The year of 2020 taught us a thing or two about resilience. Specifically, it highlighted how education and continuous learning are key to navigating the troubled waters still ahead. By the end of 2020 we sat down with a few of our friends in the education field and discuss the matter of Resilience and Education in our latest Salon Talk. This article is us revisiting the topic a few months later with our speakers and contributors.
As a company established in Hong Kong in 1992, Marc & Chantal has evolved from a simple 2 cells organism (a Chantal and a Marc) into a multi-layered ensemble of individuals spread around the globe. This continuous evolution took us through cycles of crisis, highs and lows, from which we kept evolving, stronger and sharper. The constant iteration process organically build an engrained resilience into the company. When I was in Design School in Paris, my dear live-drawing teacher Chantal Petit once told me, as I was acting overly-confident with my sketches: “Cansier, every good day is a wasted day on you”. It seemed harsh at first, but I eventually got the message. It often takes a bad day to learn a lesson but more importantly, knowing that a small upset or a big failure can eventually lead to some positive outcome, makes the bitter… sweeter. If rather than dreading the resistance of reality, you lean into it, you can take ownership and shift fear into focus. Resilience becomes not just a learning process but a continuous attitude to the everyday. Where does this strength lies? How does it manifest itself? How do we nurture it in the healthiest way in our youths?
1. IT’S A PROJECT
A FUTURE-WISE EDUCATION
We first asked educator and entrepreneurRenée Boey. Renée approached us in early 2020 to create the branding for her new education venture, Bloom Academy. From our first meeting, I was stricken by how much Renée’s approach to education for primary and secondary and the ways we are operating as a creative studio aligned. The project-based approach is the obvious first link, our life as a company is structured around the projects we engage with. From that project-based approach comes the cross-disciplinary, inter-disciplinary, multi-disciplinary dimension. This is our landscape, where we live as Marc & Chantal. We were one of the first so-called “cross-disciplinary design studio” when we started in Asia.
I remember some peers in the industry genuinely laughing at the notion when we were trying to explain what we had in mind. That was the early 90s… Such holistic approach has been an industry standard for decades now, we have long evolved beyond that – but the essence of it must permeate education systems today. More than ever, we cannot think and learn in silos – even a simple iPhone has the computing power to outplay us in such configuration. Neural, collaborative work organisation is our next frontier. That is why the Project Based Approach and Design Thinking Process that Bloom Academy is embracing is so critical to the future of education.
"We live in an age where it is far riskier not to adapt. Sweeping technological changes have reshaped our children’s brains, future careers, the way they play and the way they learn."
DESIGN THINKING IN HIGHER EDUCATION
What’s distinctive about this approach to education is that it spans from early years education to tertiary education. Joseph Chan is the programme lead of Entrepreneurship, Design and Innovation at the University of Hong Kong. With a background in architecture, Joseph’s business and artistic vision has transpired not only in the university programmes he has created but also in inspiring educators and professionals across various industries.
Having studied Joseph’s programme at HKU, I (Melodie) was pleasantly surprised to see how seamlessly the skills I had cultivated throughout the course were applied through the various aspects of Marc and Chantal’s unique branding process. Sharing his perspective on innovation and entrepreneurship, Joseph Chan providing an insight into how universities are tackling complex challenges through design thinking.
"As agents of change, universities are driving the direction of changes – to develop, disrupt or transform. As catalysts, universities are more than just a strategic training and capacity-building partner, they connect groups of champions."
2. EMOTIONAL AGENCY
“In each of us, two natures are at war” Jekyll and Hyde, Robert Louis Stevenson
One of the first strategic principle I remember establishing in Marc & Chantal back in the early 2000s, was our belief in “emerging processes”. Simply put, it means starting on a path toward a solution without a preconceived idea of what the result will be or even if it can certainly be obtained… a tough sale to any “result-oriented” client. But it is in that leap of faith that creative nuggets can often be snatched. It takes confidence and mutual trust to accept such hypothesis. For us, it means trusting our intuitions. One of the most famous occurrence of emerging process is Albert Einstein theory of relativity. Einstein described having an “intuition” first that he then proceeded to demonstrate methodologically. For the common Earthlings that we are, lessons can still be learned from such stellar Luminaries. In a quantitative world, how we can reclaim our right to intuition? It is the premises of the Marc & Chantal story. Processes, methodology, strategic skills are interweaved with empathy and emotions, not separated in silos.
