#BeyondCOVID Town Hall - EUK 06
#BeyondCOVID is the new mindset we have all had to adopt… how do we operate in this new changed state? I've gathered together some amazing Design Executives to share what they are doing now and in the coming months to survive and thrive in these difficult times.
Kirsty Dias - Managing Director at PriestmanGoode
Gurvinder Khurana - Co-owner and Design Director at align
William Knight - Director at The Renew Consultancy
Michael Lambrianos - Managing Director at Wiesner Hager UK
Loïc Sattler - Experience Design Director / DesignOps at Futurice
Future Living Expo
Mark Bergin 00:00
Hi everybody, welcome to another Design Exec Club Town Hall. This is Europe and UK 06, which is phenomenal to think six months ago that we started the first one of these, and the conversation has gone from 'how do we react? How do we rebound? How do we reimagine?' and today I've got a great panel of people and we're gonna be talking about what the new possible is. Hello, everybody. It's morning for you and it's evening for me. I think at the start of our pre conversation, I had some devastating news from you that you're heading into lockdown on Monday. Is it Monday or Wednesday? Monday. And I've been in lockdown now for six weeks and my lockdown is not nobody in my house, I can only go out to the shops as one person, I can't go out and socialize with anybody outside. I am totally isolated in that sense. So at least you haven't got to that level. But the reason we got there was that people didn't take the previous lockdown seriously. And they found that 25% of people who were infected, were actually not at home. So you know, this thing is wicked, and it needs to be dealt with and let's hope we can get through that. But I want to go focus on what is happening, and what's a positive sense here, because there's a fair amount of doom and gloom around and we want to make sure that we're actually reminding people there's hope there. Loic you're in Berlin, we've been talking about what's been happening and have I got the pronounciation right that it's 'Cataberg', UK, which was like the furlough system how do I pronounce it in German?
Loic Sattler 01:53
It's so the German is Kurzarbeit.
Mark Bergin 01:55
Ah, yes so just like I said.
Loic Sattler 01:58
Exactly [laughter]. So basically it's the German system that is used for- it's a short time work scheme. It's an instrument that was used for keeping employment as stable as possible during the GFC in 2008. And this is currently used again, so basically the state covers the salaries that are not paid by the company. And we really see the benefit of it. So there there are currently no lay downs at all in Germany. Oh, well not many. So it's a great system.
Mark Bergin 02:33
Awesome. And I think that you've been finding that you know, you've all had great summer holidays, you've turned around, you've come back but the reflection is how do we go do things which are more about the resilience of the team in the studio, resilience for our clients, and also sustainability values are up. I think that seems to be pretty universal, that we seem to be thinking a bit more about sustainability, we're definitely thinking about the economics, and in some countries, they're really starting to focus on social equity as well, because there's been a lot of social inequity that has been hitting them pretty hard in the face. How's that going in Germany? Because my recollection for Germany is that social inequity isn't a major thing, but you're not free of it. You're like, every country, there's some of it.
Loic Sattler 03:23
There's always things to improve, I have to say. Germany is doing quite quite okay, but yeah, you know, we should definitely work on that all the time and make it better.
Mark Bergin 03:36
I know there was some great work, I did a design sprint with the team at PriestmanGoode and thank you, Kirsty and the team there, where we actually began to expand the Better Future framework of how do we make sure that we've got social equity, have we got a sustainable environment and a thriving economy? How do those three levers worth and what some language that you go put around that so there'll be more on that and we'll be talking about that. Kirsty seeing as I've mentioned you, I'm going to ask you what's been happening and PriestmanGoode that is about the new possible there, because, you know, my thought is that you're the transport experts and there's always problems in the City of London that people can't get into buildings because the elevators can't take people up and down fast enough in Covid situation. I don't think that's one of your clients, but the city would love you if you've been able to work out that transport problem. But you're probably working on things like trains and planes?
