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Town Hall #30 - The New Possible - EUK




Contributors:

Kirsty Dias - Managing Director at PriestmanGoode

Ágúst Ingason - Executive Producer and Board Member at treasure Trekkers Entertainment, Chairman of the Board – ALDIN Biodome

David Keech - Managing Director at Keechdesign UK Ltd

William Knight - Director at The Renew Consultancy

Michael Lambrianos - Managing Director at Wiesner Hager UK

John Mathers - Co-founder at Design Age Accelerator

Phil Nutley - Head of Experience Design at CCD Design & Ergonomics

Loïc Sattler - Experience Design Director / DesignOps at Futurice

Jordan Waid - Futurity and Agency Consultant at Jordan Waid Ltd

John Williams - Director at Space Invader


Quotes:


DAVID KEECH

design and creativity is all about adapting and surviving
you have to keep the team strong, and the team has to stay together, just like a football team
the exchange of ideas and creativity is the currency of music

JORDAN WAID

what I've seen over the past six months, which I find fascinating, is time …. we have a new concept of time, we've gotten time given back to us
what's going on in the next 12 months I look at as output … this is where we're going to start to see the seeds of innovation
There is this kind of shift that's happening right now which we've all been talking about, and wondering how and what - and it's happened, and we're in it right now

KIRSTY DIAS

broaden the conversation around what the future will look like and make sure that that conversation is happening with everyone in the organisation

LOÏC SATTLER

companies are digitising their businesses as much as they can, especially to protect their employees and serve the customers mobility restrictions, right.
We will probably remember these days as historic when it comes to deployment of remote work and digital access to services across any domain

JOHN MATHERS

there's nothing like a crisis to solve a design problem

JOHN WILLIAMS

Everything is about people, and how people use space
There has been a huge focus on sustainability, and a circular economy and net zero carbon projects

MICHAEL LAMBRIANOS

We're now looking at how to redesign the office environment with existing products to negate what we're seeing as the long term effects of working from home
[With WFH] It's very difficult for leaders to mentor Junior employees, it's also very difficult for employees to earn the trust of their managers
There's an evolution of the workplace that's starting to take place, which is really exciting to be a part of and to witness, and all over the world. I mean
There's a great knowledge transfer happening across from many, many different cultures
One of the great things of this pandemic is that people are starting to realise that not everybody sees the world the same way

PHIL NUTLEY


I'm seeing that we're beginning to collide process with passion

WILL KNIGHT

I think this crisis presents an opportunity to reframe how we promote design and how we get audiences to engage

Transcript:

Mark Bergin 00:04

Hello, everybody and welcome. I'm Mark Bergin, the founder of DRIVENxDESIGN and the Design Exec Club. And joining me is a fantastic panel of design leaders from the European and UK market. We used to actually just refer to that as part of the European Union, but some things changed earlier in the year. And we've also seen a lot of other things have changed in the last month, which have been that COVID has told us that there's actually some new possibilities, there's some new problems, and for some people there's horrific challenges that are in there. And I think it's really important that we actually reflect on those people who have had life changing interruptions to their families and to their careers. This is Episode 30 for the Town Halls. It's phenomenal to think that we've got as far as we have. But what we're going to be talking about today is new possibilities. We're also going to be talking about how do we Elevate Hope. And temporarily, we're just after the US elections and hope has changed in the last week. You could almost feel the tension coming out of a whole range of people for saying we've got a decision, and there's a change that's going to take place. It's probably not going to be pretty, it's probably not going to be perfect, but we know that we actually now have a new chapter, which we're seeing unfolding in the US. But that's also brought a different accent into the European market. And probably the biggest change that I'm seeing what's happening is the change of the US presidency will mean that there's a change in the mood for a sustainable future. The idea of being netzero is now on the agenda. The Paris Accord seems like something that is so old and so long ago let alone Kyoto. We're going for net zero, and so people are imagining what that Better Future is. And we're accelerating how we get there. You know, I'm going to be interested when we have conversations, which are about beyond zero, how are we actually going to look at economies? How are we going to look at industries, where there's an abundance of sustainable renewable energies. Because some of those possibilities are even things like depleted uranium, with enough energy, which you'd get through renewable energy. With enough energy, you can actually turn depleted uranium back into its original state, and it no longer is radioactive. And it's actually like a big battery. So that's where science can take us. We know engineering can take us there. What we've got is a lack of policy. In the last week, we've seen that policy change a lot. The first person I'm going to throw to here is to John Mathers. John your role at the Design Council and also now with the recently awarded Design Fund, you've been at the edge of what's the New Possible, and how does the UK accelerate. What are you seeing that's actually been the New Possible that's come in the last six months? And what do you think the next 12 months of New Possible is?

