, a hard one; I even moved back into my parents’ house (who by then lived back again in South Africa) and I started to go back to university to finish graduation. And for my master’s thesis I reached out to BMW, and they gave me the great job to engineer gearboxes, then invent mathematical correlations to predict quality issues and warranty claims.
I slowly rebuilt a new life, I became a father of a beautiful son, which overwhelmed me. I got my pilot license, and I got a great job in the automotive industry, which would form my next 27 years. I also discovered my strength and applied it from that point (we are roughly in 1995 now) mostly in my job and when I was with my son. I gave everything I had, stepped up the ladder (still in a very unconventional way), became a member of BMW’s most elite R&D team at its time, with direct access to the best knowledge, daring scenarios, solid resources, newest skills and: the most radical innovation projects. One of those was Deep Blue (described above), the next one was Pave White. There were literally no limits (again) of what we wanted to explore, and what we decided to create, design, and engineer. We became the misfits with a clear purpose: the automotive world in the mid 1990s was exploding, every quarter brought new models, new vehicle segments, new digital tools, robots, fully automated manufacturing lines, access to exponential technologies, etc. We made concept cars, presented them at Auto Shows, we invented new body styles (check the BMW X- Coupe), we turned the usual market, product and manufacturing strategies upside down. And we were the ones who had to find all that new shit, the best suppliers, labs, partners, technologies, software… But when you get to do all that, you’ll also have to deal with the fact that 50% of your colleagues love that radical stuff (because they believe in the need for change), and 50% hate you and make you feel that whenever they can.
Even as a rebel in a big company, at a certain point you start smelling hierarchy and want it. So I reached for it and received a very clear instruction: if you wanna become a manager, you have to let the sexy projects go and do something ‘real’. Which I did: they sent me to South Carolina to clean up the usual mess that occurs when you ramp up a new manufacturing plant. And I did great. They promoted me to the quality manager of the plant. But did I conform? No. Because there were some weird things going on at the top management level, which I couldn’t oversee. I reported what I discovered back to headquarters, where they did not like what I made them see (but they should have, big time, in the sole interest of the company). This is how you make friends. Or not. And I learned that bringing the truth to the surface is a great feeling (still without knowing my own truth), but somehow also a career dead-end. So they offered me an educational & qualifying next step, and I entered the world of management & strategy consulting business. And quite swiftly I became a partner at one of the most renowned American consulting firms. One of those places where you wear suits, and ironed shirts, and ties. No tie for me. I again went the unconventional way, which was ok, and also developed my signature in the industry. And they even made me a partner, but I didn’t really dig their business model and habits, like every Monday morning at 6am taking the first flight to the client, being reachable 24 / 7, and brown-nosing your clients’ shitty strategies and ideas. But the money was much better than in the automotive industry. I bought a Land Rover Discovery, my first Porsche 911, started spending the weekends back on race tracks, and rented a beautiful house in the Austrian mountains. I met my second wife, and thanks to her I started exploring and embracing the world of ecstasy and meta-amphetamines, which gave me new insights about myself: I discovered my feelings, new levels of intensity, I connected with nature on a whole new level (we mostly took these substances in nature), I started to dance passionately, I started to laugh and to breathe deeply.
And these very stimulating times made me also understand why I was always addicted to extreme experiences (nowadays it’s out-of-body-experiences): in order to exit (my painful) reality. Because for a split moment while skiing, flying, climbing, bungee jumping, cliff diving, or racing, I don’t feel attached to any physics of space & time, to pain or any other human burden or worries. These experiences forced me into only the present. The painful accidents I had, especially equipped me to cope well with all sorts of set-backs. Without even realizing it, I became a master at parting the layers of stress and fear from the present moment. With age (maybe in my forties) I found you can even do this at any time with a higher understanding of self-awareness—easier said than done, of course.
I was stimulated by new beginnings, and had more & more courage to present myself in business meetings in a more ‘me’, truly authentic and audacious way, and it worked. My clients and colleagues found it a bit weird, but my beliefs and attitudes resonated well with them and this helped me to invent my very own way of industrial consulting. I developed my own methods, my own tools, processes, I started scribbling and sketching them out, and soon I had built my own innovation framework.