Kirsty Dias 04:31
I would say that the lift issue is interesting, because in transport terms, dwell time on platforms is always a key and tricky issue and it's important for getting you know, the system moving quickly, so that sticking points and maybe we could have a go at that. We've been working in- obviously a lot of our work is in aviation, which is faced with lots of challenges currently, but we have kind of been using our experience and expertise to look at new cabin concepts. We released something called Pure Skies, which has been the beginning of conversations with several manufacturers and airlines, but looking at kind of social distancing, and creating a much healthier environment on board. And we've also been working in the rail sector, looking at, again, social distancing, looking at storage of bikes on trains to ensure that people can come in from outside of cities into the center and then not have to rely on the underground systems so they can cycle around the city. And we've also been looking at introducing more hygiene hand sanitizers on board trains. But again, you know, as you were saying with sustainability, we had obviously started doing quite a lot of work, working in material innovation, with things like The Get On Board Initiative, which looks at delivering a sustainable meal tray service onboard airlines and there's definitely lots of interest in that from lots of different industries. So I think we're definitely seeing an upsurge in the development of new material technology.
Mark Bergin 06:28
I just want to focus in a little bit on that for a while, because I think that's actually a really good example about thought leadership and design. Correct me if I'm wrong here, I'm just gonna run through a product history. About this time last year, you're preparing an exhibition that was going to be installed in the Design Museum. It was actually making a statement, which is there are possibilities and there are options. Since then, you've had the momentum and the engagement with people who are now turning into commercial customers who are starting to say we'd like to explore. And, and that that, to me is a very interesting process. You know, I know when I started the Design Awards, I allowed three years for any city to get up to speed - it takes that long. With the Design Exec Club, I've been looking at this for four years in it, I think this is the year where it's really gathered momentum. So thought leadership takes a while you've got to have the courage to go put it out there and so I think if you've been talking about what's possible, you haven't been talking about what people are doing that is wrong, you're actually talking about, well, here's the possibilities, and there's weight gains and there's carbon credit gains, and there's, you know, even in the customer experience, there's gains for everybody in that process. So, when it comes to things like Pure Skies, I think it's really interesting. I remember seeing another project which you'll help me with the name for it, it was the drone courier system in Hong Kong harbor. What was the name of that one?
Kirsty Dias 08:01
Mark Bergin 08:02
Okay so Dragon Dly. And dragon fly was probably more of a challenge project, which was 'this could be possible, will it be possible? And if it is possible will what's the right density of drones that you allow into any square kilometer?' You know, that's gonna be one of the first things that comes up, because five of them are pretty annoying if they're in close proximity, you could imagine 1000 of them. That thought leadership there, to me, is a really important important process. So I think where you're looking at the sustainability and the resilience, it's probably got to be two or three years before you really start to see the commercial payoff of that and that being implemented in its full sense. Actually, Loic I'm going to ask a question about this, there's a book I've got here on my shelf, which is about change agents that your studio went and made. How long did that take to write and to get that assembled? Was that a year or two years?
Loic Sattler 08:55
It's a continuous improvement, let's say, it's already been I think roughly five to six years continuing, you know, it evolves in time.
Mark Bergin 09:04
And that I think is really important. If you're a studio that's trying to actually be a design leader, and you're trying to actually shine a torch on what's possible, it's going to be that investment, which is a medium haul. It's not a short haul process that's in there. Michael, tell me what you're seeing in the office interiors, commercial furniture fit outs there because, you know, I think when we get to Gurvinder and we talk about what's happening in the commercial interior design space, we're going to find that there's a lag in projects as people are still working out what the refactoring is. What's that done to yourselves? I know some people in Australia they're now focusing on how they fit out home offices, rather than how they fit out those corporate suites.
Michale Lambrianos 09:50
100%. For us, it's been a bit of a slap in the face because we spent the last five years developing a concept called New Work and that was the office of tomorrow but now we've had to go back to the drawing board. And essentially, what we're now looking into is this potential of blended working. Neither pure office nor pure homeworking because this is what we see as a long term post COVID working solution. And essentially, what we're trying to understand is what does the omni channel worker require? So these are workers that are not bound to any one place. Instead, they've now got the freedom and the autonomy to choose where they work when, obviously, there isn't a lockdown in place. But then there's many things that we now need to consider. So, for example, in what ways does an environment facilitate creativity and business success, we really need to understand that now, when the officers are not occupied. What is required for us successful collaboration when you start thinking of this blended working concept? Also how does office space working positively impact on employees mental health? And how do we now adjust for this for businesses themselves, our clients, we need to understand how they will reconsider their brand, as they have to now move from a purely office space working environment to this blended working. How can productivity be measured and improved, both within the office environment and with home working? And I think one of the most important things for a lot of companies is how does this blended working impact their shared culture because it's going to be a little bit more challenging to maintain a culture that was predefined and with onboarding new individuals and not having the ability to have events, it's creating a lot of different opinions and so that's that's really why we've gone back to the drawing board.