John Mathers 03:05

Okay. So just to clarify with people, I was the Design Council Chief Exec five or six years ago, actually four or five years ago, I suppose. Subsequent to that, amongst other things I've been doing, we have set up a small venture capital fund called the British Design Fund. And the British Design Fund invests in well designed British products. They're not doing a service and not sell, but it's, out of the Design Council, we ran a program called Spark, which was investing in very, very early stage product ideas. And one of the frustrations that we ... I hate doing these sessions when I see Mark Bergin drinking glasses of red wine, and I'm still on my first cup of tea,

Mark Bergin 03:58

Coffee, it's coffee! I know, I'm 10 hours out, but it's coffee. And by the way, it's almost 10pm at night, okay.

John Mathers 04:06

I'm only joking. And we found that it was a real struggle to find the investment community that was interested in physical products. So that's why we set up the British Design Fund, where we raised the first half million, just raised the second half millionaire we're investing in. We've probably got about 12 companies that we're now investing in and just about to reach the third one. Got some really interesting people who are now part of the community. So there's a guy called Luke Johnson, who some of you may have heard of, is quite a famous investor who invested in Pizza Express famously back in the day, and has done extremely well and he's now one of our key investors. But the thing for me that I have seen in the last six months, is that it's what people talk about, that there's nothing quite like a crisis to get people thinking about innovation. I think it was Churchill who originally talked about, you know, there's nothing quite like a major problem in the world to get people to invent things. And I think that's exactly what we've seen in Covid times. And I think there's been ... I'm also very heavily involved in a thing called Healthy Aging by Design. Part of the government strategy here in the UK, and one of the pillars of the industrial strategy is a healthy aging program, which is how can we increase the average better life of people by five years and, and democratize it. And, you know, there's been so much happened in sort of demographic shifts and shifts and retail and shifts in an older population, adoption of technology, that the world is just full of possibilities. And I'm just, you know, I'm just, from my living room, hugely excited by the sort of new stuff that is happening and the options that are available to us. So just to finish Mark, you know, there's an awful lot of bad stuff happened and we can't deny that and we'll look back and regret it. Although somebody told me last night, that in the scheme of pandemics, we'll look back at this in future years and hardly even recognize it as a proper pandemic. So relatively few people have actually died. But when you're up close and personal, as we all are at the moment, it feels like a dreadful thing. But I, you know, I'm a glass half full person. And I see that there's so much possibility that's going to come out of this, and new ways of doing things. And I'm particularly, last thing I'll say is, I don't know whether you're seeing it in other parts of the world, but this new way of reporting, which is called ESG. Environmental, social, and governmental ways of looking at companies and the way that companies behave and the way that organizations behave. And I think that's a, for me, that's a really interesting way of looking at things, which is really new, and has happened in the last six months.

Mark Bergin 07:25

Yeah. No, no, no, no, no, never be sorry, because of what this is about as people who are trying to work out how to get to the future faster. And that's what design does. It helps us go get there faster, and an elegant, beautiful, executed way. But John, what I want to ask is, because we've seen right across the board, that the thing that venture fund is about is about acceleration, it's about if we put some capital in, we go create the right networks, the right connections, we can accelerate the cycle of the product development of the market growth. How has COVID gone and effect that acceleration cycle? Has it turbo charge it or has it interrupted some of the natural flows that are there?

John Mathers 08:07

I think it interrupted it for the first three months. And then people thought, I've got to get on with things. And there's an awful lot of money floating around, which needs investing.

