How Open Collaboration Can Solve Some of the World's Biggest Design Challenges

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What happens when you bring together a select group of the world’s top corporate design directors and ask them to create and run a company? Some pretty innovative ideas.

[Raymond], the brainchild of Park and Eden, an interactive-experience design firm, started 15 years ago with the goal of doing just that: creating an environment where the creative genius of world-class designers could come together and collaborate on leading-edge solutions for some of their biggest design challenges & opportunities.

The two day immersive retreat introduces design directors to new tools, processes and engagement methods, as well as framing, empathizing, iterating, envisioning & prototyping exercises with fellow design colleagues to further creativity and collaboration.

As designers ourselves and in the agency world, we initially thought about the challenges that could arise with an event like this. We know all too well how protective designers and design managers are with their proprietary, creative process. But after reading how successful it’s become, we were curious to learn more.

We decided to meet with Jay Peters, Managing Director of the US division of PARK to get more information about past retreats and how [Raymond] came to be. An invite-only event, [Raymond] cultivates the cream of the crop when it comes to talent, bringing in design leaders from some of the US and EU’s biggest corporations. To keep the collaboration open, only design leaders from non-competing industries are invited. In 2016 the US and EU retreats drew an impressive attendee list: design leaders from Kimberly Clark, Diebold, Crown, Texas Instruments, the Chamberlin Group, Toyota, Unilever, Assa Abloy, Heineken, Hewlett Packard, Carrefour (the world's 2nd largest retailer) and others joined in.

An introductory round of Pecha kicked off the 2-day event, where design leaders got to know one another on a personal and professional level. Then, the group tackled that year’s theme, CX (customer experience) with special guest Surya Vanka, former director of design at Microsoft.

Surya discussed his insights into CX, sharing his expertise spanning part of his 16-year career, when he helped lead Microsoft to become a more design driven company. This journey was one that focused on improving the user experience from discovering valuable insights, derived from intensive design research studies, to taking inspiration from all types of best in class examples, including analogous and non-analogous industries. Surya’s presentation concluded with 10 leading best practices of Consumer Experience, exemplified through industry leaders such as Starbucks, Nike and BMW.

In our interview with Jay we were able to get some intel on the core of the retreat and the vision for 2017.

How did this retreat come to be?

“We saw a need to create a setting where we could ambitiously bring together the brightest design minds in an environment that contradicted the typical crowded conferences, with endless speeches and impersonal networking.

We decided that in order to create an environment that inspired the most creative minds in the world, we had to think like them and inspire them like no one else has in the past. This is a space where design professionals meet and exchange their surprisingly similar challenges and offer solutions that ultimately creates more success and inspired thinking.”

What do you, personally, see as the benefit to the design industry as a whole by creating events such as these?

“The benefit we provide is bringing together like minded peers to comfortably and openly discuss challenges that are commonplace. It benefits the design industry in whole as there is a better understanding and confidence that the challenges are not unique and can be conquered from a shared general approach.”

How did Tom Lockwood come to be involved and what do you expect he'll bring to the table for the attendees?

“Tom has been a longtime friend and extended network affiliate of PARK since the very beginning. His expertise as the former President of the Design Management Institute (DMI) and editor of leading publications like Design Thinking – Integrating Innovation, Customer Experience, and Brand Value, Corporate Creativity – Developing an Innovative Organization, Building Design Strategy – Using Design To Achieve Key Business Objectives, make him uniquely qualified to bring significant value to attendees.

Tom has participated in several prior [Raymond] events and is familiar with the challenges faced by most design leaders. He aims to provide inspiration and broad knowledge to the attendees throughout the event.

In addition to Tom, Miquel Munar, Senior Managing Director of Roca, and Tobias Haug, Head of Design & Co-Innovation Center at SAP, will act as special Guest Experts at the [Raymond] Retreat in the EU, happening concurrently with the Chicago event, to further collaboration and inspiration.”

Why the Catalyst Ranch?

“The Catalyst Ranch is a unique and inspiring environment that compliments the [Raymond] promise of providing a memorable experience to the event, while Chicago was chosen due to its central location for travels from coast to coast.”

What was the impetus to choosing this year's topic, "Design Thinking: What's Next"?

“We asked (polled) potential participants to choose between 3 general prevailing themes we see relevant in the industry right now: 1) Design Thinking 2) Digitalization 3) Sustainability. We continue to see Design Thinking to be a prevalent and in demand topic amongst design and business leaders of fortune 500’s and beyond.”

What would you consider your primary goal for the event?

“We believe the best successes are when the participants are collaborating, coaching and challenging one another to draft materials and walk away with actionable pragmatic plans to further develop and implement into their organizations.”

Describe one of your favorite moments or achievements from a past summit.

“Every year is a unique topic and experience, but a key achievement (on several occasions) was when participants met and decided to further collaborate by either simply visiting each other’s design facilities or in some cases ventured into shared projects.”

We’re actually planning on attending this year and really excited to be part of this elite group of design professionals! It will be held in Chicago again, on May 9th and 10th at the Catalyst Ranch, and in the EU in Rotterdam, Holland. You can find out more about the event here.

Co-Authored by Twyla Monti

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