Mark Bergin 12:06
Yeah. And we spoke about the idea of onboarding people in the pre conversation and it's an interesting thing that you might have an employee that you onboard, they work for you on a project and they might never come into the office, but they're in the same city. And that to me is very interesting because we know so much about culture and Kirsty, I think for you, because I've had the pleasure of being in the PriestmanGoode office, you've got these lovely different levels that are in there and they've got a different functional needs but you've also got the shared lunch area where those casual collisions where the inquiry and investigation about what others are doing, though, not people who are your direct work colleagues, but you're still in an environment that's giving you that stimulation. That's a very interesting environment to be in, but if you're onboarding people and they're never coming to the office, how do we actually fix that up? Gurvinder I'm going to throw across to you and talk about office interiors. Often there's indecision about trying to move a corporate office project together. That must have been amplified a few times now for you.
Gurvinder Khurana 13:21
Yeah, I mean over recent times there's been a lot of talk about whether they do projects and what it turns into. We've been working with some people where actually what they've been doing beyond COVID is taking furniture out. So that's really interesting. I can't mention who it is but a large, global company, and we're looking at one of their satellite offices up in Leeds and there there's been a real focus on actually let's take desks out, let's change the way it works, let's change the way it feels. Because they're not expecting everybody to come in to their offices, the central offices, in anytime in the near future. And I think that goes beyond Christmas. I think that the view is that, as you talk about Michael with the blended, workstyles will continue and I think that will that will go beyond homeworking, it'll go beyond satellite offices. But there's been a lot of debate about what this is going to turn into. And I think, you know, we're still to discover where it's going to land and I think there'll be yet one more thing. You know, I look at your van life posts daily and I just think well, that's also going to form part of where we're gonna land at some point. It's not going to be straightforward.
Mark Bergin 14:43
Yeah, I have to put in a shameless plug there everybody. I recently bought a van so I had a distraction project because I was kind of crazy, just working too much. So if you go to Instagram, you go @vanbergin, I'll put the link in, you can see how I'm trying to go and actually not go crazy because there's far too much work there. But that also the van does something for me as a workplace, which is I'm going to be able to record these Town Halls from the van. I'm going to be able to service Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane and not get in the airplanes. I'm going to be able to take things a little bit slower. It provides a lot of options there. It's not perfect, but it's not imperfect either. That's actually going to be the new possible for me, it is 'okay, here's something to do and t can be engaging'. And we're even if we use the design lens on it, which was there's three schemes, there's $1,000 scheme, there's a $5,000 scheme and a $20,000 scheme. And so we're documenting them out to show people how easy it is to go do and the $20,000 schemes I'm actually going to hand over to the top interior designers in the country and just say, help me fit this thing out and let's see what they can come up with and we'll make sure there is all of this sustainability and reuse. But I want to see what they can go do with the van and pimp it up and actually make it a fun place. It's an old industrial van but it's actually about reimagining and creating the most that you can out of the circumstance that you're in. And I think for your corporate clients there, where they're going to say, well, maybe we do want to get out of a lease, but if this is going on for two years, they might need to refactor, which is, I think you were saying Gurvinder before that it's one-to-eight square feet, and that needs to go to about one-to-10-
Gurvinder Khurana 16:31
one-to-12. I mean, we've also been doing some space planning where it's looking at one-to-1212. And I think the reason it's not fully settled yet is because there's a cultural shift that we're living through, and something we've been talking about quite extensively is the fact that we're becoming a kinder world and I think the pandemic taught us to just recalibrate, repause, and restock on what's actually important. I think happiness and the effects of that and the knock on effects of how we then come out of that in the way that we work and our work styles, be it in your van or at home or in your central office,will sort of play out of that. But I think happiness is going to be the key, I think that's going to be the biggest cultural societal shift that's going to come out of this. And that will feed into so much of what plays out within the way we work. And I think it won't be just about the office space or the desk anymore, it will be about a whole myriad of elements that will come together and interlock to allow that to function correctly.
