We’re happiest when we’re learning
Happy teams › great work › sustainable futures. Bringing game-changing learnings back to Folk

Future London Post

For the best part of the last year I’ve joined 30 other design leaders from across the world and across multiple disciplines, travelling to London and San Francisco, to learn from some of the top agencies, businesses, start-ups and product companies.

The Future London Academy Executive Program for Design Leaders is a bit of a mouthful, but the program has been a game-changer for me both personally and professionally. The specially designed course is broken down into five intense two week modules and taught by CEOs, CTOs, Executive Coaches, Psychologists and Heads of Design amongst many others.

Using the Bauhaus approach to learning, the course is structured around five focus areas of person, product, team, company and world, with each module digging deeper into the knowledge, skills and mindsets needed to develop successful companies of the future.

Everyday of the course is different with lectures by top talent from the likes of AKQA, Wise, SkyScanner and Google, activities to embed the learning, group work to deeply discuss the concepts and frameworks and incredible site visits to some of the top agencies and organisations such as Pentagram, UsTwo, Salesforce, Foster & Partners and Landor & Fitch.

The learnings for me have been huge. From understanding the mechanics of the business operations and finances, to learning about new revenue streams and venture capital, strengthening my leadership capability, solving business challenges and attracting and retaining talent. The diversity of perspectives, insights and wisdom shared by the experts and mentors with years of experience across architecture, interior design, product design and more, has helped shape and sharpen my approach, philosophy and outlook as a design leader. 

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For Folk…

In the most recent module, we heard about building high-performing teams with a focus on clarity of purpose and roles, transparency of facts, debate before decisions, no avoidance of conflict and clear accountability. Just based on these points alone there are a number of new frameworks, templates and approaches that we’ll be embedding at Folk more broadly and across our teams.

For me…

My personal leadership style has always been to listen first, ask open questions and try to see things from the perspective of others to connect on a human-level. The course has helped me to hone this style and to pay greater attention to cultural background, different forms of knowledge and knowing, neurodiversity, inclusion, and awareness to the many styles of learning, thinking and communication. These are things that will only continue to become more important as the business landscape and employment landscape evolves.

One thing that remained constant across all modules is that people and teams are everything. If people aren’t happy, they don’t do great work and if we don’t do great work, we don’t win great work. Creating an environment where everyone feels valued and respected, and where their unique contributions can be fully utilised, and recognised helps us to build stronger, more cohesive teams and drive long-term success. And this needs to happen repeatedly day-to-day, not just when things go wrong.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence therefore, is not an act but a habit.

Greek philosopher

The biggest challenge, as with all learning and development, is dedicating the time to share and implement all the learnings from the course across the business and beyond. And this is something that has been frequently discussed by the program cohort throughout the year.

Time and budget are inevitably the biggest blockers when it comes to effectively translating learning into action, but this course has ingrained in me that creating a culture that values and prioritises learning and growth is one of the core tenants of happy teams.

In the final module of the course taking place in June 2023 we’ll unpack the boldly titled ‘world’ module with a focus on sustainability, the circular economy and ethics. With ‘sustainable futures’ as one of our three impact areas at Folk, I have high-hopes and big expectations for this module and I’ll be sure to make the time to share what I find and learn!

Written by:
Lou Helliwell,
Experience Design Director