transforming inquiry into impact for individuals, teams, organizations and ecosystems

About Us

Kaz Brecher

Founder and Chief Curious Catalyst

The founder of Curious Catalyst, and the daughter of two rocket scientists, Kaz excels at turning inquiry into impact and thrives in ambiguous contexts. She is a framework generalist and network entrepreneur, using pattern recognition and agile prototyping to uncover blind spots and identify opportunities. Kaz designs experiences to build leadership and human-centered design capacity and spark innovation. As a master facilitator, she’s held innovation faculty positions with THNK School of Creative Leadership in Amsterdam and Vancouver. And she’s often using the science of behavior change as a learning experience designer and leadership coach with ThinkHuman, the Experience Institute, and NOBL Collective, and as a member of the Programming Committee for the Culturati Summit. She is a founding member of the Guild of Future Architects, a natural evolution following her years serving as the Executive Director of Yoxi, an impact investing force, and trailblazing at the intersection of media agencies and disruptive technologies. And she maintains senior advisory roles with social impact agencies like A Hundred Years. Based in Los Angeles, Kaz is a Stanford graduate, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Certified Scrum Master. She is always in search of good coffee, enlivening conversation and memorable meals. Learn more about Kaz.

While Curious Catalyst began in 2012 as an experiment to apply the agile ways of innovation from technology disruptors to urban systems challenges, it has evolved into a broader engine for transformation. Drawing from globe-spanning careers, the core team of expert generalists is united by their boundless thirst for knowledge and love of healthy debate. This has consistently underpinned the Curious Catalyst reputation as an enthusiastic champion of breakthrough change—built on an ability to identify, connect and activate unlikely collaborators across myriad disciplines from their vantage point as professional outsiders and complex system junkies.  We like to say we have gigantic antennae out to the world. In other words, we’re good at figuring out exactly what you need to evolve your organization. Working with a diverse range of clients, harnessing our ability to thrive in highly ambiguous contexts and find paths forward even where none exist, we have guided entrepreneurs, start-ups and senior executives at Mattel and Disney among others – cultivating new skill sets, sparking innovative ideas and seeding promising partnerships. You can check our where we started with our original website here.

Since provoking thoughtful reflection and discussion is core to our mission, we invite you to spend some time with our Curious Catalyst musings, inquiries into the broader world of human-centered design and civic engagement, and inspiring stories from curiosity-driven impact investing. We’ll never tell you we have all the answers, but we’re great at navigating this crazy, ever-changing landscape. If you can roll with that kind of adventure, get in touch.

No one ever raised a barn alone, and we pride ourselves on curating and collaborating with some of the highest caliber practitioners and subject matter experts.

Shaun Sperling

Authentic & Inclusive Leadership Learning Designer

Shaun helps individuals and teams become more connected and effective by enhancing leadership, energy, wellness, and performance while building equity and inclusion. As a speaker, facilitator and coach, he has experience across sectors, including technology, law, healthcare, finance, retail and education. Through interactive workshops and keynote addresses, Shaun creates spaces where people can show up and be seen for who they are, using storytelling and laughter to build capacity, connect and inspire. He began as an attorney specializing in commercial litigation and brings both corporate and non-profit contexts to his work.


Sarah Dickinson

Organization, Leadership & Culture Designer

Sarah works at the intersection of culture, ideas and people. For two decades, her work has centered around designing new ways for teams to create and collaborate, to push beyond boundaries, cross the streams of their discipline and achieve collective change. Her guidance, methods and tools are participatory, purpose-led and inclusive – unlocking powerful cohesion and commitment. Sarah brings energy and drive to instill sound, values-led and intuitive decision-making as a highly-valued mentor, keynote speaker and board member. As the co-founder of THNK School of Creative Leadership in Vancouver, she fostered a lasting international community of changemakers.


Tim Armitage

Brand & Customer Engagement Strategist

As a brand and digital strategist, Tim helps large-scale businesses, creative agencies, and established startups develop authentic ways to connect with customers. He crafts strategies at the intersection of customer insight, human-centered design, and business performance – almost always leveraging emerging technologies and interactive media. He is equally comfortable working with executives and delivery teams to envision the possibilities, set direction, and establish priorities. Tim has contributed to the evolution of global and rapid-growth brands, inviting C-suite and marketing executives to look at the world with fresh eyes—to imagine their customers’ future relationship with their brands.