Kirsty Dias 17:35
I think it's creating cultures, working cultures, organizational cultures, that are just much more balanced. Because I think that's what we found, haven't we, you know, the benefits of having worked from home and now people returning to the workplace, partly they want that blend because they want the balance of both the sociable the collaboration with the freedom of more balance or ability to whatever - exercise more, spend more time with family, have more freedom, but it's definitely about that balance.
Gurvinder Khurana 18:14
And I think it's about what we have come away realizing that actually we just became slaves to our lives and and it's allowed us to rebalance and notice what's actually become really important to us. That work is important but so are other things that and I think almost the focus has shifted off of that.
Michale Lambrianos 18:32
I think it's also a little bit reminiscent of what happened to the retail industry back in the 2000s. Workplaces finally discovered what its unique selling point is, and I think that's the experience that people have. So from what we've seen in order to return to offices safely, all of the technology companies, whether they're small companies that have just launched in the last few years or long existing companies, they're all rushing to develop this new technology, ranging from things like wearable devices to those cameras that are thermal imaging, whatever they can offer businesses to equip office space in this post pandemic era. But I think it's really going to push us further towards technology and adoption of technology that people have been wanting for a very, very long time. And businesses have been loath to invest in this type of technology. But now, essentially, they have no choice because people want a sense of safety. They want to feel comfortable that they're not exposing themselves to unnecessary risk.
Mark Bergin 19:40
I think Michael the interesting thing there about the not wanting to invest, there's a really interesting thing if everybody has that same cost, then it's a level playing field. And so if everybody has to go put these, you know, one-to-eight to one-to-12, well, it's an increased cost of business for everybody, it's across the board. We're not more expensive because we've had this value decision, we have the same expenses everyone else. I'll go all the way back to disposable coffee cups. If everybody by law had to go use compostable coffee cups, then it's a equal playing field, it's another couple of pence, it's another couple of euro cents on every cup, everyone's got that. And we haven't had the courage to make some of those decisions in the past. So I think we're now seeing that and that goes into that better future framework. When we're looking at that lever of well, maybe we should afford the economy or maybe we should afford that equality part, or maybe we should afford to make sure that we're thriving. We're looking at how we move those leaders? Will, I want to get across to you because there's a couple of projects which which are coming up in your world, one of them I want to talk about his London Design Festival because it was so dear to your heart for such a long period of time and still is and you've got the lockdown coming. I also want to talk about some other projects that you're working on. So tell me a little bit about how you do a London Design Festival when London's about to go into lockdown?
William Knight 21:20
I think you have to apply a creative response. And it's very interesting, I think if the London Design Festival had been scheduled a few months ago just simply would have been canceled, as so many events have been. Everything from the big commercial events like Orgatec, all the way through to the cultural program in London has been completely shocked a nd there's a huge fear about the cultural sector here. So next week is the 16th edition, I think, of the London Design Festival. and I've been looking at the programming. We've still got four design districts that are kind of hosting events, or acting as networks. But of course, most of the interesting content is now online. And there were a couple of events, I thought i'd just mentioned by reference, one, which is sort of very pertinent to this discussion. And I don't know if you guys are participating, but there's a Workplace Well-being by Design summit taking place next week. And then there's also another really interesting event, which I've been involved in a little bit called Redesigned Business. Now, I think there's two things that are interesting about those. One is the kind of format and duration and what we're seeing with digital events is rather than being focused on the intensive experiences as the physical world with demand, they're being stretched out across the piece. So both of those conference style events are being stretched across five days, next week, so you can kind of dip in and out, the intention is that you're able to just kind of access them on your own terms. The second thing is obviously slightly more kind of reflective notion of what that content is. I think just obviously listening to the conversation, I think we've got to a point where we realize that this pandemic is seriously difficult to control. I think there's a kind of underlying frustration that we haven't dealt with it, we're not moving into the next phase. But there is this opportunity to really discuss and evolve what our response is going to be just as we are now and as we have been through these town halls. So, you know, I'm looking forward to the programming next week because I think it should be much more substantial in terms of its intellectual rigorousness. I think one of the criticisms I've had of the London Design Festival over the last couple of years, certainly is that it's been very kind of skin deep and pretty lightweight, quite frankly. And these things can be carried away and just be kind of lost in a see of parties and just kind of generally hanging out, whereas I think this year, you know the situation we find ourselves in demands a much more of a structured investigation. And, you know, I'm still, as someone who's working from home, looking forward to engaging with people and hearing voices that I haven't heard for a long time. So I think there's still an experience to be had.
