Nothing outshines ‘The Shirt’

The brightest thing in Christie’s ARC (Advanced Research and Collaboration) team isn’t some skunkworks projector, it’s not even recent Academy Award®-winner Mike Perkins, it is, without a doubt, Andrew Dennison’s (and the team’s) Hawaiian shirt. And as we’ll discover later, that shirt is more important than you might think.

ARC is Christie’s multidisciplinary, cross-market product development team, a group of engineers, solutions architects, and planners whose sole purpose is to imagine and then build the future. It doesn’t matter if it’s AI or optics, room-temperature superconductors, or eye-limiting resolution; it’s all within this team’s wide scope. In many ways, they are both guardians of Christie’s 95-year tradition of innovation and the guarantors of its future.

C for Collaboration

But it would be a mistake to think that ARC is some kind of ivory tower elite. As Mark Lamm, principal product developer, explains, the most important initial in ARC is collaboration because that’s where the true value of the group lies. Collaboration that goes further than just between individual tech disciplines. The team welcomes even company-wide input — and everyone’s input counts. “We regularly get to demonstrate our latest thinking in an open forum to the entire company. Showing everyone what we’re up to and saying, ‘This is state of the art, this is the greatest thing, and you can see it, you can play with it, you can interact with it in a live working demo’ can be both inspiring and grounding for us.”

Keeping projects and research focused in this way is very much part of the Christie tradition of applied innovation. The ability to draw on stability and resources built up over 95 years means the ARC team has access to an enviable in-house infrastructure that includes a large onsite machine shop to prototype ideas at the earliest stages. Mike Perkins says that if they need resources, those already exist — in optics, mechanical, electronics, and firmware. “We know that, within the company, whatever we need, there’s somebody who knows how to do it. But more than that, they see what you’re trying to do and will often come up with a more elegant solution than the one you had in mind — collaboration again.”

Distributed creativity

This concept of distributed creativity, where everyone’s ideas deserve consideration regardless of job title, has led to the creation of the IDEAS program, as Omar AbdelZaher, an ARC program manager, explains. “IDEAS reaches out across all domains, all functions, all divisions and gives employees the chance to contribute innovative ideas. It can be a business idea, a product or subsystem improvement, a new technology advancement, or even a completely new product idea, and they all get assessed. It means we have a constant pipeline of ideas from people with life and work experiences much different from our own.”


By instinct, though, ARC are futurists. They need the confidence to pursue what’s near- impossible today, in the belief that it will, one day, be possible. Individual creativity, obstinacy, and conviction still count — as with all great inventions.

Which brings us to Andrew Dennison’s Hawaiian shirt.
And Innovation Days.

Chad Faragher, principal product developer, takes up the story. “We give people one day every two weeks to pursue anything — anything at all — they feel has potential. They’re called Innovation Days, and lots of great things have come out of them because you’re trusting the people most familiar with a problem to do the right thing. The thing is, getting people to take those days when they’re already busy elsewhere is tough. They’d say, ‘Ahh, I’m not gonna innovate today. I have too much going on.’ So, Andrew decided to lead by example, and on his Innovation Days, he started wearing a vacation-style Hawaiian shirt to remind himself that he was taking a vacation from his regular responsibilities. It worked and it caught on. And when it’s their Innovation Day, everyone now rocks a Hawaiian shirt in the office as a visible reminder to the team that it’s okay to take a vacation from their to-do list.”

Frivolous? Far from it. These thousand-lumen shirts are a constant reminder that innovation is Christie’s most important task, just as it always has been. A symbol of 95 years of original thought. So much so that when Christie held a red-carpet celebration for Mike Perkins and the engineering team after he collected his Oscar, there wasn’t a tux in sight. Just a sea of Hawaii’s finest couture. Who needs an Academy Award when you’ve got that to come home to?