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Grace Kim

Impact & Organizational Transformation Strategist

Grace helps leadership teams navigate liminal moments. She helped build and lead a pioneering social impact strategy and design firm at GOOD Inc. and has expertise in developing enduring brands, teams, and organizations that lead with empathy, imagination, and a clear impact mandate. She’s a master at guiding leadership on operationalizing their values and designing strategies and programs to remove barriers to human potential. Grace has also crafted and launched fellowships, coalitions, and initiatives for foundations and nonprofits alike. She serves in advisory and board capacities for Sum of Us, Amplifier, the Racial Equity Committee for LeadersUp, and Beyond 100Kin10.


Janet Brown

Engagement, Performance & Experience Leader

As a senior People Leader, Janet brings a wealth of operational experience across technology and healthcare industries, having guided global start-ups and scale-ups in rapidly-changing contexts for more than a decade. Managing Human Resources and Talent Acquisition along with Training and Development teams, she prioritizes employee-centric programs on corporate culture, hiring practices, DEI principles and professional development paired with sustainable and scalable corporate growth initiatives. Janet has earned her role as a trusted strategic C-suite advisor and leadership team member. 

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Ryan Jasperson

Executive Leadership & Teaming Strategist

For a decade, Ryan has worked with executives and leadership teams at the highest levels of some of the world’s largest organizations. Whether with an individual attempting to radically evolve the way they lead, a leadership team attempting to push the boundaries of what is possible, or a cross-functional cohort of leaders brought together for a unique project, Ryan both designs pathways to change and facilitates space for transformation. He has a PhD in Leadership Studies and a Master’s in Organizational Leadership from Gonzaga University.

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Chris Shellen

Content & Communications Strategist

Twenty years ago, Chris Shellen brought her experience as a film executive at Paramount Pictures to the interactive space, concentrating on the development of transmedia storytelling and strategic content. She has developed successful messaging and content strategies for a spectrum of brands including the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, GE, Disney, Pew Charitable Trusts and Target, among many others. She continues to keep one foot in entertainment, recently co-directing the award-winning Italian documentary, “Spettacolo.”


Miles Kemp

Interactive Architecture & Emerging Platform Strategist

As one of today’s visionary thought leaders in interactive architecture and user experience, Miles has worked at the intersection of digital media, physical architecture and human interaction design for nearly two decades. Miles is the founder of award-winning Variate Labs, where he works on projects that push the boundaries of interaction design in spatial environments. He has a Master’s degree from the Southern California Institute of Architecture and a B.S. in Architecture from University of Maryland, College Park.

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We’ve worked with (almost) everyone and look forward to making a bigger impact together…

What We Do

There is a persistent myth of the lone inventor, one great genius slaving away in obscurity. But this is, indeed, a myth. Innovation most often comes from group interaction, cross-fertilization between team-members and rapid feedback cycles. Creativity happens in teams. And too many organizations have dysfunctions that hamper high-performance, so it’s critical to ensure culture fosters leadership and best practices at all levels. The most effective experiences are tailored to a specific context, so we always design bespoke offerings pulled from the hundreds of formats and configurations we’ve road-tested around the world. Dig in below to learn more about how we can help you catalyze creativity with consulting or capacity-building.

Bespoke Offsites & Advances

Is a retreat really the best way to move your organization forward?  Not according to our many courageous partners, most of whom agree that we should know by now that one-size-fits-all never fits anyone. Whether you’re under pressure to become more responsive and agile or more steady and consistent as your organization scales and new dynamics emerge, we consider every aspect of how we gather when we design these rare opportunities to spark magic and momentum. We often choose unlikely locations that bring your vision to life with intention and weave in meals as unlikely sessions for gleaning rare insights. And we have a secret Bat phone for reaching out to our wild card network of speakers and master practitioners. Drawing from our experience working with organizations around the world, representing myriad sectors and sizes, we are adept at identifying how to transform your unique cast of characters into a harmonious, high-performing team. 

Closer Look: The Future Imagination Fund

In partnership with Sharon Chang’s Dream Office of Imaginary Friends, we designed and facilitated a carefully-curated gathering with some of the most influential members of the NYU Tisch School of the Arts universe for a soft-launch of the Future Imagination Fund. Intended to empower citizen artists to solve complex problems by challenging and rebuilding the systems that govern everyday activities, this convening needed to embody the same principles of “cultivating discovery and experimentation with combinations of art, science, and business” in just a few hours. We harnessed a sense of ceremony and created a liminal space in which we could quickly connect with the power of imagination to create better futures – while releasing our guests from the everyday constraints faced by faculty and funders alike. And we partnered with a culinary artist to create a sensory experience in an effort to balance our more cerebral selves. Participants left with a physical artifact as proof that they hadn’t dreamt it all.

