When I first conceived of Think Rubix, I had one goal: I wanted to get paid to think.
Yes, I suppose I thought highly enough of my very own thoughts that I imagined they were my greatest contribution to the world. I may have been a dreamer, but I wasn’t the only one. Thankfully, I had friends and comrades who saw the value in intellectual freedom and were willing to inspire my burgeoning inner-entrepreneur.
There was a lot happening at the time of this conception for me and most certainly in the world. The times were unprecedented. Before forming the company in 2017, enough had happened to show the world was changing. There were events that took place and everyone seemed to take notice. Most of these events involved recorded, internet-viral, state-sponsored killings of unarmed black people. Consequentially, many citizens looked to the federal government to take action, which was led, principally, by a Black man for the first time in the country’s history (also unprecedented), and, unsurprisingly, not much happened to stop those events.
Thus began the latest great awakening. We named that awakening Black Lives Matter. And by “we”, I mean three sisters who took to the internet to liberate some folks, and folks most certainly encountered the spirit of liberation.
After the 2016 election, crises after crises began piling atop each other exponentially. From tax cuts for the wealthy, trade wars that disproportionately hurt Black farmers, much ado about Russia, to the caging of children and family separation at our borders. It felt hard to keep up. And this doesn’t include the events of 2020; which means global pandemic, which means COVID, which means death and hysteria, which requires accountability, which means blame, which means Trump, which means terror (figuratively and literally), which means the penultimate apocalypse of democracy, averted, chiefly, by Black folk. Needless to say, that period was a culmination of watershed moments, and everyone had a front-row seat.
When I conceived Think Rubix, I recognized that the events leading up to November 2016 would have otherworldly consequences and I should probably get ready for it. I believed that, amidst a whirlwind of adversity, there was an incredible opportunity waiting to be seized. If only we could create a space for intellectual contrast, rich in culture, in the practice of social innovation.
You see, equity isn’t hard to understand. Neither is problem-solving. The key is to understand it in its simplest form; which requires, above all, truth, honesty, and courage.
The movement, however, had only continued to evolve. And, eventually, not just Black folks started to awaken to the mantra of Black Lives Matter.
So what did I do? In 2014, I left Capitol Hill and joined the movement. The things that I saw and learned, I can never unsee and unlearn. But I’m grateful for the baptism. For the radicalization. Truth is, I never felt radicalized. I was affirmed. I was liberated. Liberation was me.
So much so, I thought if I knew enough about what made systems work, I could rework, influence, or reimagine those systems, and make them work for us. So I went on to work the Bernie Sanders campaign (2016).
Yup, this Arkansas native went to work for a self-described “democratic-socialist” Senator from Vermont running for president, who kinda marched with Dr. King and has a total of one-and-a-half Black friends. It was cool though. I knew very well that Uncle Bernie had social and economic policy ideas that would galvanize the country and set the table for the type of 21st century systems change we needed. I also knew that his messaging and lofty policy platform would provide desperately needed voter enthusiasm, and was Hillary’s best chance of winning, but we all know how that went.
So, there I was, in the dead of a proper DC winter, in my 500 square foot one-bedroom condo in Ivy City — unemployed and unbothered — I decided I should be paid to think. While on the phone with a good friend, who neither knew I was enjoying a midday bourbon or comfortably suited in a bathrobe and tube socks, we engaged in a (literally) spirited conversation around problem-solving for equity.
And, in a stream of consciousness, the process of understanding the value of equity-centered problem-solving became clear to me — like the process of matching colors on a Rubik’s cube.
“Equity,” at the time, was an emerging mainstream term of art that, in many ways, functioned as a pseudonym for anti-racism.
You see, equity isn’t hard to understand. Neither is problem-solving. The key is to understand it in its simplest form, which requires, above all, truth, honesty, and courage. Truth, understood by fact, and agreement to fact. Honesty shed of non-fact-based bias. And courage to face discomfort, endure pain, and to have whatever misnomers of prior truths shattered for the greater good. That may sound abstract but, it’s not.
Equity can mean many things, but not if we agree on what it should mean. What it is, at its core, is fairness— fairness defined by first acknowledging unfairness. For context — our social contract shares some definition of justice — so much so that this country has adopted justice as a founding principle; “with liberty, and justice for all.” But, considering the relative hypocrisy of that language at the time of its adoption, what if I told you that there is no justice without equity? How then would you understand justice? How then would you understand equity?
Moreover, problem-solving is more or less a process of simplifying perceptions of complexity. The most common misconception client-partners bring to our studios at Think Rubix is how they believe they need a solution. I admit; I once thought the same. However, what we’ve realized is not to search for a solution but, to better understand the problem.
There’s more to equity problem solving than meets the eye.
How do you couple equity and problem-solving in your company, organization, life, and community?
Solving a Rubik’s cube isn’t really about finding a solution — it’s about understanding what appears to be complexity. Getting each primary color all to the same side isn’t necessarily solving a problem, but understanding how and why the colors were scattered to begin with. It’s about discovering the pathways from complexity to simplicity.
When we tap into our ability to understand things that are not easily understood, we can then unlock and exercise our greatest ability as people — to design, create, and manifest. And it is in this space of making red and yellow into orange, blue and yellow into green, and red and blue into purple, do we begin to encounter the rich diversity of life in color.
Welcome to Think Rubix.