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Embracing A Diverse Workforce Can Birth Better Ideas And Better Decision Making

I had the pleasure of interviewing Vincent Liew, the executive board member of Wilson Associates and executive vice president of Arcplus…


I had the pleasure of interviewing Vincent Liew, the executive board member of Wilson Associates and executive vice president of Arcplus Group International

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

This is probably the most American response ever but I came up with a football analogy to convince a room full of creative personalities that I was equipped and experienced enough to advise THEM on how to deliver a more profitable outcome for a client. The senior managers that I was advising already had 30–40 years experience in their field. I was often challenged but then I came up with this icebreaker “Think of me as a football coach. I may not be able to score a goal for you, but I can provide the management strategy, coaching, and planning to help you have a successful season, not just win the one game.”

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Wilson Associates was established close to 50 years ago and is the third largest hospitality design firm in the world. Wilson Associates has earned its reputation as an agile firm with creative talent and progressive thinkers. I think we stand out because we constantly seek out new ways of thinking and approaches to projects. We truly listen to our clients and figure out how to execute their vision through design.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

Yes! Wilson Associates now has 10 offices worldwide, and each region has its hands full with myriad projects, from luxury skyscrapers across Asia, to a new resort in Morocco, to an adaptive reuse project in Los Angeles. And we’re excited about a handful of high-profile projects in France and Italy but I can’t talk about them just yet.

Our new London office has some exciting but confidential projects in the works, and we’re collaborating with Zaha Hadid Architects and Arcplus, but unfortunately, we can’t reveal the details yet. The Four Seasons Kuala Lumpur is opening this year, and we’ve just started working on a Renaissance hotel in New York, and a couple of Viceroy hotels internationally. Stateside, the Hard Rock Hotel in Hollywood, Florida, is under construction, and we’re working on a number of hotels and resorts in California and Hawaii. Also, the same design team that created the first design for Dorado Beach, A Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Puerto Rico, was tapped to help renovate the property in its recovery from Hurricane Maria.


What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive? 

Your employees are your biggest asset. Don’t take them for granted! Develop the office into a workplace that people are proud to be a part of, and fight for your talent. The design world is incredibly competitive and to maintain an edge over competitors, look to your team. The best ideas don’t come from one person, it’s collective — for innovation to take place, you need the broadest range of possibilities and perspectives, a diverse talent pool, is integral. Empower your staff to express themselves, no matter their age, gender, ethnicity, or level of experience.

At Wilson Associates, we encourage ‘worldly’ thinking and like to tackle design challenges with a ‘global lens’. We provide secondment opportunities for our staff and our studio leaders are generally from other countries, from Singapore to New York, and from London to Shanghai. We are also very proud of the fact that our firm was founded and developed by a woman who was truly a pioneer in the industry, and 40% of Wilson Associates leaders are female.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? 

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have several mentors who have helped guide me and who taught me so much, enabling me have a multi-faceted perspective. One of my mentors left me with some great advice that I refer to every day: ‘Don’t just think one or two steps ahead; think three steps ahead and stand in another person’s shoes so you’re thinking holistically, in a more well-rounded approach. It keeps you from becoming siloed or too narrow focused.’

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My success along the way has taught me to approach everything in a more circular way; it’s important to realize that there are different stakeholders and having a 360 view to be able to take everyone and their perspective into consideration.

Can you share the top five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. 

1. Better ideas and better decision-making. A group of people with different sets of experiences and skills can provide insight and offer varying perspectives which leads to more options and solutions.

2. Attract new clients / business. If all your staff offered the same product, idea, or service, you’ve pigeonholed yourself. There’s really no way to grow your business.

3. Embracing differences leads to innovation. Instead of competing with rivals and ‘upping’ one another for work, collaborate! What you create or develop together could result in a more effective, successful, and robust outcome.

4. Implement a diversity program. Work with HR and senior leadership to develop a tangible agreement on equal opportunities.

5. Don’t let the staff get too comfortable; change is good! Reshuffle seating arrangements, pair different people on projects or tasks, build camaraderie and morale with work events such as happy hour, wellness week, paid time off to participate in charity programs, etc.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

As you can imagine, our line of work is really fast paced and unfortunately we’re not in control of every aspect of project delivery; we have to think about the client, contractors, vendors, etc., so of course there are stressful moments so I like to remind myself and my team that “In a crisis everything accelerates your experience. In the shortest time you gain the maximum learning curve.”

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

Elon Musk is forward thinking, and he’s had such diverse experiences in his life and career, with both successes and failures. But he’s not scared of hard work, and he rolls up his sleeves to put in the work needed to see to it that he can deliver what he’s promising. I’m inspired by him, and see a resemblance to him in my own humble journey and situat


Jilea Hemmings CEO & Co-Founder of Best Tyme. She is running a series on how technology is impacting healthcare.

Originally published at medium.com

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