Town Hall #32 - The New Possible - ASIA
Adrian Battisby - Senior Director of Interior Design at LW
Richard Henderson - Founder & CEO at R-Co Brand
Julie Ockerby - CEO | Creative Director & Principal at Meli Studio Australia
Michael Tam - Global Associate Design Director @ IBM iX - CoC
[On food service in major hotels]
They have turned and pivoted literally overnight on how they are planning to respond to COVID
We now have the social conscience of less food waste …..
There could be theatre in the presentation, and there can be a flourish of service
Now it’s the human engagement that we have to consider versus engaging with the built environment
As long as we can have a space or interior architecture that can allow for change and can adapt easily, then it's a success
There are people who are very adaptable to Status Next, and they want to get to the future faster
Bringing everybody [together] is a complex process because you come from different ideologies
By using the process of design, we've been able to see that there is a rapid transformation that has taken place, and it's understood why that transformation is taking place
We respond to things as we are ourselves
People are trying to find their own sense of reality and how they fit within the bigger picture in terms of community, business or otherwise
The hidden thread that links that us all together is empathy
It's been forced upon us to actually start talking and dealing with our feelings ….. what are the leaders doing about this?
Huge opportunities will arise for creative people to imagine how to help bridge that gap between what was and inspire for what could be
We have to respect each other - we don't rush in, we need to measure – we need guidelines of social etiquette
Businesses have to reshape their purpose in a much more philosophical and meaningful way as opposed to just the delivery of product or service
[Throughout COVID] being able to rely on each other and troubleshoot with each other and bounce off each other has been really important
We will now see where the really good leaders are
Reeducation comes from good leadership and flexibility
Everyone is a little bit more open minded now and a little bit more willing to experiment, to prototype
Different sorts of businesses are open to trying new ways to embrace the challenge that they are facing
This past year has been really forcing everyone to be a little bit more honest about the challenge that they are facing
How do you budget for this kind of short term visibility of the future?
Honesty is being forced by COVID-19 on every different level of an organisation
Question everyone on the fact that are they willing to accept change
What COVID-19 is clear to point out to every single person is that there's two types of people - one type who is completely ready to embrace this and see it as an opportunity to change... and then there's another type of person who keeps asking when are we going back to normal
This is going to be forcing every single person to reflect on their purpose, reflect on their own way of working
The organisation is going to reflect on whether they adding real value to not just a customer but also to the internal staff, to the internal culture
The next four or five years is going to be playing such a huge role as we are changing our service, changing our process, changing brand vision, changing culture
With all these more dynamic and complex enterprises, the role of designer is changing and evolving
With new definition and new perspective, we are actually actively augmenting our own realities
Everything is lead by experience
Mark Bergin 00:00
Hi, everybody, welcome to the 32nd Design Exec Club Town Hall. I'm Mark Bergin, the Founder of the Design Exec Club and the DRIVENxDESIGN Award Programs. Joining me are some of the smartest people I know in the Asian market, and we're going to be talking about the six months behind us, and also the 12 months ahead of us, and what those new possibilities are, and how do we go and elevate the commercial opportunities, and our colleagues who are in the market here. The first person I'm going to hit off with is, I'm going to go across to you, Julie, and let's have have a look at what's been happening from a relationships perspective. You've been talking about how it's actually fostering extending the relationships. Tell us a bit about that. And I'm also going to ask you some questions about have you been able to start new business relationships throughout a period where it's been virtual contact rather than physical.