Mark Bergin 08:21

And that's something that's come out from Macquarie Bank who did a briefing probably about four months ago, and they were talking about the velocity of money. And they were saying that the velocity of money had halved, but the the reserves of money had more than doubled, which means there's potential energy in markets. And when that potential energy gets released, they do things like they ring up people like Agúst, I'm gonna throw over to you here in a moment. Where they have somebody like Agúst who's got his Treasure Trackers Animated Program that he's got, and they say, we want to invest, we want to buy this. But those calls come out of the blue. They're not necessarily something that you've been able to see directly. But it's the groundwork that you've laid. Agúst, where are you up to in the cycle? You're in Reykjavik. You're in a different context about lockdown. You're not locked down because you're responsible people in Iceland. But where's the business side up for you? And what are you saying, that's moving forward for you?

Agúst Ingasson 09:20

Well, I mean, just to recap quickly. I mean, I have two two sort of major things that I'm working on. And one is in sort of the film entertainment business, surrounding Treasure Tracks, which is an animated series about, sort of, inspiring kids to empathy and kindness. So I think that is at the foremost front right now in terms of what's going on, and also, this whole homeschooling thing that's happening, especially in the UK and the US, I think, where things are more in a lockdown compared to Iceland. So the overall business transition has happened much faster than I anticipated from traditional sort of ... I mean, not a lot has changing for us as consumers, but it's kind of what channel you use, no longer what channel you flick on, it's more what streaming service do I pick up? And where do I get my entertainment fix of the day. So that is kind of changing a lot and especially also around sort of moving entertainment closer to being part of this revolution in terms of education. And so there's a lot of creative thoughts floating around that, and that's kind of where we're at, sort of at an expanded sort of outline of the series. But also in general, it's sort of increased the opportunities of producers to get your content out there. It's you just have to go to the BBC or whom ever you go to in the UK. So that's pretty interesting what's happening without transition. On the other end, I have this Aldin Biodome concept that we're sort of, it's I mean, it's, we have the plot, it's, it's being developed. And we're so happy to, or lucky to be working with Lucas Niera the UK architect, where they actually came and just said, we want to work with you. That's kind of like a, you know, Biodome full of nature, in the cold and dark in Iceland. And we've sort of also been thinking about how to sort of position. Because it's not about sort of going in, like I guess in the UK, you know, the Eden Project, where you sort of see all these plants and all that, but for us, it's more about positioning it as a lifestyle opportunity. Because, as you know in this world, going into nature is kind of lost in the big cities, such as London and New York and we're we are. So this is kind of creating this new world where you can actually, even if you live in the city, go in and be in nature and sort of, you know, improve your mental health and whatever health there is. So that's kind of where we're seeing also, because due to the pandemic, kind of the flow of information between us and potential investors sort of got on hold. But I'm seeing a significant pickup in interest. I'm seeing, you know, like those kind of investors that are more on the family office side, really wanting to put money towards something that has this kind of positive effect on society. So I think things are hopefully going to turn out positive.

Mark Bergin 13:05

So a project like this has a five to 10 year span that it needs to run.

Agúst Ingasson 13:10

Yes.

Mark Bergin 13:11

A lot of that is actually trying to onboard people who needed to be excited and charged about the proposition that's been put forward. And there's some reform action, that's in there. It's not, you're not in construction phase at the moment. So the fact that there's no tourists who are flooding into Iceland to go look at this, isn't a problem.

Agúst Ingasson 13:32

No.

Mark Bergin 13:33

So that's a temporary interruption for current tourism operators, but there's no reason why future tourism operators and attractions aren't actually making hay while this is going on, and actually getting on with the next wave of projects.

Agúst Ingasson 13:48

Yeah, for sure. I mean, we're looking at opening in 2023 so it's like this current disruption of no tourism is in no way, so it's actually a bonus or a plus from a financial point of view, because the Icelandic currency is weaker, so it's cheaper to get sort of, you know, you get more value for whatever Euro we get as an investment. So from that, it's an opportunity in that sense.

