Disruptors, Risk-​takers + Innovators

Mall Plus+: Challenging Assumptions about The Future

August 15, 2017

Shifting Perspectives + Gathering Insight

In today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) environment, the future is harder to predict than ever. Any assumptions we make are at best guesswork and at worst arrogance. However, when we step back and ask some big, bold questions we can broaden our perspective, challenge assumptions and explore possibility. Some of the most successful companies today are led by people who do just that – and we invited four of them to participate in our Mall Plus+ design charrette to make us uncomfortable with what we think we know.

Meet our Mall Plus+ entrepreneurs.



Our guest speakers took great risks in their careers to achieve a vision that others couldn’t necessarily see. As designers of the built environment this is something we must be bold enough to strive for if we are to set our clients up for success in an uncertain future.” B+H Senior Design Principal, Patrick Fejér.


Paul Rowan, VP of Inspiration/Founding Partner, Umbra

“Don’t partner with anybody like yourself to be truly successful in business.”

If you spend a minute with Paul, you know his wheels are always turning. No stranger to innovation, Paul is an advocate for shaking things up and taking calculated risks to further purposeful and intelligent design. From selecting business partners, to exploring new materials and technologies, and hacking life systems, Paul knows you need to take big shots and ignore the critics to be truly successful – you need to be brave and be willing to do things differently. He believes that rather than accepting inconveniences and disruptions in life, it’s imperative to find a way to solve them.

At the centre of his philosophy are people – from designers, to producers, to, most importantly, the end-users. Paul has seen a lot of disruption and watched trends come and go, but what remains constant is how people connect to each other and the world around them through smart design. He maintains that as traditional work/life boundaries continue to blur and arbitrary global boundaries continue to dissolve – businesses, and the products and services they provide – must evolve to fulfill a growing desire for casualization, integration, and customization.



Chris Carder, Co-Founder and Chief Commercialization Officer, Kinetic Café 

“Big corporations need to think like start-ups.”


Chris believes that every company can benefit from a start-up approach by being experimental and nimble. He has achieved innovation through rapid prototyping where failure and mistakes are accepted as par for the course and the learning process inspires change and transformation. Kinetic’s collaborative design approach completely immerses them with their clients – and their potential clients – to clarify needs, requirements, and expectations. The result is design facilitated by technology that brings ease to the user experience, saves costs, and offers a gold mine of marketing insight for future iterations.

Chris is a warrior of the unconventional in every sense of the word. He doesn’t believe that faceless corporations can possibly survive in a world where employees and colleagues want to engage with each other and with the products and services they provide. His work at Kinetic engages clients in a sense of cocreation where his team and clients collaborate to create user experiences supported by technology that’s accessible to everyone – regardless of age or competency. For Chris and his team, technology and design must work together to help people thrive.



Brandon G. Donnelly, VP, Development, Slate Asset Management L.P. Founder of www.brandondonnelly.com

“You only make money if you’re right about the things most people think are wrong.”


Brandon is the kind of person who refuses to leave any stone unturned – even if that stone requires heavy machinery and incredible effort to flip over. Knowing that opportunity typically lies in the most unexpected places and isn’t necessarily easily accessible, he’ll be the first to say that it’s important to target overlooked markets for misplaced assets. By taking an unconventional approach and being open to possibilities, Brandon finds innovation outside the status quo, the common, and the ordinary.

For Brandon, the art of innovation lies in being flexible. Educated as an architect and currently working in development, Brandon knows that rigid systems, spaces, and designs leave no room for the inevitable and necessary growth and transformation cities need to truly thrive. He envisions a future where space assets are reimagined – including everything from where we park our cars, to retail distribution centres, commercial spaces, and the mall as we currently know it. He believes that constantly evolving technology will not only continue to alter how we build physical spaces, but if unleashed, will be the catalyst we need for innovation.




Jamie Miller, Founder, Biomimicry Frontiers

“True innovation builds on the successes of the past and allows us to evolve.”

For Jamie, change is truly the only constant in life and he accepts that it comes hand in hand with uncertainty. Rather than wasting precious energy resisting the inevitable, he chooses to explore ambiguity with an open mind, recognizing that what is not possible today may well be possible tomorrow. In this context, every challenge becomes an opportunity. He believes the most challenging problems we face are often those that are burdened by the most waste – and are therefore those that hold the most promise and hide the greatest opportunity. Rather than fearing change, Jamie argues that we must embrace it.

Knowing that our ideas evolve faster than our infrastructure, Jamie understands that when established systems, processes, and physical spaces stop effectively serving their purpose, it’s unlikely, and often inefficient, to simply wipe them out and begin again from scratch. The forest fire reboot is rarely an option in the built environment, but nature is constantly evolving and innovates many small scale adaptations that happen slowly and organically. Jamie believes that rather than fighting and resisting change, it makes more sense to look at how we can implement small-scale shifts in the built environment. By learning from successful natural processes, he believes that we can find more sustainable ways to create lasting change that is both human- and eco-centred.

Malls are one of our greatest missed opportunities

All of our speakers agreed that the mall in its current form, wherever in the world it is, and at whatever stage of evolution, is one of our greatest opportunities for innovation. We should not be seeking its next iteration or defining a future framework – that will simply lead to defining a new status quo. The opportunity we have is to take risks, to create space for innovation and prototyping, to make room for life as we want to live, and take advantage of the opportunities that arise from the uncertainty. Being flexible, and open to possibility, is one of the most robust risk management strategies we can adopt.