Week three of my Visionary Leaders Summer Storytelling Series takes us into the fascinating immersive world of Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), Mixed Reality (MR).

Kathleen Cohen, owner of The Collaboratorium, is a high profile XR Immersive Strategist and Tech Humanist. 

Kathleen has built an extensive and luminary three decade creative career as an innovative futurist in digital storytelling currently using AR, VR, and MR tools and technologies. She is usually one of few women at leadership meetings, advisory boards, and elite gatherings.

Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term referring to all real-and-virtual combined environments and interactions generated by computer technology. It includes Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and Mixed Reality (MR). 

That’s her world. Fascinating, right? It is. 

To give you some context, from her website, www.kathleencohen.com, this best describes her Collaboratorium platform:

“The Collaboratorium is an XR development consultancy (AR/VR/MR) focusing on products, services, and socially impactful storytelling narratives for both user (digital) and guest (physical) experiences for immersive worlds. The Collaboratorium brings together the best thought leaders, product developers, engineers, architects, UX/UI designers, data scientists and creatives to help execute our clients’ visions.”

We coached for six months from the later half of 2020 to early months of 2021 restructuring her talent-for-hire business model to a leveraged and strategic cash-flow driven business model. 

Coaching Kathleen was a unique, compelling, and often enchanting experience because as I navigated the personal and professional changes with her, I had the privilege of seeing and learning this whole new world of virtual entertainment, augmented reality, A.I., and immersive technology from the perspective of a true thought leader and visionary. 

Like all industries, XR has a culture of its own that only insiders can navigate effectively and thrive in. 

It was a new culture and language for me to grasp for sure. Words like Metaverse, immersive technologies, immersive production and storytelling, Charrette (collaborative session in which a group of designers draft a solution to a design problem), to name a few, were woven throughout our discussions as I mentored her to transform her relationship with money, claim her genius and monetize it via a leveraged, streamlined business model. 

One of two of her most remarkable breakthroughs during her six months of coaching was transforming and then embracing the mindset of an entrepreneur rather than a “creative for hire.” 

Operating from an entrepreneurial mindset requires you to be a leader in how you run your business, how you position yourself in the marketplace, how you interact with potential clients and clients while setting appropriate boundaries, as you thrive being a creative leader in your industry.

Kathleen has the industry leader down well and secure; it was owning her elevated worth as an entrepreneur at this stage of her illustrious career that was a big learning curve.

(photo: Gala Awards AR/VR AUREA Award, Europa-Park)

“Personally and professionally, taking ownership of my human “gifts” as a creative visionary and futurist while allowing in financial abundance made a strong impact on me during the coaching. I learned to declare that which I want more effectively, which resulted in a new level of clarity,” Kathleen remarks.  

Her second most remarkable breakthrough was validating she can be paid her worth as a creative (the designer, the visionary, the innovator) for her brilliant talent, rather than that of a producer or hired creative. 

There was a point in the coaching on a certain day when the light went on in her eyes as she looked at me with astonishment. It was the first time she understood and embraced how to integrate and monetize her creativity as the lead with her genius, her joy, and her purpose. 

I coached her how to command (not demand) her pricing for her genius rather than taking an offer someone else was dictating.

From her perspective, here is what transformed from an independent contractor to a newly minted savvy entrepreneur with systems and strategies in place:

“The three notable money habits and behaviors I had prior to working with Marla, were:

  • My story: Having an abundance of money meant there was a lack of creativity involved. It was an either/or statement.
  • I used to take on any client, strictly for the money, working as an independent contractor. It was a scarcity conversation, not of a business owner and entrepreneur.
  • I would get enrolled in the client’s own money story and help “work” with them on pricing. (Caving into their money story which had nothing to do with my worth and value)

Now, I come from creativity first and truly welcome an abundance of money spearheading my vision. Marla helped me create both a qualifying sales funnel system to determine the kind of clients I want to work with first and foremost. 

I stand for my worth — and am not willing to offer any cut rates, discounts, barters, or negotiated rates.

Marla also helped me determine the kinds of strategic offerings that will escalate my business. I have shifted perspective on client engagement because of it.” – Kathleen adds.

Her new found confidence demonstrates my principle, “Stand for your worth and dignity,” as she learned how to better control her day, her schedule, and who she spends her time with as a sought after creative and entrepreneur.  

Kathleen says her three most profound changes in her mindset during the coaching experience and how it has changed her decision-making abilities are, 

“Identifying the difference between what I do well and what lights me up with bountiful joy and making a point to highlight that at every juncture, reclaiming my own creativity, and choosing who I want to work with before I say yes to a client.”

She continued, “Marla helped me determine that The Collaboratorium business was three-fold. Client Engagement, Speaking (and that each year I speak on a new futurist theme), Research and Development –  All three channels are revenue generating. So grateful.”

Kathleen is a much-in-demand speaker in the virtual world where she devotes a good amount of time speaking at industry conferences like, “RealTime Conference: The Rise of Metaverse – Merging Physical and Digital Worlds” and FXM2021 – Europe’s foremost conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Immersive Media in Stuttgart, Germany.

These are examples among her frequent speaking requests for her much sought out expertise.

We also implemented a speaking inquiry system to streamline the volume of requests so she could qualify people before considering the gig and scheduling a meeting. 

Kathleen has been a thought leader before the term was popular. For as long as she can remember, she was often paving the road less traveled while producing multi-dimensional technologies. DreamWorks, Disney Parks & Resorts and IBM Innovation were among her many high-profile clients that knew she could elevate their projects well ahead of the industry. 

To add to her innovative projects, she is also on the prestigious Advisory Board of Holoride (turning vehicles into moving theme parks) who just recently closed their $12MM round of Series A funding. 

(clockwise from top center: Anthony and Joseph Russo, Nils Wollny, Daniel Profendiner, Thomas Alt, Greg Castle, Todd Makurath, Kathleen Cohen, Dirk Ahlborn, Marcus Kue, Palmer Lucky) – INTERVIEW.

Her reputation for being ahead of the curve, having a strong intuitive pulse on innovation, and a true visionary keeps this creative entrepreneur much in-demand. 

Her business now has structure and systems to keep her time and talent leveraged so she has more bandwidth to dedicate to her genius zone, which is her biggest joy in working and be well paid for that. “I have the tools now and have been putting them into practice. I am in the beginning of seeing the tide shift,” adds Kathleen.

That’s an enlightened visionary making her iconic impact on the world and I am grateful to have been on part of that journey.