Global Spa & Wellness Summit, day 2

While it is impossible to summarize everything I have heard and learned during the past two days at the Global Spa & Wellness Summit, or to reduce the Summit to soundbytes, here are my favorite quotes from the last two days (all by speakers), centered around the themes we are all exploring here in Aspen:

Creativity, Imagination, Innovation

“It’s easier to imagine the world than to understand it.” Philippe Bourguignon

“Walk watching the moon rather than watching your shoes.” French proverb, quoted by Philippe Bourguignon

“Innovation is creativity applied to some purpose to create value.” John Kao

“I have failed over and over again in my life… and that is why I succeed.” Michael Jordan in a video shown by John Kao

“Transformation is a key to creativity.” Alejandro Fogel

“Fail. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett, quoted by Shelley Berc

“Creativity and analysis should never be done at the same time – they need their own space.” Shelley Berc

“Failure builds strength of ego.” Shelley Berc

“Be creators, not consumers.” Shelley Berc

“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein, quoted by John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado

“You can’t schedule inspiration; all you can do is have an inspired schedule.” Peter Rummell

“Imagination is the voice of the daring.” Sonu Shivdasani


“Obesity is a national security risk.” Dr. Richard Carmona

“If you know how your brain works, you know how to work your brain.” Dr. Daniel Friedland

“Drinking is healthy.” Philippe Bourguignon reminding the audience of something all French people know.

“If I were king of your world, the first thing I would do is get rid of the word spa. … The deadly definition of spas is that it is for rich white women.” Peter Rummell

“Healthcare is the single largest drain on our economy.” John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado

“The solution is hurting the problem you are trying to solve.” John Hickenlooper, Governor of Colorado, on cutting physical education and reducing recess time to make children perform better in school.

Scarce Resources

“The Western world has been living beyond its means for 30+ years.” Philippe Bourguignon

“We are problem rich and solution poor.” John Kao

“It’s like rearranging the chairs on the deck of the titanic.” Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen speaking about governmental attempts at dealing with the current economic and energy crises.

“We go through life with a plan A, and a plan B, and sometimes a plan C. When it comes to our home, there is no planet B. We have to get it right with this one.” Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen

“Baby boomers won’t be going to retirement homes.” John Kao, speaking about the need to face the challenge of longevity.

“You use more fuel when you make a left turn than when you make a right turn.” Elizabeth Stephenson, quoting research by UPS.

“Every day when we get up and go to work we are often doing more harm than good.” Sonu Shivdasani speaking about each individual’s carbon footprint.

“It’s no longer cool to drink branded bottled water.” Sir Richard Branson about the Six Senses Hotel Water project



“There are 19,000 tweets per minute.” Philippe Bourguignon

“This internet thing is going to stick around.” Ted Souder

“We are in the midst of the acceleration of everything.” Ted Souder

“Any screen will do.” Ted Souder, speaking of consumer’s habit of watching TV while being on their computer while texting from their phones.

“Technology is a strategic imperative.” Ted Souder

“Brain scans show that people have the same reaction when seeing their mobile phone as when they see their loved one.” Elizabeth Stephenson

“Kenya is the country with the highest penetration of mobile banking.” Elizabeth Stephenson

Global Spa & Wellness Summit, day 1

Where to start? After a day of inspiring speakers and visits with friends and colleagues, my head is spinning. Maybe it is the thin Aspen air, but I think not. The first day of the 6th Global Spa and Wellness Summit (“Wellness” being new to the title of this conference for the first year), I have learned so much I feel I must write it down to process all the information.

The opening keynote speaker was Philippe Bourguignon, Vice Chairman, Revoluation Places and CEO, Exclusive Resorts. Philippe is one of my favorite speakers to listen to, and not only because of his charming French accent. He somehow elevates the world of spa, of wellness to a level so high I get acrophobia – in a good way. Today, he talked about the trends the world is facing. No good news here…

Long term trends (2050):

–          The credit consumption (the US) will come to an end, and the export-based consumption based on an under-valued currency will too (China).

