ASID Design to Lead Summit: “Steal These Ideas”

Photos and a recap from the second annual ASID Design to Lead Summit.

ASID CEO Randy Fiser mingles with Design to Lead participants during lunch at Studio Theatre. Photo by Yura Liamin.
ASID CEO Randy Fiser mingles with Design to Lead participants during lunch at Studio Theatre. Photo by Yura Liamin.

On Monday at Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., designers gathered from around the country for the second annual ASID Design to Lead Summit. After ASID CEO Randy Fiser kicked off the event, emcee Reed Kroloff, a principal at jones|kroloff, implored the crowd to “steal the ideas” that the day’s speakers stood poised to impart.

For Don Blanchon, it’s all about core values. In his keynote, he spoke on how he integrates the values of Whitman-Walker Health into all his decisions as executive director. Photo by Yura Liamin.
For Don Blanchon, it’s all about core values. In his keynote, he talked about how he integrates the values of Whitman-Walker Health into his decisions as executive director. Photo by Yura Liamin.

The first keynote of the day was presented by Don Blanchon, the executive director of Whitman-Walker Health. He spoke candidly about how his personal journey has led him to his current position, and how his core values—as well as the values of the organization—inform his decisions as executive director. He also discussed how the design of their new D.C. medical facility, executed by Perkins+Will, is a reflection of the clinic’s mission. “It’s a light and open space,” he said, and it expresses the sense of humanity that WW has always sought to extend to patients. As for how he keeps his eyes on the ball in such a fast-paced city, he said it’s important not to “try to outpace it”. “When the going gets fast,” he added, “slow down.”

Later in the afternoon, attendees were given the opportunity to tour Whitman-Walker Health. You can get a sense of the transformation in this video:

The late morning panel including presentations from Lori Zukin, a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton and an executive coach, and Tim Tobin, the VP of global learning and leadership development for Marriott International and the author of the recently published book, Your Leadership Story.

Lori Zukin, Ph.D reflected on the ten leadership characteristics she focused on developing as a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton. Photo by Yura Liamin.
Lori Zukin reflected on the ten leadership characteristics she focused on developing as a principal at Booz Allen Hamilton. Photo by Yura Liamin.

Zukin shared the top ten things she wished she had known when she was promoted to leadership. Pearls included a reminder that leadership is a public act—all eyes are on you—and that a leader’s emotions affect his or her performance more than you might think. We all know you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, but there’s science to it, too: “Researchers say a positive mood appears to strengthen alternative ways of thinking and behaving,” said Zukin. And when the going gets tough? “Just breathe,” she said. “Five in, five out, for five minutes a day.”

Tobin signed copies of his books for attendees. Photo by Yura Liamin.
Tobin signed copies of his books for attendees. Photo by Yura Liamin.

Tobin shared insights into how the designers in the audience might think about their own “leadership stories”. “All leadership is autobiographical in nature,” he said. “And stories have power.” The outcomes of stories, he said, is that they “provide meaning and relevance, they help us to make emotional connections, and they energize, inspire, and motivate us”—that’s why your own story is so important to they way you lead.

After lunch, Kenneth Baker, a regional managing principal at Gensler, Deborah Lloyd Forrest, the president of ForrestPerkins, and Rachelle Schoessler Lynn, a senior associate at MSR talked shop with the audience about how firm leaders can think creatively about complex issues and instill broad strategic vision across firm activities.

Toni Griffin, the founding director of the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City, closed out the day with a discussion about her work with the cities of Detroit, Newark, D.C., and New York, and how design can have a transformative impact on urban renewal. For a taste of her inspiring work and perspective, check out her TED Talk below:

In Griffin’s work—using design to renew cities—and in leadership generally, perhaps Tobin summed it up best at the end of his presentation: “They say the grass is always greener on the other side. But it’s actually greener where you water it.”

And that’s an idea worth stealing.

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