Julie Ockerby 00:53
Um, okay. I run a business that has solely worked around the ethos of relationships and how important relationships are. And that's not only just client based, its supplier base, its architectural partners, it's whoever you source from, etc, etc. You know, the bottom line is, we only like to work with people we really want to go have a drink with or have dinner with, and the chemistry has got to be there. But the relationships I've seen in the last 12 months, particularly during COVID when we really had to rely on this virtual human relationship, which is different. Like before, I would jump on a plane and go meet you, or ring up and go and have dinner or something, that's been really difficult the last six to eight months to even do that. So building relationships, on, you know, a forum like this, for example, has been different. And it's been a learning curve for everyone. It's not impossible to build a relationship on this, but it's taught me how important the core of relationships are, and how we actually do need each other. When certainly when there was a big stress as to how our businesses were going to be during the height of COVID - were we going to survive, were we not? And particularly as business owners, or higher level management people, it's, you know, you can't really bounce these ideas, these thoughts, these feelings to your team members, because you have to keep that positive attitude happening. And so you speak to your peers like each other here. And it's the real, you know, the real conversations. Like I think I've been on that many forums with Richard and there's been some real conversations the last seven months. They're not all necessarily good, you know, the realities of it, there's been a lot of downs as well. But being able to rely on each other and troubleshoot with each other and bounce off each other has been really important. And I think when we've been super busy in the past, and we haven't had to rely on it, we just get on with it. Whereas we really had to rely on it the last few months, I think.
Mark Bergin 03:10
And I think Julie, you've seen my @vanbergen project, and viewers we'll put a link in for this. But I was trying to work out how I didn't just have a transactional relationship or business context relationship. I wanted to be able to go and express part of who I am and the things that were happening in my world. And I found by buying the van, going off and doing a photographic project of 100 sunrises in a row regardless, rain, hail, or shine, and sharing that with people, gave me a conversation which was more multifaceted than just, we're gonna talk about a Town Hall, we're going to be talking about your design studio, we're gonna be talking about your project. We got to talk as humans and we got to talk as people, and people shared to me, you know, some very, very special things. Actually, yesterday was my birthday. I went .... Thank you for the gifts and all of that, everybody. Yesterday was my birthday. And yesterday afternoon also was the fifth anniversary of a friend's daughter who unfortunately left us way too early. And I knew that there was a beach where my friend's daughter loved to go. So I took the van there and I took a couple of glasses of Rose. And I took some photos and I shared it. And what was interesting was, not only was it special to my friend who's in Barcelona, but it was also really special to a lot of other people. Because this egged about humanity and about values and purpose, it didn't just actually say I'm here to go talk about business, or I'm here to go actually do some Instagram shots. And getting more dimensions about each other as humans is such an important thing that we go to the business. Richard, I want to go across to you because I know that purpose has been an area that you've been focusing on where both with your own work and with your client work. Give us a bit of an insight what you've seen over the last six months. And what you think the 12 months ahead has.
Richard Henderson 05:07
Well that's really a very interesting question Mark. I think one of the things we need to consider when we're looking at this, and we're seeing it through our own eyes, and feeling it through our own senses, so we respond to things as we are ourselves. So I think this is very important. First of all, because I'm a business guide designer, I see potentially two things here. One is personal, in terms of like, what's important to me and my family and what I'm about as a person. And then secondly, from a business point of view, I think it's what's becoming more important as businesses have disengaged from hubs and little campfires, is what complex problem do I solve in a business sense? So I think there's been a bit of a focus on that, because people are trying to find their own sense of reality, but how do they fit within the bigger sense of reality in terms of a community, business or otherwise. I think that's very important. And underpinning all that, the hidden thread that links that all together and connects with what Julie was talking about, is empathy. I think we're sort of much more aware of that. But the funny thing I think is happening here is that it's been forced upon us to actually start talking and dealing with our feelings. You know, and when we come to a city, or when we're talking to people, and you just mentioned your personal policy there about the sunrise, how do you deal with that aspect of our being, which is our subconscious that we haven't been prepared to or maybe able to, to recognize and adjust to it? I think the big thing that's going to happen now, once you start having that and people are feeling that, what are the leaders doing about this? They're in their offices, they're in their suits, but nothing's really changed with those guys. They're on their full salary, and I'm talking about the government and people in top level. How are they going to readjust for the adjustment that has to happen because their people are no longer going to operate within the same ecosystem that was before? I think this is really going to challenge a lot of business, and also provide huge opportunities to creative people and imagine is to help bridge that gap between what was and inspire for what could be. That's my passion about that.
