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Friday at Four: Reflection, Reinvention and a little Miles Davis

Team Xdesign
Friday At Four Reflection Reinvention And A Little Miles Davis

Fridays at Four are Xdesign’s group hangout sessions in which we set out to learn something new and improve the team. These discussions can range from a TED Talk to the latest in design or typography trends, to just taking a break to sit outside in the sun. This is Hunter Territo’s talk on reflecting on what you already know, but reinventing and using it in a way you haven’t ever thought to before.

Recently I had the opportunity to attend a conference in New York City. It was a single day event hosted by Dave Ramsey, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Seth Godin. It focused on Leadership, Digital Media, and Marketing.

A great conference provides the opportunity to focus on that business away from the office and provide a chance to reinvent yourself, your focus, and push your company forward. In short, it’s a great opportunity to fill up the tank.

At the conclusion of the conference I wanted to spend some time putting new ideas and thoughts from the conference into action. Thanks to one of our clients, and a great personal friend, Chef Peter Sclafani, I’ve discovered a love for food & drinks outside of the office. Anytime I travel I always look for the best restaurants and bars to visit and ask his recommendations. In NYC, the options are plenty. I was able to snag a reservation for one at Eleven Madison Park, arguably the best restaurant in the country. (How I got the reservation is a story for another day.)

It’s a 4-hour dining experience unlike anything I have experienced. As I sat there, reading through my pages of notes from the day and putting new thoughts down, I couldn’t help but be inspired by my surroundings. These guys at Eleven Madison Park were doing it right. At the conclusion of dinner I was offered a tour of the kitchen. As you enter the kitchen there is a beautiful sign that lists words: Cool, Endless Reinvention, Inspired, Forward Moving, Fresh, Collaborative, Spontaneous, Vibrant, Adventurous, Light, Innovative. It was the backbone of their brand. Then there were two prints of Miles Davis taken in the 60s. When I asked why Miles Davis they told me that they once had a restaurant critic say the restaurant needed a little more “Miles Davis.” At the time they were one of the top restaurants in the city. However, they still took this criticism to heart. They wanted to push themselves to be the best.

The words on the sign are all adjectives that were used to describe Miles Davis and words they would use a guide for everything they do. “Endless Reinvention” stuck out to me. It’s exactly why I love getting away from the office to focus on the company.

Over the years Eleven Madison Park has made a lot of small changes. Here are a few:

  • They brought in bigger chairs. That meant less over all seating, but more comfortable seating.

  • They made the tables bigger so you could have a more private dining experience and don’t feel like the table next to you can hear every word of your conversation.

  • The service team uses hand signals to communicate so that your dining experience is calm and relaxed.

  • The team also only walks the restaurant clockwise, causing a steady stream of traffic, it was like poetry in motion.

  • If you get up to use the restroom or ask where it is, your server will personally escort you, and all of the servers walking the restaurant will stop to allow you a clear path.

They reinvented themselves and even took the menu away completely. Now, they serve you a story of dishes that highlights New York City and focuses on your personal experience. People thought they were crazy making all of these changes and that it would be career suicide.

None of those changes are ground breaking necessarily as individual items. However, put them all together and you have a major shift. The restaurant is now ranked #4 in the world, the highest ranked restaurant in North America.

It's the small things.

As dinner concluded and I walked back to my hotel, I’s the small things. If you take them as individual items, they seem easy to skip or forget, yet that is what makes them so very important.

Seth Godin led a very simple exercise during the conference - You can even do this as you read:

1. Raise your hand as high as you can.

2. Now raise it higher.

Everyone in the audience fell for the trick. It’s very simple, but it’s very powerful. We’ll excuse our way out of things and say we’re going as hard as we can. Are we? You can raise it higher. There is always room for improvement.

We always seem too busy to focus on the small things, yet there is nothing that could be more important. When’s the last time you stepped away from your desk and took a hard look at what you are doing?

As I continue to go through my conference notes of everything I learned that day and put them into action for our team, my focus is on the small things. There’s nothing more important.

Unplug and go somewhere you’ve never been before. Be inspired. Figure out what you can do better.

I guarantee there is a small change somewhere that can lead to big results.


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