We managed to have a brief conversation with Tom Wujec, Founder of The Wujec Group and an ex-fellow at Autodesk who has been a speaker at TED for more than 17 years.
Digit - Could you tell us more about the concept of business visualisation?
Tom - Business Visualization is the process of fostering team clarity, engagement, and alignment. It applies visual thinking through the use of diagrams and physical prototypes to help teams build a shared understanding of a situation or problem, systematically exploring options, and making clear decisions. It can be applied to a vast range of business functions, from clarifying strategy, business models, and sales processes to branding, customer support, and the application of technologies such as machine learning. When teams make their ideas visible, they typically have better conversations, cut through complexity, identify a wider range of creative solutions, and make better decisions. My TEDxGateway talk explores and explains this idea in detail.
Digit - How is it different from the existing manner in which businesses chart their product pipeline or growth strategies?
Tom - It expands on it dramatically. Typically, organizations create charts and use them in powerpoint presentations. Business visualization introduces the concept of active information environments - often bringing together digital and physical realms. These wall-sized diagrams are used for planning, execution, and tracking.
Digit - In your book, The Future of Making, you've explained a lot about the transformative nature of generative design. I was curious if this could have a biological component as well. Building cost and weight optimised prosthetics seems to be a use case with a biological component but could we see living tissue/organisms ever be part of such a build process where they influence the design within user-specified constraints?
Tom - So, your question points to a massive area of research and exploration. The short answer is that biological programming - reading, understanding, and writing DNA - will make the internet seem quaint by comparison. There is massive research and development in Generative Design as applied to drug discovery, food creation, tissue repair, genetic screening, and material creation. Just last week researchers have successfully programmed bacteria to create spider silk. Once at scale, this will create entirely new building materials 5x to 20x the strength of steel, but much lighter.
Digit - Since generative design has an AI component, and AI can have biases. Have you come across any incidents wherein a bias led to, let's say, a surprising result?
Tom - So, AI is a broad term that covers a wide range of programming approaches. There are types of generative design that use AI - and those that don’t. One generative design of a motorcycle part ended up having the same shape as a fox pelvis. The design didn’t explicitly try to create the structure. But it evolved the design through trial and error creating the most optimal shape - just like evolution does. But computationally, this happens in minutes or hours, compared to millions of years. That was shocking. And now we kind of expect that the solutions of generative design.
Tom Wujec is one of the speakers at the 10th Edition of TEDxGateway 2018 to be held at the DOME @ NSCI Mumbai.