Mark Bergin 14:20

And that's been interesting seeing global currencies where, you know, the idea of quantitative easing or modern management theory that, you know, you can keep printing money to go and actually fund things, is a great theory as long as everybody's actually doing that to their currency at the same time. So what that means is we know that against China, that the Chinese currency isn't doing that. So then you actually say the Chinese currency is going up dramatically as everyone else is actually saying, we're using some monetary theory to bring things in balance in our economy. An interesting story that came out from Melbourne is that, in Melbourne when we had the lockdown, the golf courses that normally have, you know, very few people on them, if you go think an 18 hole golf course may have 100 to 200 people going around the golf course. But some of these golf courses were in very urban areas. And now people were using them as parks because we had limited kilometers of where we could travel. And all of a sudden they were now walking around the golf course. And there's a policy shift which is, should golf courses be for the thousands of people who live around them? Or should golf courses be for the 200 people who are playing around on them. And that's been really interesting to see people wanting to adopt nature in that sense. So I think that project that you're doing is absolutely astounding. David Keech, I want to get across to you. Because I think the last time we tried to catch up in London last year, you couldn't do it because you were flying off all around Europe, and you were making films with your teams, and you were doing design research projects. And that phase is now, I've noticed on your social media, for some strange reason that's slowed down or stopped. But you're producing an incredible amount of projects out of the studio. And I've also seen a different nature of the projects you're producing. Want to give me a bit of insight?

David Keech 16:20

Yeah, it's sad to see the demise of my air miles account, which was doing very well. And of course, that's not a bad thing, you know, we shouldn't really be doing all that flying. A lot of our works in the Far East in Japan, so that necessitated a lot of trips, you know, maybe four or five trips to Japan each year. And yeah, it's really strange. I have to be honest about it really. Everyone says, oh yeah, it's great to be working at home and although it's really strange to just suddenly not be doing any business travel. But yeah, you know, design and creativity is all about adapting and surviving. And I think one of the things that's really come to the fore is that, it came to me very quickly that you have to keep the team strong, and the team has to stay together, just like a football team or anything else. And to keep doing the kind of self generated projects. We've really put a lot of energy into that. And when things were far more hectic and busy as they were when you know, you hadn't got time to think because you were traveling all the time, you had less room to do all this kind of thing. So now, you know, we're starting to devote more time to, you know, our own work. And that's really important for us. And I think it struck me that's a good thing, because that's what you do if you're an artist or a musician. You don't suddenly say, oh, you know, I'm going to further myself, you know, because there's no gigs, or whatever it is. You have to keep the creativity going, you know, you you start composing or you work on your technique or something. And so the takeaway from that for us is that sort of speculative, really kind of fun, enjoyable, creative work that we made ourselves do, fantastically it's kind of paid off. Because the vibe of it, you know, clients really like it. It hasn't got that sort of sense of you know, that there has to be a conclusion to this ie. give us some money guys, you know, it's more to do with well we've done this, we've worked on this, what do you guys think? And I think that's been a real eye opener for us. And guess what, you know, there's government money available for R&D. And it is R&D, and it can be proved to be research and development, there's money available for that which you know, which is deductible from your Corporation Tax. So doing your work as an artist or a musician would do, I think is a big learning for us.

Mark Bergin 19:12

And, I just want to start across to Will Knight for the moment. Will you've got your network that you run, as well as working on the DRIVENxDESIGN Award programs, but you've got Design Dialogue. Isn't there one of the people in the Design Dialogue network, who's speciality is actually, things like grants and the financial modeling for design studios?

William Knight 19:36

Yeah, the network consists of all sorts of different kind of skills bases. We recently had a session that featured a guy called Barry Cumberlidge who runs an accountancy and tax specialist called Moose. And he kind of ran us through a whole series of macro, through some micro issues that will affect the industry. So we're going to kind of keep in touch with him and do a kind of quarterly episode with him. Because obviously things are changing. And you know everything, again from the political situation globally all the way through to things like R&D tax credits, which David just referenced.

Mark Bergin 20:17

Yeah. Good there. And then Jordan, I want to go across to you, because I think your world's changed probably more than many. You know, particularly the work that I'd seen you do over the last five years, so much has been about experiences and brand activations that are done in a physical world. Now you're doing things which are a hybrid between the physical world and also in a digitally connected world. What's happened in the New Possibilities over the last six months? And what do you think's in the 12 month's forwards?