Mark Bergin 07:19
Yeah, and I think we've seen over the last 10-20 years that the neck tie has kind of diminished its prevalence in all parts of business. People have been able to work out how can I open up a bit. And as we're trying to get the connection between casual creative purpose, is the necktie actually something which is actually closing us off? Or having an open collared shirt as you've got Adrian, does that open us up a little bit more? I think you know, when it comes to, and you're going to laugh at this, when it comes to fashion and the way we turn ourselves out, that says a lot about where we're trying to go with our values and our purpose. I'm stuck in a T shirt and I've been that way for a long time and I'm very comfortable in them. But I do want to go across to Adrian, and have a little bit of a talk about you're seeing in the hospitality world how the purpose of gathering together for a meal and sharing a meal. It got significantly interrupted during COVID. And then the hoteliers have began to find new strategies of how do they give people these fantastic human experiences, but also deal with food safety and patron safety. What are you finding?
Adrian Battisby 08:38
Sure. Well, I would like at the end of this, I would like to just carry on from what Richard was saying, but kind of in a subject in between both of, you know, the value that conversation has. And it goes on to the value that the dining experience has. Obviously travel has been seriously restricted. We can't go anywhere. Hotels aren't full as they used to be. And in some countries, they're picking back up again. And I hope Victoria swiftly gets back on that steep rise to success again. In hotels there's been a lot of concern about the shared dining experience, particularly in a breakfast setting or in a brunch setting where you have a lot of people milling around carrying plates of food. And the operators have reached out to us and said we've got to stop this when we come back online after COVID. We have to have responded or have a response plan of how we can serve our guests safely. So, we're currently developing a prototype for Marriott for one of their premium brands and it will be rolled out over Asia. And it's an all-day dining concept that is designed as a restaurant. It does transform for breakfast into a buffet but it's select buffet. Everything has to be individually portioned, closed or handed to you. They have turned and pivoted literally overnight on how they are planning to respond to COVID. And we've also had that here in Hong Kong where I'm based. Obviously the city has been very strict in terms of dining restrictions. So there is no longer buffet brunch, you have family style. So you're going in your table of four or six as we were recently allowed, then the food comes to you. But it comes as a beautiful bounty of food presented to you on the table. It's the best of everything from the buffet off that, and you share with your group. And I think this is a new, it's probably returning in a way to what we had before the rise of the buffet. We're dining together as a group we're together, we have a shared dining experience and nobody's getting up from the table to go and get some more crab legs. And then we also have the social conscience of less food waste, we can control the portions, we feel a little bit better about our social conscience. And this is coming in very, very fast from operators. Also, there's a comment for no communal check in. So we're currently working on a Fairmont project. There will be one or two cashiering desks, everything else is going to be mobile or self checkin. So I think the operators are there, they're aware of their guests concern about being in a shared communal space, and how can they mitigate that contact. So it's interesting for us because I think that going back to the restaurant experience, think that shared dining will be great, because it's like being together around a table again. You know you're going to be there, there's all this beautiful food in front of you, it's plated well. You know, when you go to a buffet, you kind of have everything piled on your plate and it looks a bit ugly. At least it can be, there could be theater in the presentation. And there can be a flourish of service. So I think that's a return, an opportunity for an exciting dining experience.
Mark Bergin 11:43
And that's great to see. Because, you know, what I like about that is that they've worked out what was the core essence of people coming in for their dining experience. And then they've said, it's different but it's the same. And so we're trying to make sure that you're getting the shared meal moment, and we're going to work out how to get some theater moments, the production values up and solve what we can't do and work out what we can do in there. Michael, I want to go across to you to talk about how in the digital transformation world with IBM and with your clients. You know, we used to know there were some golden paths that we could take. If you went and did this particular project you were going to get further down the track. And there was this was the golden path, there's the silver, the bronze and just the one you don't want to do. Are there golden paths that your clients are seeing? Or is it that nobody has got the crystal ball to work out exactly what to go do?
