Thomas Heatherwick speaking about The Garden Bridge project

Thomas Heatherwick speaking about The Garden Bridge project

Skanska – Fast forward thinking

The Skanska UK Future Day conference was a very timely event. Its focus on how future cities will be financed, designed and inhabited was most thought-provoking. The speakers had many insightful comments on leadership, networks, but above all trust. Both Johan Karlström, President CEO of Skanska and Mike Putnam, President and CEO of Skanska UK shared their thinking on how to build for future generations.

The trend expert Thimon de Jong talked about generational changes and their effects on business, and human behavior regarding future technologies and new media. Gerd Leonhard is a human futurist who has tremendous experience from the fast-paced world of technology. He focused a lot on big data and the need to sign a new social contract. He believed that in the future we will see a new stock exchange for sustainable business ecology, just like NASDAQ for tech companies.

Thomas Heatherwick is an influential designer who shared some of his most exciting projects from the award winning UK Pavilion for the Shanghai World Expo, the new Routemaster bus (a red building on four wheels that does not need any planning permission) to the technology education building under construction at Nanyang Technology University in Singapore.

I particularly enjoyed Heatherwick’s softspoken comments about university life. He argued that nowadays you can basically stay in your bed with your computer and get a PhD. So what is then the purpose of a university building? “Before, the university was the place you would come to because it had the computers, or the university was the place that you would come to because it had the books,” said Heatherwick. In response, the university wanted to change from the traditional relationship between the tutor and the student and open up for more informal networking between teachers and students. Gone are the days when you build long corridors where people sit with their doors closed. Heatherwick pointed out that things have to excite people. “Nothing happens unless people are curious about what you are doing.”

Olympic legend Lord Coe talked about experiences from the London Olympics and Paralympics. He shared important insights about working with the local community and how important it is that people feel that they can trust you. In fact trust was a recurring theme throughout the afternoon. Everyone agreed that we need to pay more attention to trust in our societies.

My hat goes off to Skanska for organizing this great seminar. It was both a great event and a great learning experience.

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