I’ve always loved to travel. But, I hate to travel as a tourist. As a very young child, I spent nearly two years traveling around the United States in a white 1967 VW Van. While I missed kindergarten and some of first grade, the fundamental experience of being a child and exposed to different environments initiated a quest to understand and discover the inner workings of the world. The world travel of my youth has shaped the depth of my curiosity and fostered a lifelong search for meaning, which eventually led me to design and innovation.

For me, travel is an opportunity to explore the underlying system that makes people and things behave the way they do. ‘Why?’ is a question I am always asking. And this led to my belief that systems can be decoded, and from an innovations standpoint, it can be improved.

Designers and innovators are always asking, “what is the situation and what about it can be improved?” If you can figure out what drives a system, whether on a company level or societal level, you then have the ability to rethink how the system functions. And for me, what drives me to achieve these outcomes is my need to find relevancy and meaning.

To me, my responsibility as a designer is to help companies stay relevant to people and communities. What I liked about Amway was the reach and resources, which allowed me and my team to connect with people across the globe. Working in far flung places like Africa, Thailand and Europe has allowed me to dig deep and work with distinct cultures to reach creative solutions that are valuable within those unique communities.

Now as President of NewNorth, I get the opportunity to engage companies and organizations in West Michigan as they ask tough questions about how to grow and stay relevant to the customers and communities they serve. Engaging and educating local leaders on the opportunities for innovation in their organizations is a great way to be part of the evolution of the area into a national hub for design.