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ARE WE LISTENING? April 26, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, BIM, employment, optimism, the economy, transition.
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At Bookman’s Alley of Evanston this weekend, on the cusp of this week’s AIA National Convention in San Francisco, I couldn’t resist opening the May 1977 issue of Progressive Architecture bearing “The Future of Architecture” cover story. Louis Kahn’s last work had just opened at Yale, Harry Weese’s detention center in Chicago received an AIA National Honor Award and 30-50% of architecture firms had recently laid-off staff leading to rampant unemployment among architects. Thumbing through the long defunct but then most-edgy of building design magazines, one could easily conclude that history indeed repeats itself, only in more ways than one could have foretold.

PA editor, John Morris Dixon, notes in this issue that architecture at that time was at a point of “particular anxiety, uncertainty and challenge,” pointing out that the AIA Convention was convening the following week in California to “ponder the theme of ‘tomorrow’,” covering a span of 25 to 50 years – in other words, today – with the hopeful prompt: Where will all this uncertainty lead? Dixon himself responds: “To introspection, we hope; to re-examination of the architect’s role in society; to reconsideration of the power of architectural design in human life – and its potential glory.” It is interesting to note that live stream videoconferencing is available this week for those who cannot attend the AIA Convention – whereas in 1977 “videotaped replays will be shown at a later time.” Despite so much, how much has truly changed?

But this was around the time when the profession walked away from taking-on additional risk – including that of construction administration oversight. Here we find ourselves, over 30 years later, with yet another opportunity to address our collective comfort with risk – this time to the extent it is shared – and the question remains whether we are willing and ready to do so. Or, if not, whether we will take a pass on this perhaps last chance to step up and, at the beckoning of attorneys and insurers – as well as our own inner voice that tells us to stick to the knitting, so often defined as design, increasingly including sustainable and urban design – fall back on old habits, rest on our laurels and the comfort and familiarity of what we do so well.  

To its credit PA got a lot about the future right, having identified trends that we now take for granted – and have yet to successfully nor adequately prepare for – such as the great migration of US population southwest and ensuing impacts on resources, addressing smaller families, aging of the population, fuel shortages, energy conservation and lifecycle costs, rising populations and scarcity of natural resources. There was no mention of computers, CAD or especially BIM in this issue but we only have to be reminded that BIM Handbook co-author, Chuck Eastman, had already penned in 1975 “The Use of Computers Instead of Drawings in Building Design” in the AIA Journal. PA guest author and social researcher Robert Gutman strongly advises “architects to take initiative for their services to remain essential” while presciently pointing out (via Future Shock author Alvin Toffler) that opportunities may emerge for architects in the area of information. Fast-forward 30 years – the “I” in BIM. Humorously, the editors point out that in 1977 “we are already encountering an advance wave of ‘information overload.'” Oh, if they only knew…

Seemingly out of nowhere, Gutman poses an epistemological question that proved unanswerable to those about to attend the 1977 AIA National Convention:  What makes the architectural profession architectural? “Certainly not the fact that it gets buildings up on schedule, or that it designs buildings which are economical to construct and maintain…Such tasks could be handled as well by good contractors and engineers.” Gutman proposes that the architectural profession merits this title because “it alone is expected to coordinate the achievement of these ends with an aesthetic element, producing a design which responds to the canons of order, form, function and convenience all in a single solution.” Sadly, 1977 was the time of style wars in the profession and the answer – had there been one – no doubt would have been in stylistic or theoretical terms. With so much at stake, with so many roles to play, so much to continuously learn, and with so many opportunities before us, I wonder how we would answer this question today: What makes the architectural profession architectural?

Predicting the future is always risky. Living in it has proven even riskier. Who could have predicted BIM when computers weren’t yet readily available in architecture? Or, at the apex of participatory design, who could have anticipated IPD? It’s always both quaint and mildly amusing to look back at what the future was – was to be – and in the end, wasn’t in the least. The ironically titled “Progressive Architecture” now appears – with its colored pencil rendered cover – anything but. Today, with 4D BIM, 5D BIM and xD BIM – we can only wonder now what we are missing, getting woefully wrong and oh so off the mark. This week, in San Francisco, we’re gathering to talk to one another. Let us only hope that this time we’ll listen.

Optimistically, architect Richard Bender philosophically compares the underemployed architect with the fisherman in repose: “In many ways we are like the fishermen who haul in their boats for the winter. We will not catch many fish in this season, but we can patch and caulk the boat, replace some obsolete equipment, and make the many changes and improvements for which there is no time while we are at sea. As designers this is a familiar challenge. It is one I am happy to accept.” Indeed, perhaps there is no better metaphor for our circumstance today as we embark upon the annual gathering of like-minded professionals.