Jordan Waid 20:53

Yeah, well I've seen lots of change. I am originally an architect and then got into media design and digital, and gravitated into the brand experience world. So that was doing Champions League, Pavilions, Olympic pavilions, auto shows, all sorts of things where people would go and visit. And obviously now we're visiting virtually, and it's a different kind of world right now. And it's been interesting where I work, we did a complete pivot, because we have like Rolls Royce, Disney, BBC through an agency I consult for, and they had different events where they met yearly. And those have all been wiped away, obviously. And so we created something called the Virtual Experience Lab, which is a way to get people to engage at a different level and still take the learnings we have, brand experiences and immersive environments and apply that digitally. It's not like you just put on some VR goggles. It's about how you get people to engage, and there's psychologies behind it. And so every seven minutes or so we have something where people are creating or doing something, you know, if it's putting virtual sticky notes up, or whatever. And it's really important, otherwise we all feel disconnected. And we kind of sit back until we hear our name called and then we're up, you know, and paying attention. And so that's interesting. And then going back to your question Mark, what I've seen over the past six months, which I find fascinating, is time. And we have a new concept of time. We've gotten time given back to us. We used to be addicted to traveling with this travel addiction, whether it was just locally to work, or whether it was to Asia or Americas or wherever. And it's really interesting, because what I've seen is there's been lots of time for thinking time and creative time, which is great. And that's what's going on in the six months. And you can kind of feel it, and then what's going on in the next 12 months I look at as output. And I think that this is where we're going to start to see the seeds of innovation, where we're going to see, I mean, we're already looking at the way the climate has changed and everything. I think now, with our travel addictions, we'll have more of a climate addiction, in a sense, where we've got to reboot and restart, and really kind of look at things differently and be a bit more conscious when we decide to travel and how we travel and where we travel. And it shifted everything. And I think it's, I mean, with the exception of the financial crisis and all the deaths, you know, aside and health problems, I think there is this kind of shift that's happening right now which we've all been talking about, and wondering how and what - and it's happened, and we're in it right now, we don't even realize it in some regards. And I think it's going to be really incredible to see what comes out of it. Because you just look back in 2008 with the financial crisis, and that's when, you know, Slack, Uber, Pinterest, WhatsApp, all these things were born out of that era. And we're using them now you know, full on. So what's going to happen in the next 12 years that's being kind of brought to life you know, born right now? So I'm excited about that. And that's how I'm kind of looking at everything. I'm cognizant of the time so I want to hear everybody else speak as well. But those are some of my thoughts on the six months.

Mark Bergin 24:41

No that's really good. And you know, there's a really interesting thing, Jordan's got significant connections through to the States. We've seen in, you know, what's happened with the States in the election. We also saw with Black Lives Matter that was coming along and we were talking about .... One of the things that came out of the US Town Halls was the idea that it's time for the 28th Amendment. And then the big question comes up is, well, what is the 28th Amendment because it seems like there's a shopping list of not one issue in the US, it's almost like there's another Bill of Rights coming through of, you know, maybe five or 10 amendments to go get there. And that's interesting that we're seeing that acceleration coming in there. But Kirsty I want to throw across to you, because I saw in what Jordan was talking about, there was this idea that we've got a different concept of time. But you've also in the pre conversation, we were talking about the idea that there was a different idea of connection as well. And that idea that you're networking with some people that you may not normally have network with. Give me a bit of insight about that, and also then I want to dig into what's happening with Pressman Goode. Because we've, in the last couple of Town Halls we've talked about what's happening with the team, the office dogs, and I think that's really important to actually do that. But I want to get into that the connections first. Tell me what you've seen happen in the last six months?

Kirsty Dias 26:05

Well, I guess the opportunity to, you know, created by forums like this, created by Will's Design Dialogue and a number of others, have created this virtual community of, you know, other design industry peers to kind of, I guess, come together to discuss and talk about what this future might be. And, you know, I've really appreciated that. And I think that's been a great thing to come out of this. I was also just going to echo David's comments about, you know, being match fit. I think this has had such a, you know, the experience has had such a positive impact on our process. And we have approached it in exactly the same way. I mean, Priestman Goode have, you know, had a long history of always doing self generated projects. But I think this time, we have kind of actively approached it in that way you would if you were an athlete. That you have to practice all the skills all the time, because how can you expect somebody to just like, come up with an idea out of nowhere, if you're not like constantly doing that. And you know, we work on very long term projects, and so that, you know, the, all of the skills from idea generation, right through to kind of much more kind of technical detailing, aren't necessarily practiced on a really regular basis. And I think that, you know, we've actively sought to address that, during this period. And also to kind of broaden the conversation around what the future, you know, will look like, and make sure that that conversation is happening with everyone in the organization. So it's not just being led by kind of seniors, but that the ideas are coming, you know, from ground up from juniors, onwards, because, you know, in lots of ways the future is there. So it's really important to mix that up, you know, from a generation point of view. Because I think the younger generation do have such a different experience of, you know, technology of all those things than, you know, older generations do, who are still working. Of course, that's a really powerful combination of, you know, new approaches with, you know, very experienced hands as well. So I was interested that, you know, Will referenced earlier that Martha with him, he runs Design Dialogue, you know, comes from a younger generation, and that, of course, really broadens your access to ideas as well as people and networking.