Culture-Building & Organizational Evolution 

Remember that amazing session your team loved? When you all felt fired up and ready to make changes for good…and then, life and urgent projects and, well, everything else happened instead? We know that implementing lasting change is hard work. Add to the mix the reality that people change roles and jobs more frequently and diverse teams require different tools to thrive, and the pressure to create cohesion within an organization is stronger than ever. With an eye toward optimization, we help your team align by dialing up what’s working and pinpointing what’s missing. This often includes clarifying the organization’s vision and purpose, using narrative to communicate more effectively, translating company values into embodied practices, and developing a culture of healthy feedback and accountability. We start by assessing your current state and devising a plan custom-tailored to your unique context and requirements. Most often, we work in partnership with HR or Learning & Development at a pivotal moment of growth, change in leadership, or shift in direction.

Closer Look: Tony’s Chocolonely

Organizations are the complicated sum of people with distinct challenges, variable desires, and competing needs. And Tony’s Chocolonely, a purpose-driven market disruptor, brings their motto of “crazy about chocolate, serious about people” to life with an annual 2-day ‘Chocademy’ to support individual and team development. In their audacious quest to make the chocolate industry 100% slavery-free, and as one of the fastest-growing players in the sector, this offsite is not just a nice-to-have to shore up wellbeing across their global offices, it’s absolutely critical to their success. They brought us in to design and facilitate a day with their growing U.S. team, to tackle concerns with creativity, offer new skill sets and mindsets for juggling priorities and time zones, introduce practices for using mindfulness and presence to drive efficiency, and bring a hefty dose of serious play.

Your ability to tailor to our group, get to know each individual, stay present and engaged non-stop, balance the conversation and activities and reflection – it was great! And super relevant content with exercises that lead to learning.

Michelle Wald, US Country Manager Tony’s Chocolonely

Next-Level Conference Experience Design & Facilitation 

Let’s be real: Conferences are too often a total snooze-fest. You sign up for “networking” (yawn) but check your phone obsessively even though you “should” be capitalizing on the room full of potential connections. We’ll make no bones about it. Our goal is to help you do conferences differently and actually give people meaningful and memorable experiences. We prioritize opportunities to create intentional and thoughtful serendipity in harmony with the overall program. We create panels, sessions and interactive interstitials that not only harness the ephemeral alchemy of the audience—their diversity of perspectives, experience, and expertise—but also surprise, delight, and spark the desire to dig deeper. After thousands of collective conference hours logged, this level of sophisticated and accessible experience design is crucial to keep people engaged.

Closer Look: FUEL Forum

This inaugural event around ‘The Future of Urbanity, the Environment & our Lifestyle’ sought to convene a cross-section of people from across Vancouver who with seemingly divergent mandates and skill sets, to address issues of food, technology, design and sustainability across government, businesses, universities, not-for-profits, entrepreneurs, generations and ethnic groups. Acting as a beacon, innovators from every possible angle came together to look at one another as the assets of a city and posed the question: how can we reconfigure these assets to an ultimately greater effect? We partnered with THNK to design and facilitate a series of interactive interstitials to engage the audience from the main-stage in between talks and during coffee breaks, in addition to leading an all-day design thinking sprint, in which we generated ideas, prototyped, and presented the city with inspiration for action.

To look around a room and see so many people that are sharing ideas about the city, and innovation, and leadership, and creativity just made me feel very connected to Vancouver.”

Gaylene MacDonald, VP Digital

Innovation & Leadership Training

Are you stewarding large-scale initiatives or seeking smarter ways of working and scaling change within an evolving organization? Whether you’re a leader by title or in practice, winning strategies often need leveling-up for new contexts and increasingly complex challenges. Mastering the art of managing teams (and self) through stages of growth requires a cycle of learning new skills, putting them into practice, and refining based on experience and reflection. Think interval training for your brain. We work both in formal positions and in association with THNK School of Creative Leadership, Experience Institute, NOBL Collective and ThinkHuman. And we often collaborate with organizations to create tailor-made curricula as necessary. Our multi-session programs typically run six months and include about 25 change-makers either within a single organization or across multiple sectors. Far beyond traditional executive coaching, this kind of field and forum approach catalyzes true transformation by developing the emotional intelligence and resilience necessary for leaders in the 21st century.

