Curating Greatness with Ralph Lauren – Q&A with Laura Winch

 

Laura is our totally awesome User-Experience Design Manager. When she joined e3 in February 2014 she started working with one of our luxury retail clients . Here we interview her…

 

1. Let’s start with a bit of background about this project. What was it all about?
This is the second year we’ve worked with this client. We facilitated their leadership offsite last year when Senior Vice President first joined the team. It was a great opportunity to work with them again for the second year, especially as there were new members to the team and several changes to the organization structure.

We had three days scheduled with the Leadership Team at their offsite in Hong Kong but the project didn’t start or end there. The pre-work and follow up sessions were as important as the offsite.

 

 

2. How did you get started?
Starting a project like this is always daunting but very exciting. There were a lot of people to meet and to make the leadership offsite a success we had to know what problems we were trying to solve. Which meant stepping in to the world of the Merchandising team…

We facilitated 7 x full-day workshops with each team, exploring team dynamics, painstorming as well as diving deep in to their business strategies and action plans. Prior to that, each person had completed a team effectiveness survey so we were able to spot patterns.

Each member of the leadership team also participated in 360 degree surveys with one-one follow up sessions to go through their reports. This helped them see where their areas of focus should be but also guided us when thinking about the offsite agenda.

 

 

3. How did all this engagement shape the actual offsite meeting?
Our workshops gave us a fantastic insight in to each team but also in to the way the function worked together as a whole.They are an extremely talented team and recognised that there is always room for improvement. The painstorming exercise was particularly interesting, common themes were coming from each workshop. All these inputs fed into the design of the agenda for the offsite.

 

4. Tell us about the leadership offsite event.

I always say organizing an event is like a rollercoaster. This one was no different! After looking at what felt like 100 venues, and none being exactly right, we decided on using a different venue each day. I can’t say we made it easy for ourselves!

We knew how important it would be to mix up the space and environment so changing up the days entirely felt like the right thing to do. Taking inspiration from the brand we chose three very different lifestyles to create three unique experiences: The Hamptons, Americana and Hollywood Glamour.

Our invitations were a moodboard, made up of images representing the three themes. It was very inline with the Brand and each one was wrapped in beautiful black paper. We hand delivered them in Hong Kong and sent them to the rest of the team across Asia, Australia and New York.

When it came to the agenda design, each day was vastly different. We started slowly on day one, taking the time for ‘Connection’. It takes time for the participants to connect and it takes effort to create a safe environment for people to open up and engage. We spent the entire day getting people to talk, share, listen, connect and open their minds. Malissa took the time to hand-write personal cards to the 39 people on her team, and spent two hours going around the room and celebrating their achievements. It was very powerful.

Day two was focused around creating a strategic narrative for the function. The group was split in to smaller groups and each was involved in a different part of the Merchandising Story. Bringing everyone back together at the end of the day to hear the outcome was a significant moment for the team.

Day three was more about identifying the issues that were causing the most pain and committing to driving change.

I look back on the offsite and despite the pressure to find three equally awesome venues and panic to organize logistics and agendas I would do it all over again tomorrow. There’s something incredibly special about working up to a certain point on a project and seeing everyone and everything come together.

 

5. What were the outcomes of the offsite event?
We didn’t want to lose any momentum after the offsite. The Leadership team left on such a high with incredible energy and force to go forward, the last thing we wanted to do was get lost back in the day to day.

Each person at the offsite left with very clear actions, this was so important to them driving change. We scheduled in a follow up session and maintained close contact with the teams to check progress since the offsite.

The follow up event was for the entire function. It was a great opportunity to loop back in with those who attended the workshops, pre offsite, and invested a whole day to share feedback and challenges they faced.

We covered what we went through during the offsite with the leadership team running different interactive stations, each one representing a particular pain point that they were responsible for addressing. It was an extremely fun, high-energy day to close off the project.

What I learnt in my first year of full-time work

Hello. It’s been one whole year since I joined the lovely e3 family. I can’t quite believe that 365 days have already surpassed me but at the same time, it makes complete sense given all the cool projects I’ve been a part of. Then again, given all that I learnt in my first month alone, I knew that I was in for a big year.

On the occasion of celebrating my one-year anniversary, I sat down for a bit of reflection..

1. Everyone is creative.
It’s high time we stop doing ourselves the disservice of thinking that we’re not creative. Everyone has creative potential, regardless of industry and discipline. We need to tap into this potential. Going forward, the one skill we need from people is the ability to think creatively and come up with innovative solutions to some of our most complex problems. Being creative is to identify opportunities from problems.

It’s difficult for people to get started because thinking creatively requires us to let go of things we’ve be taught to hold on to. It’s about stepping into the unknown and being okay with asking more questions than having answers. It’s about forgetting assumptions, listening first and acting next. And this can be scary at first. But imagine a workforce full of people that think of themselves as creative. Anything that was ever a frustration or annoyance would become an opportunity for improvement.