Mark Bergin 28:59

Yeah. And I think that's such an important thing in there. And, you know, one of the things as I look at the panel that I've got here that is very evident for me is that we've got a pure gender bias. And I want to just drill into that for a little while, because when we send out the invitations, we actually send them out that they're balanced, and that we actually have gender neutrality in the number of males and females. But today when, before the call began, we had a couple of cancellations. And those cancellations were females who didn't or weren't able to be on this call because of other priorities. But if I think back over the last 29 other Town Halls, that's been a behavior that's in there, which is a gender inclusion and diversity challenge, which I think Loïc, I'm going to come to you in a moment and we'll speak about that because I think it's worthwhile. You highlighted that as being important. We'll go and we'll actually do a whole session about that because we need to work out how we're actually using this to understand the opportunity, as Kirsty was saying about connecting and networking, but we also should be using it as a way to do a diagnostic on, well, what are the patterns that we're seeing? And how do we actually use those as early interventions to try to make sure that we're not falling into this maybe predestined behaviors that we've got. Which means that, I may wind up with a lot of men on the call, and not a lot of women, because they're not getting the diversity. It's not that your voice is unimportant, it's actually those other voices are really important, which was one of the things that we found out when we were going through the Black Lives Matter series in the US. How do we go get the alternative voices in the ones that we normally don't hear? So you know, I think that's such an important thing that we also use this as a way to go and distill and synthesize those New Possibilities, not just try and grab the low hanging fruit that's in there. Loïc, Berlin, you're not like Melbourne at all, you've got the pandemic running there, but you called it, it was like a light lockdown that you're doing. What's the actual technical term for it?

Loic Sattler 31:05

Soft lockdown. But it's a personal opinion. But yeah, but anyways, it feels like you know, that the German government is trusting the people to behave and do the good actions, which gives a bit more freedom sometimes. Even though I have to say restaurants and bars and all these places are locked, closed, or you can have takeaways, but that's it.

Mark Bergin 31:34

So then the work that you're seeing that's coming through and I know the client portfolio and I know the type of innovative projects that you're doing, a lot like most people on the call here, that they're quite longitudinal projects. And they're very hard to go talk about because you're changing the organization as you're going through, there's no product that pops out. David, I love your work, because there's always these beautiful renderings that come out. It's like, oh, here's a new thing. It's an artifact. What are you seeing for your client base that they're getting in with the New Possible? And are they accelerating or are they recoiling, as John had said, you know, there's a bit of a recoil for a little while?

Loic Sattler 32:16

And I have to say due to the pandemic, companies are, you know, digitizing their businesses as much as they can, especially to protect their employees and serve the customers mobility restrictions, right. So, you know, if you look at the data, it shows that we have made a five year step in two months, or some months, which is amazing. So we're working on a huge amount of digital services these days. And we will probably remember, you know, these days, as you know, historic when it comes to deployment of remote work and digital access to services across any domain, actually. So if you look at all the collaboration, collaborative tools that we get, and the way we interact together, nowadays, it's oppressive, and how fast it went. So yeah, this is where we see the shift. So everyone wants to focus on the services and go massively fast, to ship those services.

Mark Bergin 33:18

And it is very interesting, we've got the DLD conference in Germany with Scott Galloway who's one of those superstars of that conference there. Scott was talking about the idea of decades in days, and that what we're seeing is that an entire decade's worth of either creation or destruction is happening now in a period of days. And that actually references back to the Russian Revolution with Lenin. Lenin was saying that there were decades when nothing happened in Russia, and then all of a sudden, there's days where an entire decade of change happens. So see, now these things we know happen, that time is