What drives innovation? — Strength? Or fragility?

Innovation is conventionally associated to strength.

Yet we created Wow!Labs because we believe that humans innovate based on their fragility. It is the passage from a state of perceived fragility to a state of perceived strength- and innovation- that interests us. So we use design, education, physical and online spaces, and sometimes art, to accelerate this passage.

There is no time like the present to talk about fragility. 

Our world has been turned upside down by a pandemic. We have been confined, then deconfined and reconfined. Our sense of a strong self is shaken by current events and shocks to the established system.

New conversations are taking place about gender, race and age.

New identities are emerging. Traditional figures of authority are challenged, sometimes violently. Fragility is a shared feeling.

Not So Fragile is an artistic proposition using image and text to bring that specific conversation of fragility to the table. It premièred as an exhibition in Paris in October 2020 at the emblematic Maison des Métallos. An online book and a digital exhibition are now bringing it to a broader audience.

The 12 portraits of Not So Fragile are archetypes of these fleeting moments when either our fragility or our strength emerges. 

They speak of introversion, of exuberance, of passion for a profession, of loss, of emotional security, of the pressure of appearing strong, and of our deep need to connect with one another on a safe footing.

The 12 people portrayed are refugees and migrants. The words associated with their portraits are not their own: they are a poetic proposition on a theme inspired by each of them. 

These words do not exist to tell their story, they exist to make us think boldly and lightly of that dark place we usually keep to ourselves. The thin line we walk every day between strength and fragility in our relationship with others.

Together, the 12 portraits form the words Not So Fragile.

We need to rethink traditional definitions of fragility, so that we can welcome strength where it truly emerges. Innovation does not emerge from those we consider strong. Innovation emerges from a space within each one of us. This is a space we can act from. It is a space where we can be both fragile, and strong.

Visual art by Michele Caleffi, words by Charlotte Hochman. 

Layered artwork based on portrait photography. The patterns in the background are inspired by the stories of the people portrayed. 


Not So Fragile is an exhibition created in 2020 by Wow!Labs, for PLACE, a project aiming to turn migration into an opportunity for Europe to thrive.

Charlotte Hochman and Michele Caleffi are Co-founders & Directors of Wow!Labs, an innovation studio that creates results for companies, cities and universities by developing human capacity and physical spaces for innovation.


They co-founded PLACE, a European project that designs and runs pilot projects in Paris, Berlin and London to trigger and accelerate the contribution of refugees and migrants to local economies.




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