Lessons we learned from turning 5.

Happy Birthday to us!

5 years ago today, I had the bright idea of making a company called Exhibit Change. It was my way of bringing together design and community and being able to work at this intersection ever since has been supremely amazing!

Over the last 5 years, I have learned a thing or two and I thought I would share:

1. Collaboration is hard – it is no question that we can get more done with others than we can alone, we all know this. And there is a beautiful harmony to getting into the groove with another person or team and just making things happen. There is no denying that the vision grows and the idea spreads its wings to fly. Alas, we know it is hard. It is harder to bend to another person’s demands or to flex your mindset. That doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying.

2. Keeping challenging others – just like collaboration, challenging each other is what gets our growth mindset into gear. It is those moments where you know you should say something even though it is going to get you some death stares and unfriendly comments. It is challenge others and yourself that keeps you from letting the status quo wash over you.

3. Accept feedback – this is one of the hardest things to do. We are all really familiar with the nice thing-mean thing-nice thing feedback sandwich. We want to appreciate each other and the work we do, but all you ever remember is how the mean thing left you feeling. Giving feedback is difficult and accepting feedback makes you vulnerable.

4. Question everything – never assume, things are the way they are for a reason and just accept it. Asking questions, much like collaboration and challenging others is often thought of as an annoying habit of 5 year olds. Well guess what, we are 5!!! So we are going to keep asking why all day long.

These are the lessons that fuel our work and the last 5 years have been brilliant, who knows what will come next!




The Value of a Pivot

Often, we set out with a plan in mind and it seems crystal clear exactly how we are going to make that idea happen. In our minds, we have probably been playing with this idea in different forms and sometimes just saying it out loud can take it in an entirely different direction.

13127049044_d9bdb3a598_cWe work in complex problems and sometimes find ourselves as the ones who have to say, “hold on… what are we actually trying to achieve here?”

This is an extremely difficult conversation to have especially when it feels like forward is the only way to go. We have all been on a project where the bias to take action is imperative, time is of the essence, everything around you seems to be saying yes, yes, yes and yet this is the moment when reflection and feedback serve the greatest purpose.

The value of a pivot:

  • Take a pause;
  • Reflect on how you got here;
  • Question the process;
  • Develop a strategy to the strategy; and
  • Fundamentally challenge your assumptions.

Find your repurpose.

It feels simpler to listen to everyone that is agreeing and seek kind feedback to justify what you are doing. The complexity is looking for respectful and challenging feedback for an opportunity to react and pivot.

Momentum can be dangerous, as it pushes you in the only direction it can. 

Let’s not kid ourselves, we are huge fans of bringing outrageous ideas to fruition, that is how we ended up doing a Nuit Blanche exhibit in a truck and a ball pit in a park. We love to play with making ideas happen and undeniably we learn greatly from these ideas.

So, sometimes it is awkward to be seen as the one driving towards action and simultaneously having to put the breaks on.


It may feel like taking a pivot is going sideways or even worse backwards, but we strongly value the role and position of being able to embrace this moment and push beyond it. It is an opportunity to fail up (push to, through and beyond failure) to be able to see what you are learning and what you need next.

It takes great strength to be able to acknowledge what didn’t work. 

We appreciate that is difficult to both give and receive feedback, especially with every intention of being empathic and vulnerable. (I know that I am trying to work on this.) It is common to be defensive, this is a skill we have honed for years.

This is the messiness of the process. It is never as linear as it is on paper or as clear as it is in our minds. We understand that a pivot may feel disruptive or even abrupt. We admire organizations that can take the time to reflect on the greater good for the users as opposed what the designers want. It can be difficult to separate personal aspirations from project aspirations.