2. Change agents are everywhere.
The typical e3 client is a disruptor. Bold. No tolerance for an uninspiring status quo. And they are from all sorts of industries – oil & gas, banking, fast moving consumer goods, airlines, etc. There are change agents everywhere, you just have to look. I bring this up because a lot of people make the excuse that they don’t have any room to think outside the box in their organisations. I understand that many companies are restrictive, but it’s also an individual responsibility and choice.  Everyday, I am so inspired by the people we’re lucky to call clients. They are the ones proposing major changes and overhauls in the way things are done internally. We need more people like that, the ones that are bold enough to suggest improvements. People who don’t passively suffer through problems but actually raise their hands and do something about it.

3. Dive into the chaos.
We often joke that e3 stands for emotional, exhausting and exciting because that’s the journey on most of our projects. It’s rarely ever smooth, easy, done and dusted. No. That would the anomaly. Most of the times, it’s up and down. Successes and failures. Trial and error. A lot of gut instinct tests. I often find that these things sound really cool in writing. Whenever I read about something like this, I imagine dynamic teams, lots of coloured post-its, markers, the smell of coffee. And sure, those things are indeed a part of the project. What is difficult to imagine, because it’s intangible, is the real stress people feel during the downs. When you are so close to completion and then have a real set back. Or when you keep trying things that don’t work. When you’re out of inspiration and ideas. It’s tough. But it’s BECAUSE of this process of iteration, starting small and testing, co-creating with clients, that we end up producing something that actually resonates and solves the problem. It’s the upfront chaos and complexity that leads to the simple, intuitive solutions later on.

4. Don’t worry about fitting in.
At university, I thought I missed the memo that outlined how to be successful in the next three years. Everyone around me seemed so sure of what they wanted to do and had everything lined up to get there. There weren’t many honest, energetic conversations about our passion, but lots of pseudo-intelligent comments about the latest news. Everyone trying to up each other. Success, it seemed, was a measure of everything but happiness. In this environment, I felt an outsider and like an amateur, doing the whole self-discovery thing instead of following the masses on what seemed like a proven path to success. Looking back, I am so glad I didn’t. Authenticity requires courage. At first, it can be daunting. Many perceive deviation from the status quo as you just not being good enough to make the cut. But that’s okay. All the time and energy spent into figuring it out for myself led me down a path where I get to spend my days with people who share a similar enthusiasm and passion for not wasting one’s life doing work that doesn’t excite them. Life is fun and you are under no pressure to wait till you crack mid-career to start doing what you love.

A powwow with Benjamin Nomine


Every so often we sit down with one of our favourite people and ask them a few questions. Benjamin Nomineis everything e3 hopes to find in a partner. He is passionate, energetic and wants to help HR disrupt itself. He is also a true global citizen; growing up in France, living in Ireland, marrying an Indian/Irish woman and raising his daughter in Singapore.Tell us your Singapore story, how did you end up here?
It was the end of a cycle, I believe in questioning and challenging myself once things become too comfortable. I had already done a major change in my career path 12 years ago. Being initially a Microbiologist, it was not a natural move to start working in HR after my MBA. After 10 years working in Paris, it was time to move on and discover new horizons.

There is another reason, our daughter was one year old and it was important for us to show her a world with no borders, no limits and with amazing diversity.

Using only three adjectives, how would you describe Singapore to someone who has never been here?
Hot, humid, stuffy? … Seriously: diverse, dynamic, challenging but full of opportunities.

What’s the coolest thing you worked on in Europe?
It is actually not something I have worked on, it is people I have worked with. I started working in HR for the big H. I still believe there are too many HR organizations hiding behind processes when the key issue is the conversation you are having with people and connections you are creating between the business needs and people’s needs.

What’s the most interesting thing about working in the oil & gas industry?
It really is a global and very technical industry. But the most interesting aspects come from its weaknesses. There is a skills shortage and we are in the midst of a global talent war, with a huge need for developing a local talent pool that does not exist yet.

But it also is an old-school industry. This industry needs fresh ideas. There is a real challenge in trying to convince its leaders that change is good and that being different is a strength!

What advice would you give to someone who is starting out on an EVP project?
Get involvement of the Leaders from the beginning and then involve as many employees as you can. Keep in mind it is not an HR project but a companywide project. Also, don’t sell what you want to be – sell what you really are. Clever marketing will not save you. Last, be passionate! But that should apply for anything you are starting.

What advice would you give someone starting out on a journey with e3?
Don’t be scared! Open your mind, embrace the ideas, seize the moment (this one is for you Em!)

You’re a runner. Tell us about it.
I started running a few years ago and it quickly became an addiction. I like it because it is made of determination, dedication and self-discipline. A lot of people I meet are asking me why I am running. I guess sometimes you just do things. And it is part of me now.

The truth is I run to breathe and to escape the ordinary. But I also run to explore, discover and reconnect with myself, with other runners and with my environment.

Most important of all, I run because whenever I do so, life becomes a little more vibrant, a little more intense. I think I want to make sure I possess the strength to attempt something I am not sure I can accomplish.