–          We will see the end of the “transatlantic partnership,” as the US and Europe are already parting ways.

–          And our planetary boundaries will be challenged (with 2 billion more people on the planet by 2050, the human race will create a true resource challenge for planet Earth; and let’s not think of the immigration challenges).

Mid-term trends:

–          Political volatility will prevail (indeed, extremes, which globally used to represent “just” 10% of the political spectrum, now represent 35%).

–          There is a worldwide phenomenon of indignation, caused by unemployment and the significant income disparity and inequality our world is facing.

To make matters worse, globalization means that all of our problems are inter-connected, and a situation in Aspen can no longer be resolved in Aspen, but involves the whole world around us.

Despite all of this doom and gloom talk, Philippe ended by suggesting that part of the solution to these problems is imagination – indeed, no one today is speaking to the imagination. Yet, as Napoleon said long ago, “Imagination rules the world.” To make his point, he ended his talk with a global music video of John Lennon’s Imagine, which did make me shed a tear.

As if the audience had not had enough hard facts to digest, Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General, US and Vice Chairman, Canyon Ranch, followed with more gut-wrenching information (literally).

–          9 million children in the US are obese.

–          2 out of 3 adults in the US are overweight or obese.

–          Half a trillion dollars are spent per year on the consequences of smoking and obesity, both which are preventable.

–          We are facing immense health illiteracy.

Dr. Carmona talked about the role of spa and wellness industries in helping manage this global epidemic – indeed, he encouraged us all to create sustainable behavioral change to promote better health – in effect, what he called “taking the spa to the hood.”

In order to achieve our mission, we must be innovative. Here comes John Kao, Innovation Activist and Author of Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, and Innovation Nation. He began by telling us that innovation is the most overused and least understood word in the lexicon, and followed by explaining how “managing innovation” is not what matters. “Practicing innovation” does matter. Practice makes perfect – in innovation as in all disciplines. He made the audience practice, pairing us and making us each tell part of a story for 20 seconds, until the next  person continued, etc. For 3 minutes. In my group, with Alfredo and Brenda from Universal Companies, we ended up with a story about a bear who was wearing a flash light on his head and ate the humans at the Global Spa Summit because of their lack of innovation. Don’t ask. In any case, apparently we can all improvise, we can all create, and we can all innovate. All it takes is practice. He peppered his talk with music on the piano, in effect, also improvising, linking innovation to jazz. Then, he brought us back to the world of spa, with the following exhortations:

–          Turn the spa experience inside out

–          Make the spa experience sustainable and not event-driven

–          Productize the spa service

–          Transition from papering to meaning

–          Turn the spa experience upside down

–          Address the challenge of supporting longevity

–          Make the spa experience relevant to kids and across cultures

We should all be able to do that with a little innovation.

Lunch was perhaps my favorite part of the day. Our keynote speaker was none other than Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen, President, Carbon War Room and Former President of Costa Rica. His discussion (in perfect Spanish and perfect English) made me understand and care about planetary limits, energy, the environment, and climate change more than I thought I could.

However, the best part of lunch was my table. Each table had an assigned leader and topic. I chose table 17, led by Gerladine Howard, founder of Aromatherapy Associates, leading a discussion about “What I have learned about overcoming adversity.” The people at the table were mostly people who knew Gerladine well enough to know of her battle with cancer. I did not. She asked me why I had chosen her table. First, I love her oils (the Relax – Evening is my favorite). Most importantly, however, I don’t think we speak enough of adversity. One could find this strange after a day of doom and gloom news about the world. What I mean is more individual, more personal adversity. “How are you?” “Fine, and you?” has become such a standard greeting we never really think about the question, or the answer. In the midst of an economic crisis, all of our businesses are doing “great.” And in the midst of personal challenges, we are all always “fine.” I thought this was such an interesting, unusual topic for discussion I just had to be at that table. The best table in the room, I am sure – a table at which we all reminded each other that sometimes, simply sharing a reality can make us feel better. While sharing the reality doesn’t change it, sharing might just change our perspective.