Mark Bergin 24:17
It's interesting that, you know, we get a certain amount of the fidelity of contact through through these calls by being present, but it's nowhere near the same of actually being in the same room and we know that. So I think, you know, we'll get maybe two years out of this, that we'll actually tolerate this, you know, a couple of cycles, be it Orgatec, working out how to then go and do their thing in a digital way, London Design Festival. But after that, I think we're going to say we really need to go sort this out. You know, it's at least-
Kirsty Dias 24:53
I think, Mark that you should commit to bringing people together in I don't know, let's say 12 months time, but you should bring all of your collaborators and contributors together in some physical events.
Mark Bergin 25:10
Look, I would love the idea behind that, I was just about to go tell you something which kind of kills that, so there we go. That's what I love about doing those calls because it's not rehearsed, yeah? I've actually made a plan, which is that I'm not going to be traveling until September 2022. Right.
Kirsty Dias 25:36
We can meet them.
Mark Bergin 25:38
Well, actually, it doesn't mean that I don't need to do things locally. And so we're designing the Melbourne Design Awards for next year. And we're thinking do we actually hold Melbourne's largest design party for the last couple of years? Do we actually have it that there is the VIP Reception with the design executives, is there the awards presentation, do we just put the like a fantastic party with lots of work showcased on walls and just celebrate and give everybody a massive hug about the hope that there is in the design industry, which falls into our Elevate Hope program that we've got. But I think I need to work out how to go do one of those. I was meant to be doing an event in May this year, which was actually in Iceland with a whole group of designers talking about the future of transport. And so I know how to go put the event together. I think the problem I've got Kirsty about doing it in that timeframe is how do we move people around when it's so unsure. If I go into the US electoral cycle, if Biden gets in, he's not a let he's not actually in the job until February, then he's got 100 days to actually work out what the hell's going on with everything and then they go on summer break. And so we're in August or September before the US is even starting to work on how to fix COVID next year. So that's a year. That's why I made it two years because I thought, well, then you have to work out how to fix up the US, you've got to inoculate everyone, you then have to make sure that you've got this virus under control, India's got to do the same, other parts of China. In reality, this is at least 12 to 18 months, I would love to think I can go do it faster. And I would love the guys at Oxford to turn around and say, hey, we've got a vaccine candidate and it gets distributed everywhere as fast as it can, and we've got it solved in 12 months. If that's the case, I'll be knocking on the Kirsty's door and saying, 'Come on, how do we go do this?' Okay, so you've kind of dobbed yourself in there. But I think we do need to work out how to actually focus on how we get our minds together in physical spaces, and really enjoy it that moment that's going to come around. Will, I've also noticed that you've been making progress on a project just south of Newcastle, haven't you?
William Knight 28:14
Yeah. So England is blessed with a whole variety of cities and Sunerland is a very interesting place. Huge kind of industrial heritage, a very kind of skilled technical workforce, but one of the things that blighted that city was the kind of emptying out - a kind of suburbanization building of kind of out of town retail stores, which meant that it completely decimated its nighttime economy. And so the project I'm involved with is connected all the way through the line from the building of new and high quality housing, all the way through to exploring some of the themes that we've been talking about here. You know, the future of work, how technology helps bring us together, sustainability is obviously a core feature of all of that. And the program is running, we're launching it actually in about six weeks. We're running a program through to 2023, where there is a month long festival, called the Future Living Expo, which will take place on site in Sunderland and central Sunderland. And it sort of celebrates the fact that there is a new and very high quality housing development and therefore a new community moving into the center of that city. But the intention is very much to showcase what good quality housing can be and how it's constructed, and all the component parts that make communities resilient and effective and great places to live. S it's a very interesting program to be doing right now, because there's a huge amount of kind of discussion and debate and as exactly as we've referenced new technology that's going into domestic settings. So yeah, that's a program I'm working on right now. We've got all sorts of things lined up and you know, ministers turning up, we've got futurologists and we've got people working in construction and all sorts of kind of brains coming together. So it's a really broad field. I'm really looking forward exposing to all of you on town halls and everything else once it's ready to go live.
