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: MakerLabs, HMCA Architecture + Design, Archiact 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.

Dipanjan Chatterjee

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?

Dipanjan Chatterjee

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

Dipanjan Chatterjee

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!