Michael Tam 12:42
I think one thing everyone, every enterprise has faced in the last six to nine months to 12 months, is that nobody knows what the answer is? So the golden path is pretty much dead. But then one thing really good came out of it is, I think everyone's a little bit more open minded now and a little bit more willing to experiment to prototype. I mean like Adrian just mentioned about like these different hospitality clients, different sorts of businesses trying new ways to embrace the challenge that they are facing. You know they're testing out, you know, whether it's going to be a new form of a la carte dining experience, or you know, how we connect with each other, like what Julia Richie just touched on, right? Like, what would people really like to experience when they're connecting with one another? Can we reinvent the way that we reach out to each other, or even listen to each other's pain points and stories and their needs. And I think this past year has been really forcing everyone to be, not just individuals but also enterprises and companies, to be a little bit more, I guess honest about the challenge that they are facing. And also a little bit more honest about the fact that nobody has the answer to it. So will this shift of a mindset allow everyone to give any sort of solution a bit of a try? But of course that also sort of comes with another challenge. How do you budget for it? How do you budget for this kind of short term visibility of the future? But I just see it as an opportunity for enterprise to dip their toes into this new water.
Mark Bergin 14:42
And I think that I love that reference over the short term visibility. And one of the considerations I've had that COVID has introduced, it's like a fog event. So if a new wave came into Hong Kong for COVID, it's like a fog comes over the city. And nobody expects the city to operate the way it normally does. And the moment that fog is lifted, then it all goes back to pretty much how it was - a few things are late, a few things need to be re sheduled. And that's also what we've seen in Wuhan. The fog came down on Wuhan very, very dramatically. And then that fog has lifted. The same thing's happened in Melbourne. Now we're down to more than 28 days of zero cases. There are no active cases of COVID in the state. And everyone's back to, come on, let's go out, let's go actually get back into our offices, let's go and do what we were doing. And I think that visibility brings in the concept of fog. And nobody knows what to do when fog comes. As a sailor if fog comes, you just stop. You don't expect to go through it, you know that's dangerous. You don't expect to go back. It's just hold your position. But we know we can't do that forever. And so that interests me that people that are working on projects, that there isn't a clear sight to what's actually ahead for them, so therefore that makes it difficult to set budgets, because normally budgets are that there's future revenues. We can always have the expenditure, but if we don't match the expenditure against future revenues, then we're not getting a return on investment. And so Adrian, I think they're in the hoteliers space that to go and actually be thinking about well we need to actually build some new patterns of service delivery and different experiences, that's going to change depending on whether there's a heavy fog in that market or not. Is that something that's coming up where you're being asked for, you know, multiple modalities, depending on how the hotel's operating?
Adrian Battisby 16:44
We are, we are. In terms of the interior design, you know the reality of designing the space, it's not so much that we have to completely change the layout of a hotel lobby, for example, it's how we think about the flow and the experience. And it's really the human engagement that we have to consider versus engaging with the built environment. So as long as we can have a space or an interior architecture that can allow for change and can adapt easily, then it's a success. But it's knowing that that's on the cards. It's knowing that that space has to have a flexibility to it, and not being rigid. So we've already seen that self check-in even at airports, etc, it's becoming more commonplace, it's allowing for that. So we don't focus on the reception desks as the feature, we focus on something else, and how we would anticipate the guests moving through the space. So it's really thinking ahead, allowing the space to be flexible. So in terms of it's not really that much nuts and bolts as it would be, it's more how would we want to operate that, how does that flow.
Mark Bergin 17:53
And Richard, how about for you? What are you seeing in that idea of people? Obviously, if you've got a purpose, and you understand what your purpose is, that guides you one way. But are there different ways that people execute and express that purpose? What are your thoughts? that contribute to what he was saying,
Richard Henderson 18:10
To continue on with what Adrian was saying, I've got to say Adrian, your're so eloquent. You articulate it so beautifully. I mean, obviously your clients love you because you just pack it up so beautifully for them. All they've got to do is sign here and get on with it.
Adrian Battisby 18:24
I will bring you in as my proposer and seconder for any client deal.