It is not just a stance but an organisational architecture within the company, manifested in our moniker: Brand Master-planners. Casting aside certainty, means trusting our feelings, our intuitions, our emotions, so that thoughts beyond imagination can emerge freely. Not having an answer is the ultimate creative tool. For the youth, the power of accepting failure need to be nurtured and supported by the educational system as well as by the familial structures. It takes a lot out of any parent to stand aside, let their child fail and step in only afterwards. Personally, I wasn’t given a guide book and the learning curve was steep. I certainly wished I had met Odette earlier and learned about the Gordon Parenting principles that she’s promoting! Parenting the Parents, I think we can all use a bit of that…
"Parents need to be seen as partners by schools when it comes to developing resilience. (...) Emotional resilience is not an inherent personality trait that only some possess. On the contrary, it involves behaviors, thoughts, and actions that anyone can learn and develop through practice and intentionality."
3. CATCHING WATER
The expression “catching water” is commonly used among competitive swimmers to describe that perfect balance in their stroke, applying strong pressure while not forcing their effort to the point of losing the “feeling” of water. Strength applied inconsiderably can actually slowdown the swimmer by offsetting sensations and position.
It is a refined yet powerful allegory that illustrates many aspects of the challenge we have faced in our professional or personal life since the beginning of the COVID crisis. That feeling of sinking, unable to power through no matter how much effort we put into it.
And of course, we cannot actually just “catch” water with our hands, as it trickles aways. The irony and the wise humility are not lost on Yvette Kong, Olympic swimmer for Hong Kong who participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics and who introduced to me this concept.
In addition, Yvette is a keen practitioner of the Wing Chun martial art. Wing Chun is a form of sparing technique between two fighters who “mirror” their hand movements – feeling and neutralising each other attacks in a natural, relaxed way, but at very high speed. Strength, and resistance are achieved through maximum relaxation and focus… Bruce Lee famously championed his own version of Wing Chun as he was bringing martial art to the world.
Yvette holds a degree in cognitive science from the University of California, Berkeley, was a consultant at McKinsey, a passionate advocate for mental health and board member of Mind Hong Kong, and much more… this might read like the resume of an overly activated overachiever, but Yvette is anything but a calm figure of focus. Clearly the “fire’ in her was meant to meet water. I can picture a kid in Hong Kong looking at Yvette as a superhero figure. A “Wonder Woman” symbol that could inspire any youngster to dream big and bold.
It is then all the more important that Yvette is so willing to share her story of successes as well as struggles and bring the message to all that “failures are a springboard to success”. As a board member of MIND Hong Kong, Yvette is tapping into her own experience to promote the de-stigmatisation of mental health problems. She battled depression in her teen to finally achieve her childhood goal and qualify for the Rio Olympic Game.
As grown up adults, it is our responsibility to teach our youth that success is a fluid concept. By definition, not everybody is meant to be an Olympic athlete and so many seemingly “successful” people admit suffering from a miserable life even at the height of their career and celebrity. Learning how to define the parameters of one own success shouldn’t just be left to chance. Those are vital skills that can be taught in a mature education system, from the earliest age. Accepting failures, being able to receive constructive feedback, constantly adapting goals and approaches are the keys to develop a healthy and necessary resilience to the world... “Be water my friend”.
Thank you for reading our latest Le Salon article. We had the pleasure of working with guest writers, Renee Boey, Joseph Chan, Odette Umali and Yvette Kong. We hope you find our article insightful as we explored what it means to be resilient and fostering this in our future generation. To read more from us, make sure to take a look at our previous insight articles and subscribe to our newsletter.