Last week I had the great opportunity to travel to sunny (and warm) Orlando, Florida to present at BIFMA’s annual leadership conference. BIFMA is the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association, with a membership comprised businesses engaged in design, development, marketing, and fulfillment of office furniture; businesses that supply goods, parts, or components to the office and institutional furniture industry; businesses that provide services to the office and institutional furniture industry; and, international members.
The theme of this year’s conference was Transformative Times: Leadership, Growth, Survival. My presentation was on social media and technology – telling the story of HOK’s social media adventures, giving some ideas for best practices (and next practices), and making some predictions (AKA wild guesses) for the future. The attendees were fantastic – very attentive and thoughtful in their questions…and fun tweets (check here to see tweets from the conference).
The other presenters were fantastic – the event opened with a discussion of design thinking and innovation by Roger Martin from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto – my favorite take away from his presentation was that our need to measure and prove everything is impeding our ability to innovate…if there’s one thing you can’t prove in advance, it’s innovation.
Mr. Martin was followed by David Walker from Dyson…yes, the vacuum cleaner/airblade/most awesome and bladeless fan Dyson. Lesson learned here: technology starts with frustration! Dyson seeks to do more with less, being not just environmentally friendly and financially vivable, but also to develop products with a social benefit! “It’s great fun creating products that are disruptive.”
I have to be honest, I skipped the next presentation, which was given by ecoScorecard’s Paul Shahriari – sorry Paul – it was for the benefit of all that I rehearse my presentation one last time Paul spoke about level - BIFMA’s product certification for sustainability in product design. Rumor has it that he did a great job.
Following a delish lunch, I had the opportunity to present my thoughts in a breakout session (up against Office Depot’s Yalmaz Siddiqui. I was bummed to miss his presentation, but had a great time connecting with the folks who selected my presentation.
The next presentation was by Google product evangelist Aidan Copra. Never before has someone shown “where the magic happens” in a conference I’ve been to. Aidan did a great job sharing Google’s fantastic technologies, particularly Google Docs and SketchUp – two HOK favorites!
To close out day 1, we participated in something I’ve never done before: a progressive dinner (not a progressive drinkin’ party). Each diner was given a card with three different table numbers: one for salad, one for main course, and one for dessert. At each table, the host asked the table a question – discussion would ensue, and then the participants recorded their thoughts on cocktail napkins. This was a great way to get everyone talking and interacting – so much fun!
The next day, we were treated to a lecture by Fred Keller of Cascade Engineering (also a prof at Cornell). Fred’s talk focused on how the next generation of great innovations usually comes from the manufacturing industry…and we, in the US, need to kick it up! He closed out by reminding us that we can’t insulate ourselves from making mistakes; mistakes are part of our learning experiences.
The event closed out with a fantastic panel discussion, featuring designers (Victoria Mohar and Chris Blackadder), a human resources professional (Mark Lancaster), a broker (John Schlessinger of CBRE), and Fred Keller. The panel was brilliantly moderated by Knoll President Lynn Utter.
Overall – such a wonderful experience – BIFMA’s team and attendees were smart, fun, engaging, thoughtful – I’m so happy that I had the opportunity to meet them! Thanks to all!