Mark Bergin 30:15
And Loic you've experienced that in Berlin over the last- I know, in the last five years in Berlin, you know, there was the initial reunification work that was done. But there's been an expansion of Berlin from high quality housing, affordable high quality housing, because Berlin doesn't have a natural industry. Because of its strange circumstance that it had during the Cold War, it didn't have major industry and they had to work out how to invent themselves, which is why companies like Spotify found their way there, and a bunch of other tech companies have found their way into Berlin. They're working out how to create a new tomorrow and accelerate that new tomorrow. So Will I think there is definitely going to be some references that come out from places like Berlin and Leipzig, who have worked out how do you be a creative community first, or how do you become a new technology hub in the way they've done that? We've spent quite a bit of time here talking about new possibles. Do you think we're actually creating new things? Or do you think we're just accelerating plans that were already on the table? Or is there newness that's coming out of it? And I think there is a challenge - Have we transformed? Or does transformation take longer, a little bit Kirsty like what we're talking about. You did that demonstration project that has taken 12 months to get that momentum on the conversations. It probably takes five years before there's full on the shelf product that's out there. Hopefully it's three years but probably more like five. Are we actually seeing transformation occurring or are we seeing an accelerated what was already on the table? What do you think?
Loic Sattler 32:07
I just want to mention here that I heard the terms respect, sustainability, resilience, impact, integrity, all the time coming from all of us. And I think this is the major thing here, you know, people not take the time to focus on what is really important for the people. And you definitely see a shift. We definitely see it.
Mark Bergin 32:28
Yeah, I know, there was a guy that was working on projects here in Australia, which were demonstration projects about what a sustainable and thriving economy would be. And I had to say to him, Do you realize the momentum has changed? You're still trying to tell people it could happen, they're actually saying well how. So we've gone very much from could to how. I think that that's accelerated in there.
Gurvinder Khurana 32:54
I think it is acceleration and I think that has been change as well though. I think that through the last six months, people's mindset, leadership styles, they've all changed, which allows the acceleration to really happen because I think if certain people within positions of power, executive teams, real estate execs, didn't, didn't catch up with what we were talking about, I don't think it would have quite happened the way it's going to happen. So it's acceleration, but it's also leadership change that's happened. And I think that's allowing it to move much faster. And that's had to happen, because if we weren't nicer to each other, and we weren't listening to individuals, as well as just looking at the bottom line, all these you know, inclusivity, choice, working where you want to work, trusting people, none of that could have worked. So I think it's a bit of both.
Kirsty Dias 33:54
I mean, in a sense, it's been like a massive demonstration project, hasn't it? Everybody has been forced to change and we are now assessing the results and saying, okay, well, we're going to take the best bits from this experience and the best bits from that experience and put them together to create an ideal, but we're learning from a very direct user experience.
Gurvinder Khurana 34:19
Yeah, I think what's really interesting is that real estate execs are actually listening now. So you know, I've gone into meetings before and talked about a lot of these subjects, and people are like, really? Do we really want to do that? How does the business benefit from this? But suddenly they're engaged, and they're paying attention, and they're listening, and they're open to these messages now, which most of us in this in this forum have been talking about for a little while. And that's why I think there is acceleration because we've been talking about it, but I think the execs have come to realize that actually, there's some some mileage and what we're saying. It's got validity,
Kirsty Dias 34:58
I think it's really interesting that you talk about trust, because I think that is possibly the largest hurdle that people have overcome or that businesses have overcome. They have had to take that leap of faith and trust their employees to do what they're going to do, and people have proven that they can do that. I think that really changes the relationship.
Mark Bergin 35:28
I find the transformational part often takes a while. You either have pre loaded scenarios, which is we know what the utopian transformation would be, we know the mid,