Closer Look: Launching THNK Vancouver

While the core tenets of adult learning often translate across borders, the magic of an incredible learning journey hinges on appropriate contextual and site-specific adaptations. Our experience includes having re-imagined the core 6-month creative leadership curriculum of THNK’s flagship executive program from its Dutch beginnings to the Pacific Northwest, for the launch of a Vancouver campus. From integrating deeper mindfulness and presence practices into the somatic leadership element to working with local experts on designing an unforgettable immersive opening weekend, Kaz helmed the onboarding, orientation and coordination of new faculty in co-creating the curriculum for this transformational experience. And she led the leveling-up of the innovation challenge outputs to include conference-worthy reports on digital finance and affordable housing.

Kaz has a super power – she helps people manifest. And she has the uncanny ability to help entrepreneurs and organizations identify where things are getting hung up and how to move forward – rooted in her relentless curiosity, keen insights and an incredibly effective set of innovation tools that facilitate moving down the field of creation and scaling a business, product or service.

Jacob Ellenberg, Whole Foods / Greater Studios

Product & Service Design 

Stuck at incremental improvements when you need disruption and transformation? Whether you have an in-house team or need to augment capacity with a SWAT team of specialists, we can apply our deep knowledge of human-centered, experience-driven design to dream up your next big idea—and help you realize it. From developing robust stakeholder personas or ecosystem maps to conducting market research and leading innovation sprints, we’ll take you through the entire process to create products and services that enchant and empower your audience. After years developing at the edge of emerging technology and complex systems, with a global cross-sector portfolio of clients, we have a knack for imagining surprising concepts that give your organization a competitive edge.

Closer Look: The Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello

When the President of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello, a World Heritage site, partnered with The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History on a bold new initiative to engage younger generations in shaping the future of the United States, she came to us to get a provocative,  multi-platform point of view. We have remained by their side, guiding them through a design thinking process – including landscape analysis, audience definition, iterative strategic planning and engagement concepting – that delivers vision, brand and purpose worthy of the mission. After supporting a successful first round of fundraising, we partnered with their PR leads and program management to build momentum for the launch and now scaling of Made By Us, a coalition of more than 150 history and cultural institutions powering the future with history, including team and organizational design, continued product concepting, and capacity-building across the coalition.

Kaz works to balance the needs of multiple stakeholders while holding a common vision in focus to help navigate the natural tensions of collaboration. She is an expert in explaining, demonstrating, and guiding groups through human-centered design to drive creative innovation. Too many people are brilliantly solving the wrong problems – Kaz makes sure we are asking all the right questions to get to the most powerful solutions!

Leslie Greene Bowman, CEO & President, Thomas Jefferson Foundation, Monticello

Mix-n-Match Skill-Building & Team-Building Workshops

Need a hand breaking down silos or guiding your people to collaborate more effectively? It’s not always obvious whether a new tool, skill, or team member is in order. Fortunately, we’re masters at diagnosing precisely what will unleash your true potential. With a focus on outcomes, we’ll design sessions to achieve your learning and experience objectives. Everything we do is high-touch and science-backed, with the goal of changing behaviors and forming habits. We meet you where you are. And did we say fun? That, too. Think entertaining and educational, embodied and emotional, improvisational and sensorial. People walk away feeling not only empowered but also more connected to themselves and their colleagues—full of possibility.  Workshops range from a few hours to a full day or a series of sessions, depending on what you mix and match.

Get in touch to explore our offerings. The following examples highlight a few of our favorites:

  • Ideation Sessions and Generative Brainstorms
  • One-Day Design Thinking Workshops
  • Inclusion & Belonging Experiences
  • Vision / Mission / Purpose Bootcamps (to get to a Project Compass)
  • Deep Dives: Get to Know Your User or Landscape (Sensing & Discovery)
  • Kick the Tires Prototyping Sessions

Closer Look: A Hundred Years

This leading social impact agency wanted to level-up the storytelling, communication and presentation skills of their entire company.  After having worked with them to design a set of team-building sessions for their annual offsite, we customized a lightweight but laser-focused series that used Socratic Dialogue, Marshall Ganz-style exercises and applied improvisation to get them using the same language and supporting each other with actionable feedback. Short bursts of learning over a few weeks allowed the team to immediately put frameworks into practice and report back with what worked and what would benefit from further support.

Kaz did a great job of nudging everyone to participate verbally and making everyone comfortable enough to slightly step out of their comfort zone with activities like the Socratic approach. I also really appreciated the modeling of a successful story followed by putting that story approach into practice. Having someone as energetic as Kaz in front lifts the whole energy level.

Kate Thiel, Creative Strategist

Get in Touch

U.S. Headquarters

Los Angeles, CA 90035

(310) 739-3597

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