Richard Henderson 18:31
I wanted to say though, it's important how you were talking about a fog Mark before. We would expect, and this is with great respect to you guys, interior designers, architects, etc, we would expect that things are really properly framed all the time. I mean that's part of the dynamic of touching base when society is moving; the latest things and the furnishings and fittings and food styles etc. I think there is something that we can tangibly see. I think what you're talking about Adrian also means that people's attitudes, and why operating has to actually be really modified. So what Michael was talking about this uncertainty, I think comes with respect, to have to respect each other. So therefore, we don't rush in, we need to measure. But to do that, we also need guidelines of social etiquette, things like that to happen. But I think the bigger picture here is how do you do that change transformation in other industries, corporate, manufacturing, day to day work, which is not an expected role. You're expected to do the same old, same old and you start a job with whatever, and you end up you work towards retirement. Now things have opened up, there's not that sort of pathway anymore. So businesses have to reshape their purpose in a much more philosophical and meaningful way as opposed to just the delivery of product or service. That to me is the big challenge. And it's going to be forced upon organizations because of their employees and the people and their customers. But it's not something I think that people can, but organizations' infrastructure is really probably ready for the change. That's certainly the area I'm very interested in.
Mark Bergin 20:07
So Richard .... Julie, please go.
Julie Ockerby 20:10
I think this is where we'll see where the really good leaders are, and where those who need a little bit of help along the way. I mean, it's human nature for all of us to follow, like, you know, but when someone does something that leads, whether we agree with it or not, we tend to follow. I mean, you see it when you walk into airports, you know, in the days when we used to be able to go the important. I mean, there are moments where, that person must be going on to the flight to LA, there's probably about 20 flights to LA and then you just start following - don't worry that you're probably going on the wrong flight, but you start to follow. And I think with designing for the future, or whether it's hotels or restaurants, or corporate or workplace or whatever. It's the reeducation comes from good leadership and flexibility. I think before, you know, typically of humans, we are rigid in many ways. We want flexibility but we operate better on a regime - every morning, we wake up at a certain time, have breakfast at a certain time, we catch the train at a certain time, whatever, we get to work. You know, we tick off the things off our list, we finish for the day, we go home. That's generally a normal person's life. And whereas now, there are rigid things to life. Like, for example, we can't just go to the local restaurant and expect to get in, we have to make sure we get a reservation, and then once we're there we have to check ourselves in. It becomes a process and patience in terms of time, which is exactly what you said, Richard. Like we can't expect to just rush into anywhere and expect service and demand service. A different mentality has to come into play moving forward, because COVID is not going away. If we think even at the moment, particularly here in Australia where we've got it really good and so has Hong Kong, but in the bigger nations, they're really struggling, it's clearly not going away. So there will be peaks and troughs. That's my prediction moving forward.
Mark Bergin 22:21
So I want to go in there a little bit about the leadership and the culture and people's vested interest. One of the things, and Michael I think you would have seen this a lot with digital transformation projects, often it's not the leadership, the senior C suite leadership, they've got a vision, you've got the operational staff, but they want to actually do something in a progressive way. It's the middle band who actually have invested positions. And if they can't work out where the next option that looks after their imagination of what the next five years are going to be, they're just going to fold their arms and say no, we don't want to do this. So I find that very interesting about people trying to adapt. And I know in the FinTech market it's actually referred to as the FinTech donut, the reason banking is hard to change is not the boardroom, it's not the C suite, and it's not the front of house staff, it's the middle management in the middle. They're the ones who are reluctant to change. And I wonder there, when you've got things such as those golden paths that you're trying to explore, are people more now open to all change? Or are they still holding back on some of their previous imagined futures?