32 Things to be Optimistic About Right Now April 18, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in BIM, collaboration, creativity, optimism.













Challenges = Opportunities. The economy has turned all of us into marketers and marketers like to refer to challenges as “opportunities,” and I don’t see the economic times any differently so in that sense plenty of opportunities exist out there. Upheaval and change expose opportunities that may have gone unnoticed at other times.

The Year of Collaboration. When times get tough, people pull together to get through it. For evidence of this look no further than the North Dakota floods to witness how far we’ve come since Katrina.  Everything is becoming more collaboration, and that doesn’t have to mean losing control or identity. I am a huge believer that EVERYTHING is made better by the well-intentioned, purposeful input of others. Whether that’s working more closely with clients to generate ideas, or bringing together synergistic strategic partners to create a more complete solution.

Change. Change. Change. Admit it. Deep down, where it counts, you weren’t really happy doing what you were doing, or where you were doing it, anyway.  Life has given you a little push – it’s up to you to see that it is in the right direction.

Control. You may not have control over everything (think destiny, think workload) but you still control your focus, attitude, IQ, interests, beliefs and values, profile and brand, image, credibility, education and weight. On this last one – and it works – try this.

Prices are lower. Gas is lower, costs less to travel, hotel stays cost less, more retailers willing to haggle. In fact, there has been of late a 29% increase in number of Americans who reported haggling for goods.

More Presidential wisdom than you could possibly read in a lifetime. Average number of books about Abraham Lincoln released every week since 2007? One. (Harper’s Index, May 2009)

Social Media Hits the Mainstream. Facebook has been called a perpetual, ongoing high school reunion attended by only the people you like and who like you. Through Twitter you can mingle with people from all over and find yourself appearing in the most beneficial places. Blog and you’ll discover at faraway conferences people that come up to you to say how much they enjoy reading you. Traveling soon? Through social media applications  you can find what 19 people in your network will be at the same conference or live in the city you’ll be visiting – who’ll be at the same place at the same time.   

TV Has Become Ubiquitous. And free. Online Video Consumption: remember viewing stop-and-go online video not too long ago? Consumers can turn to their PCs to watch their favorite television broadcasts along with unique content. Heck, there’s Architect TV. And the critically acclaimed Architecture School.

Our New Mobility. New applications for interactive phones like the iPhone, Blackberry Storm, and the promise of Google’s Android make expensive gadgets – virtual readers and GPS systems within reach of all. My son just finished reading Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea on his iPod, for free.

Wisdom of Crowds. Like collaboration, all of us is better than one or some of us. Again, no need to worry about anonymity – life’s too short. Participate and we all win. Where to start? Some titles to consider: Here Comes Everybody, Wikinomics and of course The Wisdom of Crowds     

Finally, a President Who Gets It. Need I say more?

The Blogosphere. Today, there’s a blog for nearly everything – in fact there are probably ten blogs for everything. Which is a good thing for you even if not for journalists and newspapers. Better yet, if so inclined – if you haven’t already – make it a goal this year to start a blog of your own. You will be surprised at what you learn about yourself, the many facets you may not have known you have, when writing on command on a regular basis for instant consumption. Get started with www.wordpress.com or read a good guide such as this from the Huffington Post.

You have the capacity to learn. Despite all you have going on in your life – work, family, friends, health, obligations, hobbies – you always have the chance to learn something new. To listen to books on tape in your car or on your iPod on your way into work. To learn a new language or take-on a new piece of software. To attend a seminar, a lecture on an intriguing topic or take an exam you’ve been putting off. A great place to start is by reading this inspirational story by a former world class chess master.

World changing. Want to change the world? You’re not alone – in fact, far from it. There are many more like you out there and linking-up has never been easier. There has been no better time in history to for you to feel empowered to do so. Twenty years ago you could join Greenpeace or celebrate Earth Day – today, there are as many organizations, causes and opportunities as there are stars. Where to begin? You can do a lot worse than start here  http://www.worldchanging.com/ a not-for-profit media organization that comprises a global network of independent journalists, designers and thinkers covering the world’s most intelligent solutions to today’s problems, inspiring readers around the world with stories of the most important and innovative new tools, models and ideas for building a bright green future. Worldchanging will help link you to your first steps in changing the world.

Books. Did you think you were going to get through this list without my mentioning books? Evidence of intelligent life out there? You bet. What to read right now? Go back a couple years. Fiction? Don DeLillo’s White_Noise  Already read it or want something lighter? The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Poetry? Try Mark Doty’s Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems or something more uplifting? Elizabeth Bishop’s Complete Poems

Economic Downturn. Say that again? You heard it. This downturn has been a blessing to many in that it has given them a chance to stop and reevaluate their aims and priorities. When things were crazy busy we found ourselves doing a great deal without thinking, acting on autopilot, navigating our way through presentations on instinct. Remember 1999 and 2005? You were running around like those proverbial chickens. You were lucky that you got away with it. Now, no more of that. Now’s the time to take stock and consider where we’ve been and figure out where we want to go. A slowdown – correction to some – is an apt time to make amends with our past ways and look forward to a more certain and deliberate future.

You were not born Schopenhauer. The 19th century brilliant philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer made a long career out of pessimism. He began his book Studies in Pessimism with the following words: “Unless suffering is the direct and immediate object of life, our existence must entirely fail of its aim.” Chapter two of his book goes on: “Human life must be some kind of mistake.” The subject of chapter three is suicide. He was so dour and depressing that his own mother forbid him from attending her dinner parties. If your mother still invites you to dinner parties you have a reason to be optimistic.

Creativity. It’s always right there – where you are. All it takes is you, a blank sheet and a pen. What’s stopping you? Need someplace to begin? Thy this site for a kick-start library of techniques.

Lists. There is an infinite variety of lists available online and in print on nearly every subject inclusing optimism. Need 20 reasons to feel optimistic in this economy? Look no further than Forbes and Fox News. Need reasons to feel optimistic about architecture in Chicago? There’s even “Ten Reasons to be Hopeful
About the Future of Architecture” and last but not least, the website www.43things.com and book it inspired “Dream It. List It. Do It!: How to Live a Bigger & Bolder Life, from the Life List Experts at 43Things.com” where for under $9 you can find handy pocket-sized lists of every topic under the sun.

Literary Theory is officially dead. Remember Post-Structuralism? Me neither. You never understood it – now you don’t have to. Be grateful you waited as long as you did. It’s over and soon no one will remember it ever existed. Your procrastination, ignorance or impatience paid off. Good work!

Free training. Online Webinars available free of charge on almost every subject. You tube tutorials in abundance yours at a moment’s notice in the privacy of your own home. Seminars, software test runs, lectures by the dozens. Since 80% of success is showing up – all you need to do is show up. The remaining 20%? Take notes…

Information. Everything, all-the-time, right at your fingertips. Enjoy it now – for just around the corner all you’ll have to do is to think it.

Curiosity. Is free. Question. Ask. Interview. Let them do most of the talking. It’s still that easy to get others interested in you.

Reality Check. The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. By Guy Kawasaki. It’s nearly impossible to pick up this book and not feel optimistic about your present and future.

It’s no longer who you know. What better time than right now to turn your existing social networks into a clearinghouse whose sole purpose is to connect others. That’s right – not yourself, but to match people who ought to know one another, who should work together, partner. Go on – broker deals for others. Heck, match-make. We live in a favor economy – what goes around comes around. The more in need you are the more you need to give a way – or better yet – bring together. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, open LinkedIn or Facebook and mettle. You will be amazed at what chemistry you might inspire. Only you can unleash the inner workings from your particular vantage.

It’s who you know. But wait, you just said… Other people can serve as a short cut and we live in a favor economy (I rub your back and…) If you do want to know someone, has there ever been a better time than now to be in touch with Pulitzer prize winners, New York Times reporters, CEOs of major corporations, Bestselling authors and designer rock-stars? On LinkedIn – has it ever occurred to you that in lieu of connecting with the weak and feeble automated “You appear to be someone I trust…” line to write three short but personal sentences. It may mean that you have to invest 3 minutes in learning a bit about the future contact’s background, interests, body of work – but the return is inestimable.  This is true for Facebook as well. Want to friend a famous person? As easy as writing a sincere, personal note – and voila! You’re now friends!

www.reasonsforoptimism.com Yup, a full-time, constantly updated, around-the-clock blog on the very subject. What else will they think of?

The Age of Memoir. Intimate details about every facet of everybody’s life. Readily available in the privacy of your own home. At all hours.

We didn’t need all that stuff anyway. Not to be good, anyway. Not to be happy. Not to be thoughtful and kind. Not to be good citizens and neighbors.

BIM. For the uninitiated that’s Building Information Modeling. Remember when Jack Nicholson said to Helen Hunt “You make me want to be a better man” in As Good as it Gets? BIM is the Helen Hunt of technology. BIM makes you want to be a better architect. Not yet using BIM? What’s stopping you? This is the best time – when things are at a standstill to take the plunge. (Not an architect? Certainly you are some type of architect…) Not so long ago, architects based their decisions on subjective criteria. Now decisions can be based on technology, precision, evidence-based design, metrics and other measurable means. BIM helps architects be honest. And relevant.

This Time of Non-fiction. Just the facts lady. Admit it – you never cared much for fiction. I still read it – but it’s pretty lonely out there. You want facts, and you want them now. You want quick and easily accessible answers to your questions – How to duck tape a window? How to play like Yo Yo Ma? The top songs of Radiohead? – You live at a time when Microsoft Windows spell-check includes “Radiohead” in it’s vocabulary. [And informs you that the proper word choice is “its” not “it’s” in the previous sentence.]

The All-time Best Grateful Dead live concerts available on iTunes. May 8,1977 Barton Hall, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY vs. February 13/14, 1970 Fillmore East, New York, NY… Want to debate which concert is the all-time best? Coming to an amicable agreement – that I’m more pessimistic about.

Preparing for Change Despite Current Success April 12, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in career, change, survival, transition.
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The ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation rather than upon mere survival, said Aristotle. Emerson would have us believe that we are always getting ready to live but never living. And Woodrow Wilson?  That we are not here merely to make a living, we are here to enrich the world.


So what would Aristotle have made of the suggestion that the good life involved not awareness and contemplation but the ability to ride out successive sigmoid curves? You read that right – sigmoid curves. Kind of glorified sine curves, but on their side. Upon recommendation from designintelligence‘s  James Cramer, I just finished reading Charles Handy’s intimate and wise autobiography Myself and Other More Important Matters when I came across his own depiction of the successive sigmoid. The book is filled with other important and growth-promoting diagrams of note – but this one contains its own powerful draw. In essence – Handy’s the one who started it, for it was after all Charles Handy, in The Age of Paradox, who stated that “A good life is probably a succession of sigmoid curves, each new curve started before the first curve fades.” Who knew? Though you could also find this critical diagram in the appendix of the paperback version of Andy Grove’s Only the Paranoid Survive – where he referred to it as “your personal inflection point” – it doesn’t matter where you first saw it now that you have. For you should be assured that, to paraphrase Aristotle, that the ultimate value of life depends upon awareness and the power of contemplation of successive sigmoid curves.Where these curves are linked one after the other, your career, in fact, your life a succession of curves, stepping at each inflection point, to new heights. Where you go on to new heights. Or decline. The million dollar question is inevitably: How do you know when an inflection point occurs? Unless you knew when to inflect, you won’t know when to move on, to change, to climb and could risk personal and professional decline. Here’s a hint: Just when you feel limited, put in a box, pigeon-holed by your employer, locked-in to some direction not of your own choosing perhaps from some need to pay the mortgage or get responsible or fill a need in your company. Or when you no longer feel passionate about what you are doing or no longer learning.

If you want to take this further – and pick up a tip or two on career strategy see this Personal_Inflection_Points  

That is unless you happen upon another telling graph that diagrams your life or career. Take one that has been floating around LinkedIn for the past couple days. The Gort_Cloud is a book by Richard Seireeni – but here it is the Gort Cloud diagram I am most interested in. If the Gort Cloud is an invisible force powering the most visible green brands where millions of people [connect] to green information through a vast, interconnected community, what then – like Grove’s personal infection point – about a personal Gort Cloud?

Instead of the green community – What about your community? A community no doubt made up – like the Gort Cloud – of social networks, trendspotters, blogs, magazines, foundations, groups and organizations, media, special interest authorities, news outlets, certifying organizations, alliances, as well as family, friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, etc.        

[=] View The Gort Cloud in pdf. 

In your matrix, in your community, in your social network: Who are your trendspotters? What are your most powerful sources of information and intelligence? What are your organizations and what former colleagues are in your cloud?

So OK, your community might be made up of green products. But it is probably much richer and far-reaching. In branding yourself – identifying and developing your own personal brand – imagine a version of this cloud but instead of diagramming sustainability – you diagram something altogether different. You diagram you. You, the Diagram. Imagine a kind of Mind map of yourself. Go on, diagram yourself and see yourself in context of so many others. Try it – the process is hopeful, empowering and enriching.

5 Books to Read for the End of the Recession April 5, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, creativity, essence, possibility, questions, transformation, transition.
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Do these troubling times have you in search of your passion, inspiration, idealism? Here I’ve selected – and am highly recommending – 5 books that should, once taken-in, put an end to your searching. Are there 5 other books you could be reading? Absolutely. Only these 5 action-oriented books are guaranteed to pick you up and get you moving toward your goals in no time. On a severe book budget? All can be found in the public library system, at your local bookseller, severely discounted at bookstores such as Half_Priced_Books, online at Amazon or at Borders using one of their 30-40% off printable coupons and your Border’s bucks. However you acquire them, do so now – one at a time or en masse – for there is no better time than the present to give yourself the present of self-discovery. Enjoy!
















The_Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything, by Ken Robinson PhD

Yes, the very same Sir Ken Robinson of TED conference fame, with his most-watched, most-beloved video Do_Schools_Kill_Creativity? Could give Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers a run for his money. In fact, The_Element addresses a theme common to both Gladwell’s book and Geoff Colvin’s Talent_is_Overrated and that is talent alone is not enough to ensure success. Each book proposes an additional element. For my money the message of Robinson’s book rings true: find the intersection (overlap) between what you’re good at (what you do well) and what you love to do (what you’re passionate about) – and you’ll be happy at what you do, enjoy a long career in which you’re engaged and the hours fly by unnoticed, and incidentally will do very well for yourself and your loved ones. The element is what he identifies as the point where the activities individuals enjoy and are naturally good at come together. Not a bad message for these less than inspiring times.












The Idealist.org Handbook to Building a Better World: How to Turn Your Good Intentions into Actions that Make a Difference, by Idealist.org

This short, quick and easy read was written to help idealists such as you to assess and identify their interests and motivations, and provides the tools, strategies, and inspiration to become engaged and active citizens. The book is filled with great advice on how to get started – and insider’s tips on what to expect – whether you’re interested in volunteering, workplace initiatives, fund-raising or even serving on a board. It’s a book you can read on the bus or train, carry around in your pocket, to familiarize yourself with the tools to help you make a difference but all you need is a hint as to where to start. Useful and inspiring reading.



















Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Stuart Brown MD

Another longwinded title – but oh what a book! Don’t expect this to be yet another diatribe trying to convince you to install a ping-pong table in your office’s lunch room. Brown takes the attitude that daily play is as much a necessity as food and oxygen, but through incisive and convincing studies shows us why and how. The book will have you convinced that we will not as a people solve global warming without including play in our approach – and by the time you are half-way through the book it’ll have you convinced that the author very well may be right. Play and what it can do for us – including make us more successful and even happier – is anything but frivolous. What better way to counter the negative effects of the daily headlines that to gift yourself with the agile, flexible and open-minded attitude play instills in everyone?









Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, Sustain Your Effectiveness, by Richard Boyatzis et al.

Becoming_a_Resonant_Leader is a companion workbook filled with penetrating, thoughtful questions – culled from the author’s two previous books – that will help you understand the role of emotional intelligence in your career whether you pursue a leadership role or position or not. Equal parts nurturing teacher and place of self-discovery, this stand-alone workbook will force you to sit down and face where you have been professionally and where you want to go – with helpful suggestions on how to get there by a team of experts. Make some time in your calendar – the time you put into answering the questions will pay off – in terms of self-growth, competence and credibility. If you take the time to reflect on your personal experiences and growth opportunities, your vision for yourself, work and your life will become apparent. When it comes time for you to make your next move this book will have you prepared whether or not you aspire to a leadership position.











How to Be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul, by Adrian Shaughnessy

Regardless of what field you are in, whether you are in graphic design or not, this book, with a foreword by the incomparable Stefan Sagmeister (author of the mercurially brilliant and beautiful Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far – check out this video) is a must-have must-read. Why? The reasons are many and legion – but suffice it here to say that those of us in the fine arts are confronted everyday by insensitive, soul-scorching remarks and bad news and we need all of the inspiration we can find. No matter where you find yourself in your career, we are each of us students with a thirst to learn, perpetual novices at what we do – forever forced to learn our trades anew by changes in technology or by process. I find myself all the more receptive learning from those in fields outside my own – what better place to learn the hard lessons the easy way, by learning here from others? It doesn’t hurt that the book feels good in the hand, and is beautifully typeset and designed, a testament to the care enjoyed by soulful work.