Then I received an interesting call: the former CEO of BMW became the CEO of the Volkswagen Group — he reached out and wanted me to bring some fresh wind into this monster company. He offered me a perfect foundation for playing out my entire innovation arsenal and future-based knowledge. But under one condition: I’d have to take on a top-management job, with four quite substantial departments and 120 people under my leadership, with the usual reporting structures, running some high-level decision and strategic committees. My ego said yes. I moved back to Berlin (where I was born and had my primary home) and into my new offices in Wolfsburg (don’t google it, it’s not worth it, although it’s the headquarters of one of the biggest companies in the world). And they threw me in cold water; no mercy. I had to realign my departments, run these committees, come up with striking strategies for new vehicles, new markets, new market research methods, etc. I was busy, but used my nights and weekends to work on a big new innovation project, which would put all my previous innovation works under its shadow.
Project Moonraker was born. (Please excuse that I cannot share more details about any of my past and present projects, they are all under heavy disclosures. But go ahead and google Deep Blue, Moonraker, and you’ll find some hints and even one official TED-talk). And with Moonraker I had my second office, my second home and life back in LA. Moonraker was Deep Blue on ecstasy: bigger budgets, more freedom, tougher and a more tangible assignment, and a way more difficult team. A couple of hundreds of VW employees applied for this project. Basically all board members and divisional leads pitched in money for it. We travelled the world, we lived (again) in a Malibu mansion (this time on the bluffs), and we re-wrote Volkswagen’s strategy for the US market, redesigned two of their volume vehicles, and created a beautiful 3‑wheeler show-car for the LA Autoshow, January 2006. Over the first six months nobody at the German and US headquarters really knew what to expect. Slowly, some people woke up and could smell the beginning of a mobility revolution (explosion of new vehicle segments, connectivity, digital services, etc.), because we questioned and rethought everything. And not only in America. We had Moonraker multiplied in Spain, in Russia, in India, and in China. This project was like a virus spreading across one of the most patriarchal and top-down ruled corporations in the world. We rode this wave to a point where some very powerful people got pissed off (remember the 50 / 50% lovers and haters?). We had good protection from the CEO-level, on a group-level as well as brand-level, but then things started to tumble. My two top-level protectionists got ‘killed’ (by the way: these two guys have been heroes in the automotive industry and were true champions), and with them the second line went down too. Thank God two very fair board members gave me early heads up, so I had enough time to come up with a plan B. And one of these guys said to me:
‘Why don’t you take all your unique innovation knowledge and experience and turn it into a business?’ Boom, there is was: the idea for my company. And I knew I was safe for another four months and could also keep the Malibu house and infrastructure running. So it became obvious to leverage this time to lay out PCH Innovations. I got divorced, raced my last race at Willow Springs (and won it), and started writing the charter for PCH over veggie burgers and SOB Smoothies at John’s Garden (Malibu Cross Creek). By August 2006 I had the sweet-spot of my new adventure clearly in front of me. I documented it in a time capsule (including the original PCH About text, a key to the Moonraker house, and a Polaroid sunset image taken that exact day) and buried it under the Moonraker Pool House (it’s still there—I revisited that site last year at the onset of constructing this catalog).
After 13 years as a corporate dude, three years as a consultant, five years as a bungee/ stunt man entrepreneur, having spent some time in Africa, ten years in the US (this is when LA became my second home), after two marriages, and with one gorgeous boy (I was always a more or less remote but I believe really good dad)—I converted all the great and painful lessons into my secret exponential innovation potion. With fresh energy and vision I moved back to Berlin for good (although I still spend about two months each year in LA) and got the company started with some small innovation projects: inventing a first truly digital interface adhesive label in LA, developing material innovations around ceramics in Germany, and creating vehicle interior concepts for VW and Audi, etc., and PCH Innovations started to grow. Beginning with three people during the first two years, we grew to ten after six years. My industry network opened doors, we got hired by BMW, Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens, Cartier, Tiffany & Co., you name it. We quickly needed to specialize in fields like HMI-development, UI / UX, software development; we started developing our own holographic projection technologies, along with our own and patented surface treatment methodologies. The projects grew, companies gave us their full trust to run substantial innovation initiatives and programs. We entered the fields of AR/ VR, robotics, machine and deep learning, the world of AI /GANs (maybe the most complex field in AI), etc. We needed the best coders, designers, strategists, movie producers, eco-system modelers, engineers, hackers, and also writers, scientists, philosophers, and dreamers (which are very hard to find). I needed to find the best partner out there, and 24-year-old Adrien from Marseille came around in 2012, and became my partner last year (he’s the best proof that age doesn’t matter).