Michael Tam 23:48
I actually wouldn't look at it just as the middle part, middle management and the middle layer. I think I sort of touched on the fact you know, it's about honesty. And I think this honesty is being forced by COVID-19 on every different level of an organization - on leadership, on middle management, on the working level as well. This honesty is being forced on them to really question every single level - question everyone on the fact that are they willing to accept change? Because I think what Julie and Richard touched on is really interesting. I think what COVID-19 is clear to point out to every single person is that there's two types of people - one type who's completely ready to embrace this and see it as an opportunity to change. And then there's another type of people who keeps asking when are we going back to normal. When are we changing that? When can we, you know, plan out budget again just like how we had, you know, been doing it for the last 10-20 years, you know. How can we go back to the retail model that we have been doing in the last 10-20 years? And it's not just the middle level or leadership, it's every single level. You know on the working level there will be people looking forward to going back to the normal, that they can just, you know, go back into their same job in the same robotic style that they can just be comfortable in their own, you know, area or way of working. But then that's just not going to be. And then I think this is going to be forcing every single person to reflect on their purpose, reflect on their own way of working. The organization is going to reflect on are they adding real value to not just a customer but also to the internal staff, to the internal culture. Are they changing in the right direction? And these are all triggers that individual levels and also individual entities and companies get to really look at when they are trying to identify the different paths to the different future.
Mark Bergin 26:19
And I think you've eloquently identified that there's people who are very invested in the status quo. There are people who are very adaptable to status next, and that they want to get to the future faster. And I think all of us on this call are probably in that, we want to get to the future faster. But last week, when we did the Town Hall in the US market, we were talking about the 70 plus million people who are actually wanting to stay in the status quo, but they want the status quo to go to the past. They don't want to go to the future. Yet they want it to be a great country, which their grandfathers created. But their grandfathers were actually progressive people who were trying to get to the future faster. But they think there's greatness by going backwards. And so there's a diagnosis there about people wanting to feel certain, and certainty was something that they knew and that the future keeps changing on them or next is different. And so we've got this tension in there about, we know that we need to do things differently. As Adrian, you've spoken about, in as simple as food services are being done in a progressive way. It isn't, they've tried to go back and say, well we'll make it just like it was, because there's issues there. They've worked out how to progress. And I think that's what we do all the time, is progress.
Michael Tam 27:42
I think it's human nature as well. Right?
Mark Bergin 27:44
Richard Henderson 27:45
I think this is where though, we can bring in the concept of the DNA, that the DNA exists previously, now and into the future. It's actually how you adapt that DNA to moving forward, and you bring people along with you, as opposed to separating them from you. So that is the art of, you know, brand challenge. I mean, the more things change, the more they remain the same. You know, that's just the French phrase. I think that requires what Michael's talking about, there's an understanding of all the parts; how do all the parts fit together and bring everyone along. And there will always be a chain of people that will not be able to move forward. I mean, again, it's a human nature thing. But that understanding of, what was the core to start with? Why did it start? How does it get created and how can you evolve that? That's such a fascinating subject and brands all about that.
Michael Tam 28:37
And change management as well. Change management, the next four or five years is going to be playing such a huge role as we are changing our service, changing our process, changing brand vision, changing culture. And the experts who can help us to reach this kind of alignment within an organization and move everyone along with those changes is going to play a major role.
Richard Henderson 29:01
And that Michael that's where even the word designer evolves into something greater. You know change management is a catalyst, that type of thing where you take on a bigger, you know, activity.
Michael Tam 29:13
It's interesting you touch on designers as well, because there are also a lot of designers hoping to stay in their own very limited vertical definition of what design is all about. But then with all this more dynamic and complex enterprise, the role of designer is changing and evolving as well. And we've got to think wider than what we, you know, would normally just go to work on.
Mark Bergin 29:36
So Michael, I wanted to ..... because I know you talk a bit about augmented reality, virtual reality and also AI. Now, the idea of augmented reality and virtual reality, if our reality has changed so much in the last 12 months, does the definition of augmented reality change as well?
Michael Tam 29:56
Yes, that's a good way to look at it!
Mark Bergin 30:01
So the fundamental reality changes, what does augmented reality mean now that reality has changed?
Michael Tam 30:07
I like how you're looking at it from almost like a non technology perspective on what augmented reality is about. Because yes, with new definition and new perspective, we are actually actively augmenting our own realities in things. Well, as you've got to keep an open mind and keep evolving that definition of it.