Thanks to Tanya Thompson from ThinkFun for interviewing Yarrow Kraner.
Last year I was invited to attend a conference called HATCH from its organizer Yarrow Kraner. Yarrow inspired me in our first conversation and made me believe that hatching a better world was possible. I decided to attend HATCH not as a work trip but as a personal adventure. I walked away from HATCH inspired and connected with an extremely talented and passionate group of people. In the toy and game industry, I travel the world searching for the next big idea for ThinkFun. At HATCH I connected with people outside of my industry and they have influenced me in a way that in time I know will change this industry that I love. They have certainly changed me. They advocate big ideas and they have the expertise and connections to stand behind them. The people that make up the HATCH community are creative and connected in different ways which can help bring our traditional industry into the 21st century. We’re going to change the world and bring products that teach big ideas to the next generation!
I am on the board of Chicago Toy and Game Group and we’re always looking for new ways to promote play and innovation and bring new ideas into the events. Mary Couzin suggested I invite Yarrow Kraner and Philip Sheppard to keynote the inventor conferences. As what happens with the HATCH community, they came and inspired. Now we’d like to feature the big thinkers from HATCH in each newsletter as a source of inspiration and creativity. There is no one better to begin than with the founder of HATCH himself, Yarrow Kraner!
In one sentence, who are you?
I’m a creative alchemist, catalyst, and dot connector.
What was your favorite toy or game as a child?
My mom and I had very little money as she was working several menial jobs to put herself through grad school so the games that I had access to were limited. That being said, the ones that I cherished most were the ones that allowed for imagination to steer the outcome. Legos and Lincoln Logs of course... and probably my true favorite game - was the “tree game” - a simple “go-fish” game mechanic except that the cards were wrapped in the beautiful art work and factoids about trees from around the world. While I was waiting for my turn, I could “travel to other exotic places and visit these trees, while learning about them... the Banyan tree, the Mangrove tree, the Elephant tree...” My favorite tree was the Ginkgo Biloba. Since I was a child, I have been able to see a tree and name it, no matter where I’m traveling.
What inspires you?
Creativity and creative people inspire me. In all walks of life, creativity is grossly misunderstood in society. Many still consider creativity as a “nice to have” – art on the walls, music in the background. “I’m not creative” I hear people say... But creativity is a critical way of thinking differently – and overcoming challenges. Every science innovation, technological break-through, communication advance…. was sparked by creative thinking.
That’s why I founded HATCH (www.HATCHexperience.org), as a platform for mentorship in creativity and innovation. By cultivating a stronger capacity for creative thinking – and making it a priority to add the arts programs back into our educational developmental landscape, we will surge ahead in innovation in every domain of living and invention. The same creativity that twisted a piece of wire into a paperclip or molded a piece of glass into a computer chip can solve every significant problem the world faces today. CREATIVITY is the magic ingredient in building a bright future. HATCH is driven to infuse every member of the HATCH community by uniting disruptors and mavericks, cross-pollinating diverse people and ideas, and curating experiences that ignite new thinking.
What are your passions?
Connecting people, igniting collaborations, and visual story-telling. I’m also a filmmaker (www.YarrowKraner.com) and love taking people on emotional journeys or helping brands reach new audiences through story telling.
Who do you admire and why?
This list is so long it’s overwhelming to even begin listing them. As far as a cliff notes version of this list, I admire my mother for being a warrior who persisted through some very hard times to bring us through to the other side. I admire Einstein for always knowing that imagination is more important than science. I admire Da Vinci for being fearless with his ideas, illustrating a wide swath of diverse design thinking and convergence of engineering and creativity, and the volunteers of HATCH, who sacrifice from their own lives, to enrich the lives of others who go into the world and continue to make a significant difference for so many.
How can you make the world better?
By continuing to launch, foster, and drive programs that connect and inspire thought leaders and the next generation of innovators... by creating platforms that empower each of us to tap into that unique inner super power that each of us have and unleash it. HATCH, The Superdudes, The SuperPowered are all platforms with a concerted mission of building community around those who inspire each other, and inspire the masses.
What are you excited about?
I’m excited about launching “The SuperPowered” with a couple dear friends of mine... the potential for connecting a secret society of real-life superheroes is unimaginable. Wait... we’ve imagined it.
If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
About the power and importance of creativity - how we need to proactively address the current landscape and reconfigure priorities as arts programs are being cut - a crisis is upon us.
If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
Creativity and creative thinking. New ways of looking at life around you.
When things get tough, how do you keep yourself going?
Sometimes I wait... patience. Weather the storm. Then, someone will come out of the mist and say something to me that knocks a rock loose, and the dam breaks and the light shines through and suddenly I’m back on my mission again.
What leadership qualities do you most admire?
Organizational skills. Mine work like swirling atoms. Frustrating for some that work with me.
What motivates you to improve yourself?
The people around me. And who I surround myself with, and get to spend the most time with, directly impacts how much I push myself.
How do you get balance in your life?
I don’t currently have balance - but one key is to discover within you that which brings you joy, and if you can do that every day, there is no clear line between work and play.
What are some things that make you really happy?
Connecting creative catalysts, and curating collaboration. Envisioning incredible outcomes, and then manifesting them.
What makes you smile?
Tanya Thompson makes me smile.
If you could go back in time and tell a younger version of yourself one thing, what would you tell?
It doesn't really matter, because I know I probably wouldn't listen. For instance, take better care of yourself.... “Yeah I’ll get right on that.”
Where would you go in a time travel machine? Would you stay?
YES!! (I think that’s how I got here ;-) Whether or not I’d stay would depend on what I found when I got there. What I found when I got here is an incredible world, with infinite potential and capacity for love and creativity - in dire need of some help. Time to activate the real superhero within all of us.
If you could invite 3 historical figures from any time period for dinner, who would you invite?
Einstein, Da Vinci, and Tesla.
What are some of your favorite websites?
What’s one of your favorite questions to ask new friends or to get a conversation going?
What’s your unique super power? How do you put that to work on a daily basis...? Is it being fully tapped, or lying somewhat dormant? And your weakness? What obstacles must you overcome to accomplish your goals?
What would your DJ name be?
DJ Yarrow or DJ Synapse
What is something you would hate to go without for a day?
You can give one object (the same object) to everyone in the world. What is it, and why?
A personalized Superhero trading card, that reflects to the holder their inner super power, reminding them of what makes them incredible - and the duty they have to unleash that to the world.
Which activities make you lose track of time?
Photography, filmmaking, painting, creating.
What’s something most people don’t know about you?
As a white kid with blond hair, I’ve experienced racism. My mom’s first job upon earning her grad school degree was a job teaching on an Indian reservation and I was the only white kid in the school. I got beat up pretty much every other day. When we left, I was bitter... and one day a year or so later Ii realized that I should feel fortunate to have been able to experience that and it’s been an important part of who I am since.
Where did you grow up and how did that influence who you are today?
My name Yarrow was a flower / healing herb that grew in my parents’ back yard when I was born. They were artists. My mom put herself through art school for 6 years, which is essentially where I grew up when not in school. I've been surrounded by creativity most of my life and that has forged within me an innate sense that horizons are not finite lines, but new lands to be explored. That obstacles are only that, until you choose a different perspective. Creativity has fostered my life mantra: “You will see it when you believe it. And only then.” With creative thinking, there is no impossible.
Thank you Yarrow for taking the time to answer these questions. I want to thank you for creating HATCH and for continually working to hatch a better world! You’re a visionary and an amazing Superdude!