At this point in the story, we are in 2018. And I’m very grateful for how my life’s journey had unfolded, the people I came across, the learnings I had integrated, and all that led up to this juncture. Also because I had reconnected with the city where I was born, and Berlin is also where I met Geza, who became my closest friend. And through Geza I met one of the lights in my life, my stepdaughter Carla (and her mum, Simone, her uncle, Philipp, and grandmother, Waltraud). That constellation allowed me to build my very own patchwork family in the typical Berlin way. I got settled and that was the only pathway to meet Magdalena, the love of my life and my wife (since fall 2019), the most beautiful Hathor (google it!) the world has ever seen, for real. All of this is why I am a happy and fulfilled person now.
But one who is never satisfied, obviously. I am still trying to answer persisting questions, like: Does it makes sense what I / we do? Do I serve my purpose? Do I and my company really work in the service of what the world needs right now? I don’t think so… And then: Who am I? What is my soul? What does ‘loving myself’ mean? Have I entirely healed my past wounds? Because if you don’t heal what hurt you, you’ll still bleed on people who didn’t cut you. You can certainly look back at your life and see nothing. Or, you can see nothing to hold you back. I guess that’s my take. But whatever you want needs to be occupied mentally and vibrationally, almost like checking into a hotel room. Only after you check in do they bring your bags into the room so you can carry on fully prepared.
My check-in was back in 2009 in Tulum, where I met Bobby Klein, one of the four spiritual teachers I have trusted in my life. There, for the first time in my life, I experienced astral meditation, I travelled across my past beings, met past and future souls, and connected with higher dimensions of consciousness. I learned about individual and collective consciousness, and alchemy, which became my new passions. In 2010 I met Mari, my second teacher, who taught me how to connect with source. In 2016 I was introduced to astrology and the works of Kaypacha Tom Lecher, whose weekly Pele Reports unified in companionship with Bobby Klein’s weekly I Ching readings. Also in 2016, I was introduced to the world of ancient mantras and chantings, indigenous tools, and plant medicine. Ayahuasca (a brew made from the leaves of the Psychotria viridis shrub along with the stalks of the Banisteriopsis caapi vine) allowed me to not only experience the quantum world (which I have studied in the last years, mostly to understand the science), but to momentarily exist in a world where all that is exists on a quantum level. Ibogaine (a perennial rainforest shrub native to West Africa) helped me to physically dis-integrate not so helpful habits and beliefs out of myself and to (re)integrate better knowledge and patterns into my body.
When you open Pandora’s box, you better be ready for some new chemistry and vibrations, to shift literally everything you are. And when you begin integrating (which is the hard part after experiencing, and where I am a beginner) these learnings, teachings, divine information, and ‘true source code’, you open a whole new chapter. And you can’t just keep going as you have been, neither in private nor business-related matters. Because you feel the urge and the ability to ‘change matter’; in this case meaning your attitudes, your habits, your beliefs, your expectations toward yourself, family, friends, and colleagues.
All was so good in this new beginning, but nevertheless I felt a wave coming again —this feeling for another new chapter, and this time a major shift across all my being. Why? Because I and maybe most of us, we cannot only see but feel the man-made and very problematic influence on our environment and other species. What you might sometimes even feel on an individual level is but a reflection of the world as a whole. Things in the world are greatly out of balance. The Hopi word Koyaanisqatsi means ‘world out of balance’; it is a state that requires change in our way of being and an opening to a new way of thinking. This requires radically new but robust man- (and maybe also machine-)made solutions. Because we as humankind, me as myself, and also my company as a business entity have created and contributed to societal and environmental problems, we need to fix those problems too.
I looked deeper and it immediately surfaced: the increasing frustration with the prevailing political, economic, and corporate mindsets and their priorities. I felt sick of mainly incremental and profit-driven innovation. I saw that most industry leaders are not willing to take the necessary risks, to go outside their comfort zones and to discover the totally new world we urgently need. And at the same time, I recognized that too many are only complaining and vanishing into apathy. So the importance of a positive outlook, perspective, worldview, and of finding and generating proofs for a positive future became obvious to me.
