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With a background in nanotech engineering from Canada and as a fresh graduate in industrial design from The Netherlands, Kevin Shahbazi never expected his passion for the circular economy would go beyond his graduation internship at Philips Design. 

“One of my first impressions upon arriving at Philips, which still holds true today, was that it’s not a hierarchical environment. People with good ideas are given the space to explore them.”

“In fact, my current job as a strategic designer for the circular economy did not exist at Philips. It was crafted from scratch together with Geert Christiaansen, my first line manager post-internship. If you have an idea that is going to make the company better, there are enough people here who are willing to support you through it. The company really believes in its core values. People are caring, focused on innovation and really believe there is always a way to make life better. Philips’ values align with mine, and that’s why I’m still here after four years. Since the move into healthcare we’re heading more in the direction of creating impact,” says Kevin.  
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Now he’s one of the six finalists of the Nudge Global Impact Award, integral part of the Nudge Global Impact Challenge and driving bottom-up circular design initiatives and mindsets within Philips. 
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What does a career in the circular economy look like? The circular economy is an alternative to a traditional linear economy (make, use, dispose of) in which we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them while in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life.  
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“Fundamentally it is a switch in how we view our business models. The goal is not to make and sell products but to produce value for our customers,” explains Kevin. “Identifying what value truly is for customers and framing it in the right manner, opens up possibilities to deliver it in new ways that create sustainable production and consumption patterns.” 
What is the Nudge Global Impact Challenge (NGIC)? It's a yearly worldwide search for ambitious professionals who have an affinity with sustainability and are eager to make a difference. Nudge connects people and organizations to realize bottom-up initiatives that bring positive and durable change to our society. It is an eight-month development program that helps young talent learn about leadership, sustainability and impact, and includes an intense three-day learning experience in the Netherlands featuring international speakers. 

​​​​​​​Here, participants are further immersed in the issues they are learning about during the program which are presented, discussed, put into action, and turned upside down in a never before seen format.
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The challenge of his career Philips offered employees the opportunity to join the Nudge Global Impact Challenge and compete with 90 young professionals from all over the world. 

​​​​​​​Encouraged by his colleagues and the proactive culture at Philips, Kevin embraced the challenge to expand the pursuit of his passion for the circular economy and applied for the opportunity. 
Encouraged by his colleagues and the proactive culture at Philips, Kevin embraced the challenge to expand the pursuit of his passion for the circular economy and applied for the opportunity. 

“Everyone was so excited for me to participate. I was surprised at how much momentum it generated, and a bit overwhelmed by all the support.”

To his amazement, he was one of three people selected from numerous applications globally from Philips. The news was promptly met with positive reactions from his direct managers and Philips Design business partners. 

 “I did not have any kind of formal training in leadership before this and did not know how much went into it. Coming out of the intense three-day training reframed my entire perspective about enabling others. I grew as much as one can grow in three days and came out with actionable leadership skills and the beginnings of a plan for the next eight months."

One of the first self-directed challenges was to reach out to the leadership team and executives to interview them on what they thought of Kevin as a leader and get their advice on his project plan. 

“I was quite nervous and had little expectation of how the leadership would respond to it.” 

He reached out to Sean Carney, Chief Design Officer, Heleen Engelen, former Head of Design Operations, Paul Gardien, Head of Design Innovation and Consulting, and Robert Metzke, Head of Sustainability, among others for input. 
This is only one of the many bottom-up initiatives at Philips that enable us to work on projects that create meaning and make the world a better place. If you have the right mindset to become a leader in this company, it is valued, and they make sure to foster it.”


 “I was astounded at how supportive the whole organization was. They immediately wanted to help. In fact, I didn’t have ideas of what I needed help on fast enough. Having such frank and candid conversations with people so senior shows how flat this organization is.” 

Over the period of eight months, the idea changed a lot through new insights from discussions with various teams and mentorship from leaders who helped champion the success of this new innovative project. Kevin led a small project team with Design colleagues to develop circular design competence. 

“We wanted to bring together various functions who saw the circular economy in different ways; as a business model, as a hardware thing, as a process thing, and as a customer relationship thing.” 
The team developed a framework where people could work together with their different skills and diverse perspectives to create circular value. They also hosted awareness training sessions, created a circular design playbook and tools to empower and train designers and business leaders to contextualize this model and apply these principles. Throughout the journey, the Design leadership, especially Sean Carney, was very supportive and created a platform to spread the change. 

“I was invited to attend sessions as intimate as advising the Design Board on how to embed circularity into our organization, to sharing my team’s learnings with our entire Design staff at our global town hall webinars. As if that wasn’t enough, Sean even created the opportunity to share ideas with Jeroen Tas and Frans van Houten, which was particularly nerve-wracking to me. I was surprised to discover that even the CEO of a multinational company is interested to hear what employees have to say about a topic he clearly champions.”
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“This is only one of the many bottom-up initiatives at Philips that enable us to work on projects that create meaning and make the world a better place. If you have the right mindset to become a leader in this company, it is valued, and they make sure to foster it.”

*Photos by Bibi Veth, Ellen MacArthur Foundation and Regina Beyhl*
Don't just bring ideas to the table.
Bring them to life!
Challenge yourself with a career at Philips!