How Sharing Experiences Can Create New Perspectives For All Of Us
June 27th | 2017

Last week, we shared our Vancouver offsite experience – but one article just didn’t even come close to capturing everything that happened.

So I set out to gather some more offsite thoughts from my colleagues. I sat down with five people from across our departments – Brian, design; Rachel , design; Heather, creative; Dipanjan, strategy; and Josh, production – to discuss the trip. I asked about their personal experiences within the four areas we were all thinking about while we spent time in Vancouver: 

  1. Broaden our perspective – How can we become more diverse in every way –  skills, people, and experiences?
  2. Forge new partnerships – Who can we partner with to take on even bigger problems in the future?
  3. Challenge our preconceptions – How can we evolve and challenge mindsets that are holding us back?
  4. Work smarter – How can we work better and more efficiently together? 

Here’s our conversation:

We visited four companies in Vancouver: MakerLabsHMCA Architecture + DesignArchiact VR, and Launch Academy, with the intention to broaden our perspectives on what we do. Did it work? 

Getting exposure to other organizations was so eye-opening. A big takeaway was that there are a lot of organizations out there who have similar aspirations as we do – to do purposeful, fulfilling work, but maybe have a different function and/or different approach to achieving those aspirations. It helped get the wheels turning for how we could work with partners we’ve probably never considered before. 

Heather French

Exactly. I think we thought we knew what was out there, and then we saw what was out there. For example, when everyone left Archiact VR, it was like a window to a whole new world had been opened for us.

I really didn’t know much about MakerLabs, a place that provides you with the tools, space, and skills to make almost anything, going into it. Seeing the range of entrepreneurs with different businesses and products sharing not only equipment and space, but knowledge was very inspiring. Much of what we create every day at Zeus is for the digital space, using digital tools, so the element of actively making something can get lost. This tour was a reminder of the value of getting your hands dirty as part of the creative process and soliciting others’ feedback, even if they don’t have the same role as you. It made me want to get busy making more things. It also begs the question of how we can we better integrate everyone’s areas of expertise, regardless of department, into our design process.

Visiting the MakerLabs was really inspiring and validating. (I mean, we made a micro-controller.) It was inspiring because everyone was harmoniously co-existing despite working on radically different things. People genuinely wanted to ‘collide’ with other disciplines and see what came of it. I got the feeling that curiosity and learning seem to be a huge part of their ethos, and their customers and tenants were drawn to that. It’s exciting to think about how, now that we all have had this experience, we can collectively draw from it to help our clients create their MakerLabs-like atmosphere in a way that makes sense for them. 

So, in a way, it helped us recognize new possibilities. Are there new problems we could tackle? 

Heather French

Yeah, I think so. I’m not saying this is my skill set, but I would love to bring virtual reality to science education. Think about how you could apply virtual reality to quantum physics – you could take concepts that are mind-breakingly abstract and visualize them as tangible things, things you can see and wrap your brain around. VR could make complex, abstract subjects like that more understandable to the masses. Similarly, you could use VR to demonstrate abstract ideas to clients or consumers. Imagine if your client could walk around and experience the vision you have for them, rather than trying to understand the concept through some presentation slides. 

For me, the new possibilities clicked when I heard about the group that visited HCMA Architecture + Design and how the organization breaks down social barriers with their work. The example provided for how they inspired people on separate sides of the street who don’t normally interact was so simple, yet so profound. This company is breaking down barriers in their community. How do we do more of that!?

So, to build on that, how can we accomplish both our goals for Zeus Jones and also our goals for the world?

I recently read a post by W+K’s Chief Creative, Colleen DeCourcy, that’s stayed with me. More specifically, a line that reads, “In a time of universal deceit, speaking the truth is revolutionary.” I couldn’t agree more. For us, I think that speaking the truth is putting ourselves out there – our values, what we stand for, and how we hold ourselves accountable to that. HCMA is a perfect example of this. They challenge themselves by asking, “How do we achieve the maximum positive impact through design?” They also define positive impact in terms of social value. It’s part of their business model.

I think one thing we can continue to do is make a greater effort to look for opportunities here in Minneapolis. We can bring partners or the community into conversations on projects, or even roundtables, to learn from them directly.

Of the experiences you had in Vancouver, from one-on-one time with a colleague walking through the city or visiting the companies we’ve talked about, was there anything you took away that will help us work smarter and/or more effectively?

When you get to know people for a week, like we did, you start to see more of how they think and work and what their interests are. Building real relationships with people helps us all work smarter and more efficiently together. The sessions we did at THNK School of Creative Leadership did a great job of helping us understand that – if you can make working together more enriching, the output will always be better. 

Totally. The THNK session resonated with me, particularly as the newest Jones on the squad. Empathy was the name of the game in the THNK session, which is also one our core values, but it’s a value we have to continually practice together in order to truly understand it. I didn’t quite grasp that until after the THNK session. For example, knowing that I have “permission to fail” helped to instill a lot of personal confidence in me, as well as eliminated an expectation of perfection in everyone else

In a post-mortem Vancouver meeting, we broke out into groups and discussed what we learned. In my group, we all had this epiphany that curiosity was a core value and why everyone had such a great time exploring together. I think we can turn curiosity into a competitive advantage. Companies are looking for ways to inject curiosity into their teams, but they may not know how to position it. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we inject this curiosity into our value proposition. If you work with us, you get the objective met, yes, but we also teach curiosity values.

I actually got to know people I don’t work with on a regular basis. We’ve [Dana] never worked together and I spent some time getting to know you, Josh and a few others. It sets us up for success for when we are on a team together in the future. To me, that’s pretty valuable.

Heather French

Again, virtual reality, people. It’s the future.

In Vancouver, we not only learned more about each other, which my colleagues and I agree was the most valuable aspect of this international party offsite, we broadened our perspectives and challenged our biases through experiences. Most importantly, we realized the value of those experiences because we approached them together, using our shared value of curiosity to interpret and learn from them.

If you missed the first post on our Vancouver trip, check it out here!