Celebrating 9 years of problem-solving

Celebrating 9 years of problem-solving

Nine years ago this week, Luminary Labs was born. After leaving a C-suite job at a venture-backed company, I had planned to take some time off. But I love a good problem, and I quickly landed my first consulting project. The rest is history.

As we enter our 10th year, the company has grown to a team of people who are passionate about the thorny problems that matter. We’re working with corporate, government, and nonprofit leaders to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges. I’d argue that we have proven that no problem is too big. Here are just a few we’ve been working on.

Preparing students for 21st century jobs. Following a workshop at NASA in conjunction with our work with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE), Head of Client Services Janna Gilbert was inspired to imagine “how we can engage and educate the next generation of explorers, makers, thinkers, and dreamers.” This is a common theme across our work on ED Prizes, from helping high schools build makerspaces to exploring how AR/VR simulations can transfer critical skill sets for the high-skill, high-wage, and high-demand occupations of tomorrow.

Protecting our cities from biothreats. Senior Analyst Mahala Pagán led the Hidden Signals Challenge on behalf of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) and in partnership with NASA Tournament Lab. The open innovation challenge asked innovators to design systems for using open data to detect biothreats.

Exploring how voice interfaces can help support chronic disease management. Senior Analyst Elizabeth Bowling led the Alexa Diabetes Challenge on behalf of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, New Jersey, U.S.A. Voice-enabled technology is transforming the way we live, and this challenge asked innovators to show how Alexa voice-enabled solutions could shift from helping manage playlists to helping manage disease.

Saving lives with low-cost inventions. Elizabeth has also been leading the U.S. Coast Guard Ready for Rescue Challenge on behalf of DHS S&T in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center. The winning boater safety solution may have an opportunity to introduce a new consumer product — and could change an industry standard while saving lives.

Improving education technology to upskill America’s workforce. We’ve spent the past several years in the adult education space, designing and standing up a learning lab on behalf of foundations, as well researching what works through the Power In Numbers program on behalf of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Strategist Christina Ward has been attending conferences with the Power in Numbers team, and will bring what we’ve learned to a panel at SXSW EDU in 2019.

Imagining unintended consequences. We were early to the tech ethics conversation; last year, I named it as a story to watch in 2018. Every technologist needs an education in ethics, and that education should include fictional stories that expand the imagination. Managing Editor Jessica Hibbard sourced a list of 40 books, TV shows, and movies for people who care about the future of technology (and humans).

Embracing new ways of working. Over the past month, I’ve spoken about our State of Open Innovation report at conferences in four cities — from Boston to Boca Raton. Our inaugural survey of open innovation leaders found collaboration is the new competitive advantage, and conversations at these recent events have centered around the potential for open innovation to challenge the status quo.

We see no shortage of problems to address, and our team is growing. People Operations Manager Brian Mahoney is recruiting for consulting, communications, and design roles at our office in New York. If you know someone who wants to work on the thorny problems that matter, please send them our way.


Sara Holoubek
Founding Partner and CEO