And what was the next logical step? I wanted to (carefully) bring some aspects of my personal journey into our studio, and back in 2017 initiated that we free up two people from project work, to first analyze and envision the world and humanity between now and approx. 2035, second to explore and develop entirely new and radical frameworks —to reinvent innovation or whatever this practice has to be in the future. We decoded our times, all the chaos around us, we analyzed how we got here, we started exploring new scientific fields (such as noetic science, panpsychism, epigentics, etc.), we even looked into the creation of tools for making higher realms of awareness and
consciousness accessible for ourselves, and even cooperations, and also applicable in the field of innovation—because we as a studio decided to slowly transition ourself toward repairing some of the damage continuing to occur throughout our Anthropocene era (that describes the disproportionate & disastrous influence of human activity on the planet).
Imagining our very own current future outlook became the central idea for Changing Matter— pursuing our path of advancing to a state of being in which all people can live on this planet with what we need and without exploitation or injustice. Expanding our capacity, reaching and accessing the ability to self-heal and to repair the fabric of life—at the highest level we can now imagine transcendent solutions like: activating higher consciousness, adjusting our frequencies and vibrations accordingly, changing matter with our minds, and even warping space-time at will. Our quest and obligation is to consider the tools, mechanisms, and mindset(s) that will provide the foundation for this type of transcendent change.
This was already baked into the notion of the original Whole Earth Catalog 50+ years ago in fall 1968, which served us as an honorable legacy and inspiration for our Changing Matter: Whole Innovation Catalog. We humbly took inspiration from that original compendium of tools, thinking, architecture, products, services, experiences, and most of all a brand new view of our planet (it was the first time a composite color image of planet Earth taken from space was published for the public). Our catalog is a call to action, a motif of the end of something making way for the beginning of something else, and the importance of accessing innovative tools. We, as innovation practitioners, together need to raise the bar and the stakes, we need to grapple with the hard truths and big challenges in front of us. Or as Sean Carroll asked in his foreword to Origins of the Universe, “Why do our individual lives matter if we are such a small part of such a big universe, and exist in such a small time period amid the 14 billion years of our universe?” The answers you may find us searching for in this catalog may remain beyond us at the time of writing and reading, yet we can still pursue the reverberations and implications of our questions, leverage the tools we have, and continue to build toward working out the right answers. Our past two years of work on Changing Matter also confronted us every day with how little we know, and how greatly we are compelled to learn… Ever into the Unknown.
Now, in case you jumped some lines, (which I’d do too),
here is what I would like to finally leave you with:
I truly believe in placing emphasis on and widening acceptance of the interaction and communication between established institutions and informal / shadow communities (where alternative and constructive action resides) to further the research into and development of new amalgamations of social, cultural, technological, and organizational structures. We have to foster the constant destruction and recreation of institutions and experimental cultures—cultures in which new forms of governance are tested and experimented with. Such new systems—in distributed and collective synthesis between humans, machines, creation as a whole and in full acknowledgment of our collective consciousness—will pave the way for another future, where our ‘superconscious & extended intelligence’ can produce collectives and individuals capable of freely and smoothly surfing between multi-dimensional cultural, material, and conceptual layers of existence. And this will be a collaborative process, a cybernetic, conscious, balanced, and loving fusion of diverse, universal misfits: part human, part machine, part program—only motivated by a love for each other that is deeply rooted in all our hearts. I mean, look, there are roughly 6,500 languages in the world. The heart you’ve had since birth speaks them all. Nothing else matters more than our hearts—and if we learn to really listen to our hearts, all our dream-worlds may come true.
My personal journey and the one of Changing Matter is to envision a new Earth where we all live in harmony and in connection of real and virtual communities—a world where ideas and solutions are shared and not put in the storehouse of greed to bring profit to an individual, a company, or a geographical location. Envision a world where love is not bartered, but given openly and freely with no conditions or expectations.
For me this is just the beginning. The next step is to de-attach and to re-connect to all there is. Because we all are what there will ever be in our universe(s). I want to become absolutely relentless and crazy in the pursuit of what makes my studio crew, my family, my friends and partners, my wonderful kids Jonas and Carla, my beloved wife Magdalena and myself conscious, truly happy, and feel alive. At this point I’m reminded of a quote by Aaravindha Himadra, “If you truly want freedom; enter the mainstream of truth-consciousness, not the mainstream of society.”
Don’t blame yourself for anything, detach from the bothers of life, and start floating on the universe. (I didn’t want to bluntly say: Live the moment). And take notice that there is no cosmic coincidence, synchronicity is more than coincidence; numerical patterns and synchronized events are important for (y)our soul journey. Pay attention to synchronicity—it totally exists. Keep looking for repeating numbers, letters or words in books, newspapers, on your phone, in your notes, license plates, billboards, screens, etc…certain ‘signs’ and deja vus will keep showing up in the strangest places and times. And at certain points in your journey you will see or experience something where all these sequences of signs, numbers, letters or words emerge into a new knowing, an insight you need, a teaching you may receive.
