By Michael Adams
A successful Hospitality Design Summit relies on a mysterious blend of elements. Location is one of them. This year’s event—our 15th—found the near perfect spot at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel in Dana Point, California. With its expansive views of the Pacific, a neverending stream of surfers, two or three spectacular sunsets, and ideal brisk and sunny weather, the site made everyone—especially those of us escaping an endless winter—happy just to be there.
Then there are the speakers. We try very hard to gather an array of experts who offer guidance in leadership, creativity, motivation, and inspiration, and this year’s roster was particularly successful in engaging us. David Cooper, managing director of sales for Stewart Lender Services, who has been blind since his teenage years, spoke movingly (and often hilariously) of the challenges he faces in his daily Manhattan life, as well as on his frequent business trips. (And we fell in love with Parnelli, his guide dog!) Neil Pasricha, creator of the hugely popular 1,000 Awesome Things website extolled the virtues of finding the “awesome” in our daily lives—those gentler pleasures that we often overlook and that are often far more enriching.
Writer and travel maven Pico Iyer talked of his journeys throughout the world and his happy discovery that we are often closer to our true, more contended selves, when we are disconnected from social media, free from unnecessary amenities, and allowed to remain peaceful, quiet, and solitary. And Philippe Petit, internationally known for walking a high-wire across various world landmarks—including one strung between the towers of the World Trade Center in 1974—spoke of his own definition of creativity, which includes faith, simplicity, elegance, drama, and a host of other elements that help define his own exploits of awe-inspiring dexterity.
But it fell to filmmaker Nirvan Mullick to get the audience—literally—on its feet. Three years ago, Mullick created Caine’s Arcade, a short film that tells the story of Caine, a then-9-year-old boy from Los Angeles whose homemade arcade, built from cardboard and other discarded scraps, became a sensation after Mullick’s video went viral. Since then, Mullick has embraced the cause of encouraging creativity and entrepreneurship in children through his Imagination Foundation.
Nirvan’s challenge to us: create an arcade game of your own using cardboard, tape, and a host of other recycled materials—in one hour. Teams were formed, materials grabbed, and in the next sixty minutes the Ritz ballroom became a frenzy of insane creativity. The din of teamwork was just about deafening, as adults turned positively childlike in their enthusiasm and imagination (and competitiveness).
I was totally skeptical that anything salvageable or recognizable could be made out of the pile of detritus at hand, but I underestimated the competitive skills and design expertise of our group. Within the entire frame, intricate, elaborate—and sometimes confounding—creations filled the room, while 400-plus design pros turned into precocious kids. The mood continued throughout the evening, when everyone after dinner headed to a nearby room where the games were on display. Kudos to all of the attendees who turned the day into a joyful romp.
And thanks to everyone—sponsors, delegates, speakers, staffers—for helping make this an incredibly enjoyable Summit, a highlight, I think, for all of us.
Next year: Amelia Island, Florida. We’re already planning the magic for that one.