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Virtual Curiouser & Curiouser: Insights from our July 2020 Innovation Showcase

As quarantine labors into the summer, refine+focus is here for you with fresh ideas to reignite your wonder. We recently held our signature event, Curiouser & Curiouser, which is dedicated to growing innovative ideas and building meaningful new relationships. Read all about the exciting selection of pieces that our team shared below.

Must Attend

Want to meet other innovative thinkers? Connect by attending an event. Our events calendar is packed with carefully curated events and resources to tickle your curiosity.

Check out our curated events and resources calendar.

The Curiouser & Curiouser Event

The Curiouser community came together on July 13 to each share something that intrigues or excites us. As always, we were struck by the range of ideas that people brought as we discussed everything from the fate of globalism to Panera marketing strategy to innovative nail polish packaging.

Here are the highlights:

Barbara Vanaki shared a presentation on machine learning models and how human bias becomes encoded into big data.

David Tames discussed a film that he has been creating which investigates why we segregate ourselves into opposite opinions and how to deal with intractable fanatics.

Purnima Thakre identified innovation in an unexpected place: nail polish packing! She described how her new Olive & June nail polish kit expertly re-engineered the customer experience of painting one’s nails.


Joe Macek shared his enthusiasm for his new investment in SpaceX and their innovative work on Starlink.

Jeff Butler pondered how people make big decisions in their lives, inspired by changes in his plans to balance pursuing an MBA and competing in the 2021 Paralympics.

Catherine Cheng shared an excerpt of world-renowned conductor Daniel Barenboim on how to listen to music.

Harrison Yu raised the question of if globalism, as we’ve seen it since WWII, is dead or merely being reimagined.

Katie Martensen offered an innovative marketing strategy from Panera Bread in which Panera used twitter polls and targeted ads to offer free coffee for the summer to those who participated.


Katherine Cruz discussed her passion project addressing environmentalism, the waste of shoes, and her love of running by creating a resource that helps runners in her community recycle their used sneakers.

Eduardo Pujol highlighted two innovative technologies, Exploding Topics which uses an algorithm to identify trends before they take off, and Crystal, a LinkedIn personality test plugin that helps you learn more about how to engage with your connections.


Zach Braiker closed the evening with contemplation on how sharing literature builds friendships and a few lines of poetry from The Gift by Hafez-e-Shirazi: ‘Even after all this time the sun never says to the earth you owe me. Look what happens with a love like that, it lights the whole sky’.

An Invitation

Want to join our next innovation showcase? Have a new idea that you’d like to share? Reach out to us at and we will let you know if a spot opens up.

Get Unstuck When Complexity Strikes

Although refine+focus is seasoned at building strategy, creating diversity, and strengthening brand positioning, the events of the past few months have caused us to reflect on our methods, values, and culture in new ways. Here are a few of the processes we’ve turned to and how we applied them when making decisions about communicating our approach to the pandemic and Black Lives Matter.


Step 1: Identify simultaneous complexity and simplicity


When you encounter complexity in decision making, clarify why it’s complicated. By identifying the complexity, rather than feeling overwhelmed by its abstractions, it’s easier to manage. Once you’ve discovered the factors that create complexity, rank them. Spend the most time reflecting on the highest ranked elements of complexity.

If you’re getting lost in the complexities, start by identifying all the stakeholders and opinions you are trying to juggle. This online interactive tool will help you plot out the stakeholders and their importance.



Spend equal time reflecting on simplicity as you do pondering complexity. Ask yourself – in what ways is this challenge simple? Just asking the question may bring some clarity. For us responding to Black Lives Matter, this question led us to our core value of compassion. 

Check out this great article on the complexity bias to understand our human tendency to over complicate things, plus, get tips on how to return to simplicity.



Step 2: Determine what is needed to create clarity

How do you move forward when you’re stuck? One way is to ask this question: If we only knew X, we would have clarity, so, what’s X? Solving for X, or what’s standing in the way of clarity, is a fast way to get there. Try it!Check out this Forbes’ article from a clarity strategist that’s packed with thought exercises to help you achieve clarity.




Step 3: Define a Position

It’s nearly impossible to be timely, authentic, and helpful if you don’t know where you stand. We’ve seen it in ourselves and our clients – the clearer you know where you stand and what you stand for, the easier it is to create compelling human content. At refine+focus, once we decided that our core value of compassion would guide us through these complicated times, things became clearer. Ultimately, we chose to celebrate brilliant black voices to help our audience gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of present times.

Check out this article on companies that embraced their positions and reaped the rewards for it.




It’s okay to be stuck for a time, especially if you’re learning while you’re stuck. But when you’re merely spinning your tires, that’s when we invite you to try the three exercises we’ve shared.

Ask yourself: What makes this decision simple and complex? What’s needed to solve this problem? What’s my true position on this topic? Don’t expect great writing until you have this clarity.

Still stuck? Let’s get on Zoom and try it together. Send us an email at

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