Thank you for receiving Changing Matter, for holding and opening it. My belief is that just the ‘having’ and ‘holding’ it will already convey the frequencies that are behind its initial impulse, its intense two year research and year of writing.
Here’s to Changing Matter! (& Cheers to Alchemy)
Stefan aka Shogunski Liske
This catalog is a work from and dedicated to the heart.
Gratitude to all my teachers and to those who inspired this catalog (and will never read it). Especially without the people who gently guided me into consciousness, I wouldn’t have been able to find my soul and to access my heart. Blessings to Mari Nil, Bobby Klein, Kaypacha Lecher, Adam Gainsburg, and Chandra Devi. Gratitude to my Mom & Dad. Your support (as well the traumas & mental health issues you gave me) and the endless strength I obviously gained from your genetic materials made all of this possible.
Gratitude to my former employers and colleagues at BMW, Volkswagen, and Arthur D. Little, who taught me my engineering, design, and strategy skills. They literally allowed me (and gave me 2‑digit million euro budgets) to turn their cooperations into my playgrounds, dreamscapes, and into the fertile grounds I leveraged into my studio and my passion. Thank you Chris Bangle, Klaus Bücherl, Burkhard Göschel, Helmut Panke, Wolfgang Reitzle, Joachim Milberg, Bernd Pischetsrieder, Wolfgang Bernhard, Hans-Joachim Rothenpieler. Thank you Deep Blue, Pave White, Moonraker, Swanlake, Palomar 5, Apex, L’Oiseau Libéré, Moonriver, Blended Drive, Prism, Radiance, Resonance, Wind, M, 21 Grams, Baymax, Columbus, and all other crazy innovation projects I / my crew participated in.
All this would not be possible without our clients, all the project leaders, and project teams we have been and will be working with. Thank you Siemens, Cartier, Tiffany, MAN Truck & Bus, MAN+Hummel, Villeroy & Boch, VW, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, DPDHL, StreetScooter, Ford, Richemont, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Zalando, Stylebop, Viessmann, Jaguar Land Rover, Hino, BMW, Mini, Nike, Telekom, T‑Systems, Tegel Airport, DDB, McCann, City of Berlin, IAV, Denso, SAIC, Schaeffler, Jolie-Pitt Foundation, Envision Energy, Red Bull, Solarkiosk, and FC Barcelona (that was a special experience…).
We are only as smart as our partners, who generously share their insights, views, technologies, code, and empathy with us. Thank you MIT Media Lab, MIT Self-Assembly Lab, Harvard Wyss Institute, Standford School of Design thinking, HPI, FEV, Roland Berger, Virgin Galactic, Apple, Google, Graft Architects & Brandlab, Onformative, Waltz Binaire, Double Standards, Konstruktiv, Trigger Happy, Ralf Schmerberg, Xcor, Scaled Composites, Fraunhofer IPK, Micro PSI, HRL Labs, NASA, DFKI, MIT CSAIL Lab, Berlin Institute of Technology, USCD BCI Lab, UCLA Mixed Reality Lab, EPFL Lausanne, Millennium Seed Bank, Carbon War Room, Future Laboratory, art+com, and more…
Gratitude to my team and partners at PCH (or Blank), who sometimes didn’t know how to deal with my ideas and mental excursions.
Especially thanks to my LA Brother and our Storyteller, Louis, and to our Philosopher, Conor, who both had the honor & torture to take fractions of my crazy thoughts to a whole different level and hereby made this catalog a brilliant and beautiful reality.
Thanks to the entire PCH crew for contributing with endless images, poems, articles, mantras, and mind snippets.
Peacock, you will always be in my heart for visually uplifting literally every dirty concept or thought that crossed my mind.
Thanks Vanny for orchestrating the layout process with Studio Bens (Jens & Louise), for reinstating our essential oils, and for floating with me on consciousness and other scientifically unproven phenomena.
And a big thank you to Adrien, my dear friend and partner in crime, who has the unmet power to listen to me, to question and to then ground me in reality—but you always allow me and us to travel into the next dimension. Side note: you still owe me a joint 4‑hydroxy DMT (also known as psilocybin) journey. And Adrien, please allow me to quote and amend Dr. Joe Dispenza at this point: We should never wait for science to give us permission to do the uncommon; if we do, then we are turning science into another religion or dogma.
My life as it is right now, my continuously widening horizons, my opening heart and growing love would not be possible without the love on my side, my wife, Magdalena. With you I have found my twin flame, you showed me how love should feel and what love should be; you help me maintain my inner & outer peace every day. And jointly we navigate in full synchronicity, endless love, mutual respect, and in true harmony. I cannot in words express my feelings and wonder for you and for your boundless integrity. Please let’s keep dancing, laughing, and singing every day.
Seiji Tsutsumi was a Japanese businessperson, author and poet, also known by the pen names Takashi Tsujii and Ikuo Yokose.
Tatsuhiko Akashi, founder and president of MediCom, developed the basic Kubrick with a former employee of LEGO. The first Kubrick figures were representations of characters from the manga and anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion, released in 2000. Since then, hundreds of Kubricks have been produced.
Larry Harvey was an American artist, philanthropist and activist. He was the main co-founder of the Burning Man event, along with his friend Jerry James.
John Law is an American artist, culture-jammer, and co-founder of the Cacophony Society and a member of the Suicide Club. He is also a co-founder of Burning Man which evolved out of the spirit of the Cacophony Society when a precursor solstice party was banned from San Francisco’s Baker Beach and merged with another Cacophony event on the Black Rock desert in Nevada.
Apollo 13 was the seventh crewed mission in the Apollo space program and the third meant to land on the Moon. The craft was launched from Kennedy Space Center on April 11, 1970, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank in the service module ℠ failed two days into the mission. The crew instead looped around the Moon, and returned safely to Earth on April 17.
Paolo Soleri was an Italian architect. He established the educational Cosanti Foundation and Arcosanti.
Arcosanti is a projected experimental town with a molten bronze bell casting business in Yavapai County, central Arizona, 70 mi north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet. Its arcology concept was proposed by the Italian-American architect Paolo Soleri.
Lockheed Martin Corporation is an American aerospace, defense, arms, security, and advanced technologies company with worldwide interests. It was formed by the merger of Lockheed Corporation with Martin Marietta in March 1995. It is headquartered in North Bethesda, Maryland, in the Washington, D.C., area.
The Jet Propulsion Laboratory is a federally funded research and development center and NASA field center in the city of La Cañada Flintridge with a Pasadena mailing address, within the state of California, United States.
IDEO is a design and consulting firm with offices in the U.S., England, Germany, Japan, and China. It was founded in Palo Alto, California, in 1991. The company uses the design thinking approach to design products, services, environments, and digital experiences.
Barry Katz is a design historian based in the Design Group, Department of Mechanical Engineering. He is at the same time Professor of Industrial and Interaction Design at the California College of the Arts and Fellow of IDEO, Inc., the global design and innovation consultancy.
John Underkoffler is Founder and CEO of Oblong Industries, developer of the gspeak Spatial Operating Environment and the Mezzanine system for immersive visual collaboration across the enterprise. Oblong’s technological trajectories build on fifteen years of foundational work at the MIT Media Lab, where Underkoffler was responsible for innovations in real-time computer graphics systems, large-scale visualization techniques, and the I/O Bulb and Luminous Room systems. Underkoffler was a science advisor to films including Minority Report, The Hulk (Ang Lee), and Iron Man.
Oblong Industries is a design-driven software and hardware company whose mission is to put a new user interface on every computer in the world. Oblong’s technology has roots in more than two decades of research at the MIT Media Lab and was the direct basis for the computers depicted in the film “Minority Report”.
Sydney Jay Mead was an American industrial designer and neo-futurist concept artist, widely known for his designs for science-fiction films such as Blade Runner, Aliens and Tro
Charles W. Pelly, commonly Chuck Pelly, is an American industrial designer. Pelly is best known for founding the global design consultancy DesignworksUSA. He has spent most of his life in Southern California. He attended the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California and studied for his Master’s degree.
Theodorus Gerardus Jozef “Theo” Jansen is a Dutch artist. In 1990, he began building large mechanisms out of PVC that are able to move on their own and, collectively, are entitled, Strandbeest. The kinetic sculptures appear to walk. His animated works are intended to be a fusion of art and engineering
Elbert Leander “Burt” Rutan is a retired American aerospace engineer and entrepreneur noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft.