Tags: AEC, AIA, architects, architectural education, architecture, emerging professionals, EPs, innovation, problem solving, professional practice, t-shaped people, wired to care
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Recognizing that it is artificial and arbitrary to clump any demographic into a group, generally speaking, EPs bring a lot more than energy and imagination to the table.
Emerging professionals have a lot to offer firm leaders.
That is, if firm leaders would only take notice.
What gifts can EPs offer more senior architects and firm leaders?
Here are five that have made a difference in my life:
1. EPs are Wired to Care
EPs can help cynical, skeptical and burned-out architects to care again.
To care about people: building owners, users, neighbors, constituents.
About the environment.
And about design.
They may not always express it, but firm leaders who deal with clients, legal and insurance matters often need your enthusiasm and interest in the work you’re doing to remind them why they stay in the game – and why they’re in the game to begin with.
You remind them of who they once were – and soon hope to return to being.
You’re the thread to their former selves.
2. EPs are Collaborative T-shaped People
Not T for Technology.
But as in broad knowledge and deep expertise.
EPs, curious types, certainly bring their range of interests to the office.
Absolutely. Though not the old school form of expertise – acquired slowly over time.
Or whom to ask.
EPs recognize that things change so quickly in our industry that to dig deep into any one area can be a death knell for an upstart career in architecture.
And, over time, with experience on a range of projects, they do acquire deeper learning in a variety of areas.
EPs can help senior architects see the value in their becoming more T-shaped, less pigeon-holed into one task, skill-set or area.
But as importantly, firm leaders need to hire T-shaped practitioners – because things do evolve so quickly – not word-for-word matches to their job ad specs.
And who better than EPs to serve as examples of the new model for firm hires.
3. EPs are Change Agents
EPs – compared with more seasoned architects – are fluid, flexible and nimble.
And so, they inspire normally risk-averse architects to invite change.
To not be afraid of it.
Never satisfied with the status quo, EPs know we – as a team, firm, profession, industry or planet – can do better.
And won’t settle for less.
EPs hear what they are asked to do – and if they’re smart – they do it.
But then something happens.
They offer something different.
Often something even better. Something we hadn’t considered.
We, in management, are counting on EPs to do this – even if we don’t explicitly ask for it.
Especially if we don’t explicitly ask for it.
It shows you’re thinking.
It shows you care.
It shows that you listened – then offered an improvement that no one else had considered.
Yes, if we decide not to go with your idea, we hate having to say no.
My ideal day is one where I can go from morning till night without having to say the word “no.”
So don’t make me say no.
Make your idea so intelligent, well thought-out, compelling and great that we have to say yes!
Change is a gift you give us. We make a promise to ourselves – and our profession – every year to innovate more.
Sometimes innovation gets lost among more bottom line goals.
EPs help to keep the promise to innovate alive (thank you.)
4. EPs are Courageous
Whether from naïveté or boldness, EPs can help seasoned architects to be more technologically courageous.
They don’t know to be frightened, to be afraid of risk.
When a senior architect walks by your monitor and says “how is that going to stand up?” – trust me – there’s a way to make it stand up.
We are grateful you tried to do something that we would have shied away from.
If it’s a worthy idea, we’ll help find a way to get it to stand up.
Thank you for attempting to do something with architecture that we are now sometimes too afraid to try ourselves.
5. EPs Seek Meaning
Meaning is one of the greatest gifts EPs give to seasoned architects.
Not only do EPs expect their work to be meaningful, but by their giving importance to work/life balance, they remind Boomers (some still single or divorced) that placing work first before all else is not the only – or best – option.
We see you having a life and say “oh, just wait till things get complicated!”
We may complain that EPs should have a more singular focus on architecture.
But the truth is, you have the answer, not us.
You have your values in the right place, not us.
If only we learned that lesson sooner!
EPs are all about adding meaning.
For their work to be meaningful.
For finding shortcuts and templates to minimize the busy work and maximize what is important to them.
Like using your core competencies for a greater portion of each day.
Using your brains, not just your fingers.
We used to think that way – and have come up with excuses (did I just hear myself say Architecture is first and foremost a business?!)
When making payroll, meeting clients demands, is now front and center.
Meaning takes a back seat.
Then you send us a link to a film about another firm – one that places meaning first – and our eyes well up.
We know we can do more and be more.
And we have you, EPs, to thank for reminding us.
Now, let’s turn this around.
Naturally, EPs aren’t doing all the giving.
They must be getting something in return.
So what, besides a paycheck, warm Aeron chair and beer Fridays can architects and firm leaders offer EPs?
Here are 5 Gifts Emerging Professionals Receive from Seasoned Architects.
1. Seeing the Big Picture
Architects see the big picture.
Emerging professionals sometimes need help seeing the forest from the trees.
EPs (rightfully) don’t trust forests – or long-term plans.
EPs become long-term employees, for example, not by making 20-year commitments but by showing up one day at a time.
EPs have a hard time seeing where it’s all leading.
Architects recognize time horizons and building cycles.
I’ll never forget when a senior architect told me, years ago, that hotels and hospitality have a seven-year boom/bust cycle.
Put that in your iCal.
Firm leaders can help EPs see the big picture – and have a responsibility to do so.
2. Comfort with Ambiguity
Times today are uncertain.
And architecture is filled with uncertainty.
Will the client accept and support the design direction?
Will neighbors and constituents vote in favor of the building’s height?
Will the developer be able to get a loan so the project can move forward?
If you’re thinking piece of cake, you’ve been at the game a while.
Not everyone has the perspective you have.
So share it.
Just don’t make it sound patronizing, condescending, or like old wise architect speaks!
Architects are comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty.
EPs? Not so much.
Firm leaders can help bridge this gap (so do it!)
3. Systems Thinking
Senior architects have the perspective and experience to see individual acts in a larger context.
Because they see the big picture, they have an easier time helping to keep things whole.
Firm leaders can show EPs how their seemingly isolated, individual decisions can impact the bigger picture.
And how everything in architecture can be thought of in terms of flows.
(Or perhaps this is something EPs already know and just aren’t articulating?)
4. Lateral, not Linear, Thinking
Seasoned architects don’t complete tasks sequentially.
You would think that the multitasking generation would do this as well.
Due to their experience and perspective, architects know they can look at assignments from many vantages simultaneously.
Think of architect Cesar Pelli who could think through every pro and con in his head, anticipating every consequence for any course of action, then make a decision.
Call it an ability or insight, this is a gift that senior architects can share with EPs.
5. Architecture as an Art + Science
Architects know that every decision – every architectural act – is a combination of art and science.
They may come across as conservative, gravity-bound and risk-averse.
But they mean well.
The reality is (there they go with reality again!)– we balance art with science every time we venture into making architecture.
As boring as it may appear, architects know your brilliant idea won’t mean a thing if it can’t stand up, hold water, shed water and be accessed, serviced and maintained.
One participant in the upcoming AIA 2014 EP Summit shared the following:
I’m always learning from the emerging professionals. They seem to teach me more than I teach them!
What do you say?
Does this match your experience? Do you see any missing? Which – if any – would you change or add to?
Let us know by leaving a comment. Thanks!
Bridging Gaps That Don’t Reside in Building Skins December 6, 2013Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, management, transformation.
Tags: academia, AIA, architects, Architectural Record, bridging gaps, career transitions, change, detailing, educators, joints, practice, SAIC, speaking
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What resulted for the first time in my public speaking career, I gave a talk at an AIA conference that I didn’t prepare for.
And by that I mean, at all.
I spent three months preparing for my keynote at the 2013 AIA Illinois Conference in November.
But my breakout session later that morning – Through Architecture We Bridge Gaps by Embracing Change?
Not so much.
And wouldn’t you know, it was hands-down the best talk I ever gave.
Or I should say, that the attendees gave.
Because the success of the session was due in no small part to the attendees and the lively discussion that ensued.
The subject of the talk – caulk – really seemed to strike a chord, and the architects in the audience shared lots of examples from their own careers.
The Culture of Caulk
In over a hundred talks I have given around the country, I never had a talk bestowed with the strongly sought-after HSW designation.
Until that November day.
The session offered attendees 1 AIA/CES HSW lu because the AIA powers that be thought the talk was on applying caulk.
The session description starts off thus:
Architects know that the most vulnerable parts of a building enclosure are the joints, connections or gaps between two building systems, and spend an inordinate amount of their time trying to successfully fill them.
The institute officials probably read that first sentence and thought “caulk – that’s good for an HSW LU.”
But had they read on, they would have realized it was a metaphor. And you don’t get HSW LU’s for metaphors:
While their designs and details are fortunately airtight, there are many other gaps that remain wide open and unresolved.
Still about caulk, right? It continues:
These gaps cannot be addressed by architectural technology because they do not reside in building skins, but in the education, training and practice of architects: gaps between academia and professional practice; between internship and licensure; between mentoring emerging professionals for leadership positions; and ever-widening gaps facing those concerned about career advancement and firm succession, including practitioners in all phases of their careers.
Using the metaphor of the detailing of building joints, this presentation will show attendees that they already have the skills, tools and mindsets to successfully bridge the seemingly unbridgeable gaps at their various career stages, reconnecting training with practice, management and leadership in our architecture firms and those we serve.
So it appears that you get the coveted HSW when you speak on caulk, but not when you try to solve entrenched issues in architectural careers.
Hopefully posting this here won’t result in attendees’ HSWs being revoked.
All Detailing is Joints (apologies to Patrick Moynahan)
I told the session attendees that we’re here to talk about another type of gap.
And the need to bridge these gaps – through architecture.
I told them this session is participatory (code in speakers’ circles for my being totally unprepared) – I don’t have all the answers: none of us does.
But, I offered, as a believer in the collaborative process, all of us might.
I am your presenter, I continued – but so are you: I am here to facilitate a discussion (because I didn’t prepare one.)
I showed some slides of nifty bridges from around the world, hitting home on the point that it is possible to cross over necessary career transitions with panache.
What Gaps Require Spanning?
Does it help to think of our career transitions as gaps that require spanning and/or bridging?
And whether we’ll attempt to fill them metaphorically with caulk – or silicone sealant?
One such gap is between academia and practice.
Do we agree that it needs bridging?
I mentioned to the attendees that the past weekend the SAIC Design Educator’s Symposium in Chicago was such a gesture in bridging with firm visits, Archiculture film viewing and panel discussions.
Architectural Record featured an article recently on how the phenomenon of transformational change—in technologies, systems, materials, sustainability, management, and demographics—is unfolding faster in professional firms than it is in higher education. This gap is a concern.
The article offered remedies:
- more practitioners should teach
- more faculty should be professionally licensed
- business and management skills need to be introduced in the studio
- no longer does tenure benefit students
- real estate finance should be a basic part of architectural education
- heavier doses of reality, not theory
- practitioners and architectural educators should work together
Another gap that requires spanning is from emerging professional to firm management.
One of the firms I worked for had a Sink or Swim (vs. training and mentoring) approach to bringing up project managers. When an employee graduated from emerging professional to management, the firm would throw them in the deep end and, well, stay afloat or sayonara.
Gaps We Need to Bridge
Other gaps need addressing, especially those between:
- internship and licensure
- mentoring emerging professionals and leadership positions
- technology and reality, or
- digital technology and building technology
- men’s and women’s salaries
- those concerned about career advancement and succession
On this last gap, SAIC’s Chuck Charlie (@charliechuck) tweeted:
How do we resolve the gap between the old guard now leading the industry, and the digital-native emerging profession?
Perhaps the biggest gap that needs spanning is this: Where our industry is today and where our industry needs to be.
Namely, adding value, reducing waste, growing and become more resilient and profitable.
That’s a bridge worth crossing. And as designers, we ought to be able to span it with panache.
Goodbye Architects. Hello Equal Partners in Design (EPD) November 28, 2013Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, IPD, management, survival.
Tags: Aditazz, Barry Schwartz, co-designers, collaboration, designers, Equal Partners in Design, integrated project delivery, IPD, Michael Pyatok, participatory design
Somewhere along the way – perhaps recognizing that other students or architects are more talented, or willing or able to sacrifice more – many would-be designers give up their dream to design buildings and instead opt to manage teams, schedules or budgets, document and detail other people’s buildings, or undertake any of a hundred other tasks required to get permit sets approved and buildings built.
Whatever first drew them to the profession, it is safe to say that they didn’t become an architect to be a designer among designers.
They became architects to design. Period.
Whether architecture students, architectural interns and emerging professionals realize it, this is what the profession and industry offers them today.
Founder and president of Nissan Design International, Jerry Hirshberg, in The Creative Priority: Driving Innovative Business in the Real World, describes a scene where, in a workplace safe for people to provide input and express their ideas, the receptionist – participating in a design review – provides the idea for the direction for their new line of automobiles.
That, in a nutshell, is the future of architecture.
To bridge the divide between design and construction, improve communication, better coordinate documents, and increase collaboration, firms have started to prepare for Integrated Project Delivery (IPD).
IPD requires the participation of all project stakeholders early in the design and decision-making process.
Whether working in pure IPD or an IPD-ish process, with IPD the lines of responsibility are blurred when compared to traditional “design bid build” project delivery.
IPD removes barriers that, in traditional project delivery, kept design and construction professionals from collaborating.
With IPD, contractors contribute to the design and architects address construction issues, with risk distributed across the team.
With IPD, contractors made aware of and contribute to design direction and design decisions by the entire project team.
In IPD, key participants are encouraged to contribute to the design intent, just as designers are free to comment on and contribute to means and methods of construction.
While intended to remove obstacles and encourage collaboration, architects are sometimes threatened by the blurring of roles brought about by working in the IPD.
Collaborating is hard. Architects often have individualistic ways of working. IPD may be antithetical to the way many architects design projects.
To persevere in this new world of collaboration, architects should consider getting off the project pyramid and rebrand themselves as Equal Partners in Design (EPD).
Becoming an Equal Partner in Design would have implications for school and practice. Imagine architects being educated, trained and tested not to be independent building designers but designers among designers.
Are you prepared for the day when the plumber makes the winning design suggestion and everyone in the room lets out a resounding Yes!
How will it make you feel to sit beside a teammate who is sketching?
How about when your co-designer is a computer?
Building designers participate in man-machine collaboration every time they work in computational design.
But we don’t have to imagine a cyborgian future to recognize that whomever – or whatever – we will be collaborating with, from here on out we will be collaborating.
Take Aditazz, a collaborative team of not only building architects and planners, but also microchip architects, software designers, mechanical and electrical engineers and materials scientists.
The hospital design that vaulted his unknown company into the round of a hospital competition shortlist of nine had been designed largely by an algorithm.
Barry Schwartz has warned that as the number of choices keeps growing, negative aspects of having a multitude of options begin to appear.
Too many options remains a problem for architects, engineers and owners. But not for Aditazz, whose algorithms are able to compute thousands of options in a fraction of the time to find the best solution.
Gone, along with the architects’ Prismacolor pencils, will be the concept of design intent.
Participatory architects such as Charles Moore and Michael Pyatok have been doing this for years. But will you be comfortable and satisfied letting others provide design input?
Or will you be threatened by other’s participation in design?
Could you be personally and professionally fulfilled playing the role – not always of designer, but – of design refiner?
Can you see yourself being an Equal Partner in Design?
Architect 2Tweets – The Week in Tweets May 28, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, books, career, collaboration, creativity, employment, identity, management, sustainability, technology, the economy, transformation, transition.
Tags: architect Barbie, architects, architecture, CONSTRUCT, construction, retweets, tweets, twitter
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Take a look. Click on the links to find articles, websites and other resources.
If you are not a Tweeter, by browsing the list of micro-posts you will get a good idea of how I use it. And if you like what you see, follow me on Twitter @randydeutsch
Online Attendee Registration Opens Early June for @CONSTRUCTshow Free Exhibit Hall Admission & Discounted Education Packages thru Aug 11
The Architect of Flowers http://amzn.to/jrXJCh ‘Dreamlike and ethereal’ stories
Insurer: Payment delays, fragile construction industry conditions mean more building subcontractors go out of business http://bit.ly/lPLWWQ
The first warning sign that a project is in trouble. Sometimes it even begins before the project does http://bit.ly/aRY7fp
Model of San Francisco, made with 100,000 Toothpicks, began in 1976 – 3000 hours later http://bit.ly/juD4iK
Renter Nation: Since housing meltdown, nearly 3 million households have become renters. 3 million more expected by 2015 http://bit.ly/kUt51j
“There’s nothing off-putting about sustainability. Find someone who is in favor of purposely ruining the future” http://bit.ly/lV2GcG
THE construction industry, regarded as a barometer for economic activity, is now a volatile, unpredictable barometer http://bit.ly/jCwYcp
Why crumbling of America’s transportation infrastructure is a good thing, according to developers http://bit.ly/f6l6Cp
In a modern day Dark Ages with the potential for another great Renaissance? The 21st Century Renaissance http://bit.ly/a2wPeb
Polymath, Renaissance person, Multidisciplinarian (!) – Why we all must become one http://zd.net/kRoKem
To compete in a knowledge-based economy business leaders need to reinvent themselves as innovators in services http://bit.ly/ixxU24
Connections, James Burke’s iconic BBC series on the history of innovation, free to watch online http://j.mp/fcppDy
The Architect’s New Titles: to Use or Abuse May 14, 2011Posted by randydeutsch in architect types, BIM, books, career, change, employment, management, software architects, the economy.
Tags: architect positions, architect titles, bimworker, change management, design anthropologist, design consultant, design ninja, design strategist, design thinker, design thinking, freelancer, intrepreneur, job titles, service designer, thought leader
Not that they’re going to give up the title architect anytime soon.
They’re in search of a title that more accurately qualifies – and clarifies – what they do as an architect.
With the advent of social media, what we call ourselves in our profiles goes a long way toward how others treat and work with us.
Re-titling it turns out is no longer just for cars
Sometimes we find ourselves using titles that we ourselves aren’t certain what they mean.
And good thing. Because we often use them as much to obfuscate as to communicate.
Many of the newest titles are conjunctions, conflations or co-joining of two or more existing titles – such as business and design – that are meaningful when used independently but when combined leave us ashamed and others feeling abused.
In fact, if you hear someone say “I’m at the intersection of design and business” don’t meet them there – they’re probably lost.
We’ll skip trendy titles such as “Director of Chaos” because architects are more likely to be a “Director of Form.”
And “Director of First Impressions”? A euphemism for Receptionist. (We’ll spare you the Dilbertisms)
Here’s a field guide to some of the ways we are referring to ourselves – and to each other – in this make-it-up-as-you-go world we find ourselves living and working in.
One definition is offered to confuse or Abuse.
The other you’d be better off to Use.
Abuse: A designer
- is someone who sees everything as an opportunity for improvement.
- is someone who has to sell themselves and their talents every time they walk into a room.
- primarily concerns themselves with how to create a successful communication, product, or experience.
- is an agent who specifies the structural properties of a design object.
- is anyone who creates tangible or intangible objects
In other words, there are as many definitions as there are designers.
Use: Architect. Use Designer if you’d to be retained by an owner. See An Architect With Low Self-esteem
A Design Consultant is a person who borrows your watch, tells you what time it is, pockets the watch, designs a new one for you, sends you a bill for it and puts a lien on it when you don’t pay in 120 days.
Abuse: Specialists in human factors, psychology, business, design, engineering and manufacturing who provide full service consulting for building and product innovation and design.
Use: Freelancer. An architect who can’t find full-time employment.
Abuse: Uses project management, design, strategy and supply chain techniques to control a creative process, supports a culture of creativity and build a structure and organization for design.
Use: A manager of design projects.
See: This is a comprehensive reference book for anyone seeking an introduction to the basic concepts and principles that inform the management of design projects, teams and processes within the creative industries; and her earlier work, here.
Abuse: Belonging to an interdisciplinary field that seeks to understand the role of design artifacts and processes in defining what it means to be human. See also: Design Sociologist
Use: Someone with an undergraduate anthropology diploma and a 3 year degree in architecture.
Abuse: An unorthodox or unconventional designer. Used more often in web and graphic design.
Use: Design Mercenary (忍者)
Pure unadulterated business jargon. An entity that is recognized for having innovative ideas or business ideas that merited attention. ‘Go to’ subject-matter experts in your industry. Period. Here’s how to package your ideas to share with others.
Abuse: Calling yourself one.
Use: Only when others call you this. And even then, don’t ever use it to describe yourself.
Abuse: Someone who writes his/her thoughts and feelings online.
Use: Anyone who contributes to a blog or online journal. And I mean anyone.
See: Arbiter of Knowledge and Wisdom
Abuse: Someone who knows what it means to manage the people side of the change equation.
Use: Someone adept at soothing the staff when management changes their mind. See Change Management
Abuse: Business people trained in design methods.
Use: Design people trained in business methods.
Abuse: Design Principals and Senior Designers used to hand off their building designs – and Project Managers and Architects their redlines – to CAD operators. With BIM, it no longer works this way. Like Artworkers in graphic design, BIMworkers initiate, commence, pursue, resolve self-edit and complete the work. If they had money, they would also own it.
Use: BIM Modelers. BIM Managers, BIM Coordinators and BIM Operators will thank you for it.
Abuse: Someone who uses the word “wayfinding” in casual conversation.
Use: An architect knows that if you have to use signage, you’ve failed. Architecture is its own wayfinding.
Abuse: Someone who provides innovative insights on using design as a strategic resource. Someone who hangs with CEOs of major brand management firms, business school deans, IDEO alum, engineers and professors of design
Use: Someone who uses design to achieve key business objectives. See Design Thinker and Design Guru.
See: To be a design strategist, you either have to be an IDEO veteran, Stanford University lecturer on design, the founder of a customer experience design company – or know someone who is one. Here are the eleven skills sets for what it takes and here and here.
Abuse: Someone who organizes people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality, the interaction between service provider and customers and the customer’s experience. A cross-disciplinary practitioner who combines skills in design, management and process engineering.
Use: Someone who provides numerous benefits to the end user experience when applied to project types such as retail, banking, transportation, & healthcare. See Social Entrepreneur
Abuse: See Form giver. Someone who gives shape to products, objects and buildings.
Use: Someone who really gets design, puts it to good use and will lead others into the twenty-first century with creative strategies.
See this, probably the best new book on the topic.
Chief X Officer
Where X can be Culture, Interpretation, Learning, Systems, Collaboration, Co-Creation, Creativity, Innovation, Mischief, Imagination, Technology, Information, Fun. As in Chief Storytelling Officer. Someone who has traded real work for knowledge work. A begrudging strategist.
Abuse: A corporate title indicating hierarchy, authority and power. A high ranking officer who gets an office with a window.
Use: Leader. A high ranking officer who gets a windowless office.
Abuse: Entrepreneurs who operate by creating business opportunities and practices inside their organization. Employees who – in addition to their workload – develop client relationships and bring in work.
Use: An employee today runs their own company within their company. Any employee who sells wrapping paper or cookies to captured employees on behalf of their kids. See Social Intrepreneur
Use: Someone with a short attention span who can’t make their mind up. Someone who comes up with an idea then abandons it, usually for another equally compelling idea. See Serial Intrepreneur
Design Director (especially when conflated with Founder, Owner, CEO, President and Managing Partner)
Abuse: Principal responsible for client, project, financial, design management and coffee making.
Use: Freelancer. Sole proprietor.
Founding Principal and Owner
Use: You. Your name.
Abuse: Whether Sustainability Advocate or IPD Advocate, they’re a person who publicly supports and recommends a particular cause or policy.
Use: Someone who facilitates the process for others but won’t be seen doing it themselves. See X Evangelist
Director of Product Strategy and Innovation
Use: Cell phone sales. See Verizon Salesperson
Abuse: Passionate arbiter of knowledge who enjoys learning while teaching.
Use: Job seeking.
See: Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor
Abuse: Someone who wastes other people’s time and resources by laboriously advocating the use of such systems as Six Sigma, TQM, Lean and other business management methodologies.
Use: Someone who creates value for others by eliminating waste. See IPD Advocate
Abuse: Someone who works at any of the tasks of planning, acquiring, searching, analyzing, organizing, storing, programming, distributing, marketing, or otherwise contributing to the transformation and commerce of information and those (often the same people) who work at using the knowledge so produced.
Use: Employee. Anyone who works for a living – using something other than their hands – at the tasks of developing or using knowledge. Anyone who develops, works with or uses information in the workplace. See Anyone who works for a living
Abuse: Someone who uses industry techniques such as gathering intelligence on competitors, generating leads and prospects, managing presentations and designing and generating successful business models, aimed at attracting new clients and penetrating existing markets.
Use: Client-building, client relations and marketing. See Rainmaker
Abuse: Someone who engages clients by focusing attention on the issues and individuals at hand, listening both to what they say and what they leave unsaid, framing the immediate problem from their perspective, envisioning with them how a solution might appear and committing jointly to the actions and resources that will bring it about, all to gain the confidence and earn the trust of their clients.
Speaker, Author, Educator, Mentor
Use: Retired. See Scattershot Approach to Capturing Attention on LinkedIn
Now it’s your turn. Are there any titles you are aware of that you don’t see here?
Unlearning to Collaborate November 28, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, BIM, books, collaboration, IPD, management, problem solving, sustainability, the economy.
Tags: BIM, collaboration, Glenn Murcutt, Howard Gardner, IPD, Michael Tomasello, Peter Zumthor, unlearning, Why We Cooperate, wicked problems
Are we wired to collaborate?
Michael Tomasello in Why We Cooperate argues that we are – up until a certain age. Then – through conditioning – we forget. Tomasello’s book itself is an interesting act of cooperation, where the author invited his severest critics to poke holes in his argument and explore the implications of his work in light of their own research.
To put it another way: as we grow we cooperate conditionally, attending to the behavior of others. This has huge implications for architects and design professionals who might be naturally collaborative – through sharing knowledge, learning, mentoring and teaching – but are otherwise conditioned by the culture of the firm where they work.
Some firms encourage collaboration while others discourage it by focusing exclusively on individual achievement or by not valuing knowledge sharing. In a sense, you are collaborative because the culture of your organization is one that promotes and encourages collaboration.
The Latest Buzzword?
The word “collaboration” seems to have been invented to provide adults with a serious sounding activity that we, as children, seemed to do naturally.
We like to think of collaboration as the latest business buzzword but of course is nothing new. The word is actually 130 years old, making headlines nearly 100 years ago in the New York Times. We are all still trying to figure out how to do it effectively or at least how to sell it as a unique way architects work.
In any event, there’s a great deal we need to unlearn in order to return to our original sharing attitude and collaborative ways, including bad habits we’ve picked up since we left the cocoon of school and embarked on the hard knocks of a career in architecture and construction, where we learned to be mistrustful, skeptical, competitive, secretive, working independently out of silos. We unlearned all of the critical natural habits, attitudes and mindsets necessary to work effectively on integrated teams.
While collaboration extends and reorients insight, increases efficiency, creates credibility and community, the word itself is too often loosely defined.
A definition of collaboration particularly relevant for our age of Building Information Modeling (BIM) and Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) is a process through which people who see different aspects of a problem can constructively explore their differences and search for solutions that go beyond their own limited vision of what is possible. (Grey, 1989)
Collaboration is simply when people work together to create something that couldn’t be done by someone on their own. We do it all the time when designing buildings, resolving problems or working with owners to deliver solutions. The difference today is that we need to get even better at working together and sharing knowledge to solve problems, which are getting larger and more complex.
Moving beyond our boundaries – personal, organizational – requires that we see our blind spots and who better than our fellow collaborators – seeing-eye professionals – can help us see our blind spots?
To do so we have to seek out people who have other pieces of the puzzle.
Collaboration is best used to solve what Howard Gardner called “wicked” problems with “imperfect, changing or divergent solutions.” The problems architects face today are wicked in that they are complex, defying simple formulations and easy solutions, such as fighting global warming or increasing productivity in the construction industry.
Problems aren’t only wicked – they’re simultaneous – occurring at the same time. Buildings aren’t only complicated, becoming increasingly complex; they also change quickly, marked by a sense of urgency.
To remain efficient and effective, recognizing when it’s unhelpful to collaborate can be important. There’s no need to collaborate, for example, on simple, repetitive, fast turnaround assignments.
Conditions for Successful Collaboration
We don’t trust that this diverse group of people we hardly know will be able to perform better than we can on our own and tend to feel more comfortable and self-assured managing tangible things such as projects over people and relationships. Fortunately, architects are more people-focused later in their careers.
In addition to being people-focused, here are eight preconditions for successful collaboration:
Chemistry – because how can you work well together if you don’t like each other?
Equal, multiple expertise – it’s not truly collaboration if the manager cannot participate in design and the designer cannot participate in managing – it’s an assembly line.
A willingness to play – because fun leads to better, more creative results.
Listening – because it’s about the process of making something together.
Having an open mindset
Willingness – you must choose to collaborate – it can’t be done at gunpoint
Willful effort to work together to get things done; and
Trust between those involved
Because architects find themselves questioning their relevance, their collaborative participation is crucial. We perhaps sent the wrong message by recently honoring sole practitioners such as Glenn Murcutt and Peter Zumthor because it glamorizes autonomy over working together.
Why collaborate? Because if you don’t you will not fully participate in public, community, creative and economic life. We may be natural collaborators, but now it is time for us to build collaborative cultures.
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty September 25, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, architecture industry, books, career, change, employment, identity, management, optimism, questions, reading, software architects, the economy, transformation.
Tags: Architecture for Humanity, Cameron Sinclair, dave eggers, Down Detour Road, Eric J Cesal, Great Wake, Haiti, MacArthur fellowship, out of work architects, The Huffington Post, The MIT Press, unemployed architects
Today’s post will be brief: I have a presentation to edit and packing still to do. But I would be remiss in leaving town without first letting you in on a brand new book that I just read that I predict will take you and the architecture profession by storm. Before reading further, grab your wallet. You’ll need it by the time you get to the sixth line of this book review.
The book title: Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice
The author: Eric J. Cesal
Why you never heard of him: He’s a recent architecture graduate with 5 years experience as an intern and has built little.
Why that shouldn’t matter: You will be hearing a lot more of and from Eric J. Cesal.
The consensus: This may well be the best book by and for architects ever written. And (to my wife’s chagrin) I own and have read them all.
What the book will set you back: $14.93 ($21.95 + tax if you happen upon it in a bookstore, like I did. See “chagrin” above.)
Who should read this book: Out of work architects. Architects thinking of leaving the profession. Architects who have left the profession but want back in. Former architects who have left the profession for good but on deep, dark nights lie sleepless in bed wondering if they made a wise choice. Neighbors of out of work architects who wonder why they wear a tie when taking the dog out for a walk. Anyone who has ever had to wear a tie. Katherine Darnstadt would like this book. Parents who find their recent grads living once again under their roof. Or in their tent. Employers. Architect’s spouses, friends, relatives and roommates. Architects who think they might have a story to tell but question whether anyone will care to listen. Architects who are considering doing a tour of duty helping the world in some selfless way while they wait out the Great Wake. Architects who think they may be the next to be let go. Architects who sometimes wish they were the next to be let go. Architects who read architecture blog posts in hopes of finding someone who deeply, passionately understands their situation. Architects.
Why you should get it: This book speaks to you where you hurt. Cesal is wise beyond his 31 years (33 today) and whip smart. He knows what matters and he (and no doubts his talented editors) cut to the chase.
Why you should get it now: The sooner you read it, the sooner we’ll all be out of this mess; the sooner you’ll decide to stick it out in architecture; the sooner you’ll find a place for yourself in this new world.
Author’s espoused purpose in writing the book: “We want to find ways for the architecture profession to prosper as our world economy transitions.” p. 42
Why you should read it: Cesal wrote the book during a period of unemployment. Nearly every architect – employed, underemployed and unemployed – can relate.
Why else you should read it: Cesal names the Great Recession the Great Wake.
What will linger long after you’re done reading the book and give it to your colleague to read: The author’s voice.
What this book could also be used for: Like a commonplace book that soldiers used to carry around with them for reassurance and companionship on the front lines, you can keep this book nearby on your own detour of duty.
Why I love the book: Interjected throughout the book are short personal essays describing the author growing up, personal incidents and events that helped shape the architect/ author/ artist/ humanitarian he has become today. I love how the book captures timely subjects (the co-opting of our title by others) and timeless ones. I am most impressed by the way the author maintains a line of thought, without jumping around from subject to subject: a real feat and welcome revelation in contemporary writing. Like the late, great architect and author Peter Collins, Cesal asks hard questions and isn’t afraid to linger in them until he offers a solution.
Why this book may not be appropriate for all audiences: There’s an excruciatingly painful scene involving a tooth being pulled. Alcohol plays a part in a number of chapters.
The author’s eye for detail: How Cesal knew the recession had reached his city: “The coffee shop I usually passed by seemed to have too many people in it.”
Why I think Eric J. Cesal is architecture’s answer to Dave Eggers: Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice is A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius if it were written for architects.
Favorite passage from the book: The author’s attempt to find work at a temp agency. (p.117) Priceless.
The author’s education: Three master’s degrees in four years: business administration, construction management and architecture from Washington University in St Louis.
What book you might compare Down Detour Road with: During the deep recession of the 1970’s we had Harris Stone’s incomparably endearing and well-illustrated Workbook of an Unsuccessful Architect (available here for a penny.) But let there be no doubt: Down Detour Road is our age’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men by Walker Evans and James Agee. This book is our The Worst Hard Time: The Untold Story of Those Who Survived the Great American Dust Bowl.
Someone famous the author hangs with but doesn’t once mention in the book (very classy): Cameron Sinclair, co-founder and ‘chief eternal optimist’ (CEO) for Architecture for Humanity.
Representative quote from the book: “For all the things I had intended my life to be, for all of the things I thought I would be doing at 31, I was sitting in the dirt, on the side of an empty, unlit road, jobless, homeless, cold and hungry, lusting after a street sign.”
The author’s solution: Cesal recommends that we have to come to some hard truths about the limits of what we do “and then leap beyond those boundaries.” He goes on to describe 10 types of architects.
What are the ten architect types he writes about? The financial architect; The value architect; The risk architect; The paid architect; The idea architect; The knowing architect; The named architect; The citizen architect; The green architect; The sober architect. He refreshingly doesn’t over-use capital letters and dedicates a chapter to each architect type.
What it says on the dust jacket: As the world redesigns and rebuilds in the face of economic and ecological crises, unprecedented numbers of architects are out of work. What does this say about the value of architecture? That is the question that confronted architect Eric Cesal as he finished graduate school at the onset of the worst financial meltdown in a generation. Down Detour Road is his journey: one that begins off-course, and ends in a hopeful new vision of architecture.
Like many architects of his generation, Cesal confronts a cold reality. Architects may assure each other of their own importance, but society has come to view architecture as a luxury it can do without. For Cesal, this recognition becomes an occasion to rethink architecture and its value from the very core. He argues that the times demand a new architecture, an empowered architecture that is useful and relevant. New architectural values emerge as our cultural values shift: from high risks to safe bets, from strong portfolios to strong communities, and from clean lines to clean energy.
This is not a book about how to run a firm or a profession; it doesn’t predict the future of architectural form or aesthetics. It is a personal story—and in many ways a generational one: a story that follows its author on a winding detour across the country, around the profession, and into a new architectural reality.
Where you can find the author today: Port-au-Prince, managing and coordinating Architecture for Humanity’s design and reconstruction initiatives in Haiti until 2012.
No, really, where can you find him: You can find him here. But seriously, he lives in Haiti with a family of two dogs, 11 chickens, 5 cats and a goat named Newfie. Read more about it in the Huffington Post here.
What’s next up for the author: As Cesal explains on his webpage, “Two projects are currently in slow, agonizing, one-sentence/week progress: NCARB & I, a chronicle of architectural licensing, and Lets Just Finish These Beers and Go, a semi-autobiographical romp about how to become an architect while making every self-defeating effort you can.”
What does the word “detour”mean in the book’s title: de·tour, n.
1. A roundabout way or course, especially a road used temporarily instead of a main route.
2. A deviation from a direct course of action.
Likelihood that the book will be made into a movie: Very good odds. I’m not a betting man but I’d bet on it.
Final thoughts: Someone get this guy a MacArthur Genius Grant. And a second one to The MIT Press for having the foresight and gumption for publishing this staggering piece of exceptional writing from an otherwise little known entity. Cesal may very well be doing wonderful, necessary work in Haiti but we very much need him here back home with us.
The quickest way to get the book in your possession: Steal it from an architect in the coffee shop. Or click here
What to do while you wait for your copy of the book to arrive: Tell everyone you know to read Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice.
A Heartbreaking Book of Staggering Genius: One Architect’s Detour of Duty by Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED AP 2010
62 Reasons to be Optimistic (and 18 to still be Pessimistic) September 15, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architecture industry, career, change, creativity, employment, management, optimism, possibility, pragmatism, survival, sustainability, technology, the economy, transition.
Tags: AEC industry, Bondy Studio, Donald Trump, Google, NBC, Olson Kundig Architects, positive psychology, positivity, The Apprentice
Not since my post from last year 32 Things to be Optimistic About Right Now have I tackled this subject head-on.
It’s about time.
That’s not to say I have avoided it altogether. I have addressed the positive side of practice on a number of occasions, not always to positive reception.
I started paying attention to not only what he said but the number of positive things he mentioned, despite the general gloom in the economy right now.
He was positively optimistic – and it was admittedly contagious.
There’s scientific research that backs a 3-to-1 “positivity ratio” as a key tipping point where, essentially, it takes 3 good experiences to block out one bad one.
A 3:1 ratio of positive statements or experiences to negative ones is considered the ideal for staying optimistic.
This ratio answers the question for many of how you can be generally positive and optimistic while maintaining some negative emotions and thoughts.
The following list roughly reflects this ideal ratio.
Agree or not – just by reading the lists here you have done your part today in remaining positive and optimistic.
Here are 62 absolutely fresh, upbeat and practical reasons to be positive (and 18 to still be pessimistic) about our chances of recovering, enduring or otherwise surviving this recession as individuals, organizations, profession and industry.
I would love to hear – optimistic or pessimistic – reasons of your own, by leaving a comment below.
Let’s get the pessimistic out of the way first (a commenter’s brilliant suggestion.)
There are times of course when it is advisable to be pessimistic, and we don’t have to look far to find them. Being pessimistic at times gives you an insight to your problems and situation by allowing you to realistically assess challenges, obstacles and roadblocks you may face which otherwise you might overlook – by being overly-optimistic. After all, you wouldn’t want an overly optimistic commander taking you into the war zone underestimating the enemy or one so paralyzed by indecision they end up doing nothing.
- We are seeing firms close that were once great, however amicably, due to economic pressures
- How can we get reciprocity in other states if we can’t get an NCARB certificate because the firms we once worked for – who can vouch for our tenure – no longer exist?
- Career stage: Being a mid-career professional – at no fault of one’s own
- Salary: Finding oneself too costly, too expensive, for most firms
- Finding one has not kept up with technology – and while that wasn’t a hazard in the past, it is an indictment against you today
- Statistics: Research shows once unemployed over 6 months – the odds are against you finding employment
- Compensation: If you made a good living before – one might rightfully doubt finding employment that would come anywhere close to what you made before
- Flexibility: If you had a great deal of freedom in your previous position – chances are under these circumstances that it is unlikely that sense of freedom would continue
- If well-rounded; firms seem to be looking, when they look at all, for experts, not generalists (thought see anexception below)
- M&A: Large conglomerates are buying-up well-established design firms, firms that helped give the profession variety, diversity and high profile design. In M&A news, according to Archinect, Stantec is on a tear. The mega-A/E company announced recently that it will acquire Burt Hill — just weeks after similar news about acquiring Anshen + Allen. Who will be next?
- Construction: Contractors are hiring graduates right out of school – potentially resulting in, or adding to the likelihood of, a lost generation
- Unemployed architects may never find work in the profession and be forced to leave, not to return
- Knowledge transfer: A great deal of knowledge and experience goes out the door with them
- Phil Read (Phil Read!) leaving HNTB (what is this world coming to?)
- Many architecture firms continue to shed staff and struggle to keep the lights on
- Ownership transition: Aging owners ready to monetize on their business, who in the past passed their practice on to the next generation internally, increasingly result in more acquisition activity because younger architects are not interested or in the position to buy.
- Intuition: This time around just “feels” different than any other downturn – very hard to compare it and therefore manage or act on it
- Being human: Even the best leader cannot maintain optimism in the midst of layoffs, salary reductions, increased workloads, missed payroll or bounced pay-checks.
Note: The following are optimistic without being rah-rah. And no qualifiers are necessary: these are not cautiously-, rationally-, pragmatically-, realistically- or conservatively-optimistic. They’re just:
- Experience: We ourselves are the reason to be optimistic – our training and experience have gotten us to where we are – and will also provided us with the tools and best practices to confront these changes
- Change: It’s all about change – and we’re not immune to it
- Resolve: We will design our way out of this
- We’re creative, resourceful, when it comes to seeking solutions, and this situation is no exception
- Training: We’re trained as problem solvers – we can solve this problem
- We needed a course correction; this situation provided us with the opportunity to change
- Change was imminent – something our industry has been wrestling with for ages
- Determination: This gives a chance to see what we are made of, how strong is our resolve
- An opportunity to look at our convictions – what it is we are really good at, what it is we believe in, what we ought to be putting our energies into, what really matters to us and to others – and to drop what isn’t as important
- Transparency: A chance for firms to share as much information as possible with each other, be transparent and open book – compare notes – not size each other up
- Our industry and profession has changed in the past – and will again
- Provides a chance for firm leaders to leverage the talents of those who work for them that otherwise may never have been tapped
- Design Excellence: The world will always need good design
- Owners will continue to need someone to sign and seal exceptional documents
- There are problems – such as retrofitting suburbs – that really only an architect can tackle
- Rest: This down time allows us to restore our energy and creativity
- Much-needed time to define and refine the current standards of care for our profession
- A chance to give to others – to help others out who may be in need
- The profession is no doubt smaller – but as the constant exchange of information makes the profession feel smaller, more accessible and manageable – we’re more likely to hear from and learn from each other
- Jobs: Everyday there are more and more jobs listed – and not just in NY and California
- Thawing: Word on the street, from developers, is that banks are freeing up loans for development
- Owners: Our clients are more and more cautiously optimistic
- You have to be optimistic to be in this profession
- Funding: Google Invests $86 Million In Low-Income Housing
- Governance: Great leadership opportunities and hope for greater voice and influence: More and more architects, such as Stefano Boeri, Italian architect in Milan and editor-in-chief of Abitare, announce plans to run for public office.
- Green design: Sustainability is no longer a specialty or added service and is on the verge of going mainstream and becoming standard procedure
- Olson Kundig Architects had an ad recently where they were seeking “Generalists Needed” in Seattle, WA
- Technology: There are iPhone apps for our profession and industry – including apps that allow us to read and CAD and Revit models and now “Buildings” – an iPhone app that help you find local architecture
- Marketing: The economic downturn has allowed us to refocus our energies on marketing, determine what it is that distinguishes us, and put it into words and images; to become better marketers of ourselves
- Selling: We’ve learned from the downturn how to make what we sell – which as a service is largely invisible – visible and tangible and therefore more likely to deliver
- Competition: The increase in competition and dearth of new projects has opened us to new markets and project types that otherwise may have remained outside our comfort zone
- The current situation itself, and all it entails, has widened our comfort zone considerably
- The truth is that nobody really knows what will happen next; why side with the negative?
- Correction: The optimistic scenario is that the recession is correcting the excesses of the euphoric bubble years, when the global economy was on an unsustainable path.
- Efficiency: We’re ushering in a new era of doing more with less
- Stabilizing effect: Instability leads inevitably to stability
- Green saplings: Optimists see the recession as a forest fire that clears out dead brush, making room for new growth.
- Progress: A lot of what we’re doing now would have been impossible even five years ago.
- Start-ups: There are a number of new firms and new ventures started because of this downturn, including completely new business models
- Global practice: Things look more optimistic if you adopt an international perspective
- Education and training: Those remaining or returning to school will be more highly educated forces when they return to practice
- Cost of materials: Prices on many materials are down after many years of climbing
- Recessions clean out the excess of past boom periods
- Registration and licensure: A recession results in an increase in individuals applying to take the Architect Registration Examination (ARE) to better position themselves in the workforce.
- Educators: A recession results in an increase in individuals applying to architecture programs and schools
- Sustainability: More people taking the LEED exam to give them the leg up when things pick up again
- More stabilized workforce: Many architecture firms have seen a leveling-off of the need to shed staff resulting in some stability
- M&A: We’re seeing some interesting mergers brought about by strategy and the need to fill specific niche needs as much as by the economy, such as the combining of OWP/P with Cannon Design.
- Learning: Professionals have had more time to learn and to catch-up on continuing education
- The lull has allowed some professionals to share information with the rest of us in the form of videos, webcasts, white papers and tutorials that we otherwise may never have benefitted from
- Helping-hand: Downsizing provides colleagues with the opportunity to secure another position for these individuals at other firms – the chance to contribute, help out, give and give back. A year later those individuals would often as not tell me ‘it was the best thing that happened to them.’
- Leadership: More leaders avoid mincing words, painting a false picture and putting spin on what is not know, while rising to the opportunity to be truthful, tell the truth, good or bad, be authentic in words and actions, will go a long way to assuaging what otherwise can be a devastatingly difficult time for some
- Doing this provides the right person with an incredible opportunity to lead
- And to (re)build trust
- Access to information: Accurate information about our profession and industry is right at our fingertips 24/7 – this was not always the case.
- Communication: The situation we find ourselves in forces you to communicate more frequently with others, showing you how connected you really are and how much you rely on one another; a valuable lesson lost on those who operate exclusively within their comfort zone
- Higher performance: Most people can sense a change in themselves when around optimistic people, feeling motivated, inspired and energized. That’s almost reason enough to be optimistic and be around optimistic people.
- This time around provided us with the chance to learn from our mistakes and move on.
- Resilience: Treat this as an opportunity to show your resilience.
- Attitude: As difficult as it might be to stomach, realize that “this too shall pass.” Remind yourself that there will be other challenges, that this is one among many and that you never went into your chosen field because it was easy. On some level you understood how difficult it would be. And that you were equal or better than the difficulties it entailed and that would ensue.
- Mindset: Without blame or recrimination, see this as an opportunity to face the situation with acceptance and peace.
- A sign: Recognize that pain of any type is to give us a message. Once you got the message, stop dwelling in the pain. See this situation as a sign that things, as they existed, were not sustainable. Come to realize that situations that present challenges have been brought to you so that you may learn and become more aware of your strength, resilience, ingenuity and ability to overcome.
Bonus item: Donald Trump and Co. are returning for a 10th season of NBC’s “The Apprentice.” In a new twist on the reality competition, this season’s 16 candidates have all been hit hard by the current economic downturn – and there is not one architect in the bunch. A sign of the times? You decide.
BTW 62 – the number of reasons to be optimistic – is the same number Edward De Bono used in his book entitled, Creativity Workout: 62 Exercises to Unlock Your Most Creative Ideas, a book that encourages you to make connections, think beyond your peers, recognize possibilities and create opportunities.
Not a bad place to start in keeping your 3-to-1 ratio intact.
How Much Juice Can You Squeeze from an Architect? August 14, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in career, employment, management, questions, the economy.
Tags: big squeeze, credit freeze, economy, engaging employees, globalization
Before tending to the still sleeping kids and pets, before stretching, yoga or meditating, before saying affirmations, doing visualizations or reading positive, uplifting quotes and passages – even before posting here – I take a sip from this cup.
Over time, while preparing my morning ritual elixir, I noticed no matter how hard I squeezed I was tossing out valuable pulp and juice.
One day I asked myself if I was getting the most from my morning lemon.
How much lemon juice can you get from 1 lemon?
Most will tell you, depending on size, about 2 ½ tablespoons (about how much I was getting.)
So how about if you could get a ¼ cup or so from each lemon
– with no additional effort or expense –
You’d do it, right?
Here’s how you can extract more juice from your lemon.
Briefly microwave the lemon for 15 seconds before juicing.
It doesn’t matter what type of lemon it is.
Meyer, Eureka or Lisbon, or whether organic or conventionally grown, foreign or from here.
What does the microwaving do to the lemon?
It warms it up. It pumps up the pulp. Prepares the lemon for the big squeeze.
Resulting in greater productivity and effectiveness from the lemon with less effort and waste.
So if you are not getting ¼ cup or so of juice from your lemon you’re not optimizing it, squeezing out all of its natural goodness. Which leads me to ask:
Could it be as easy to get the most and best from ourselves today at work?
Architects, before the economic downturn, used to do work roughly matching their skill sets and talents.
While others had jobs, vocations and careers, architects had a calling.
And architects were called. Now we’re doing most of the calling.
When the downturn came, people were let go and holes needed to be filled by those who remained.
Generally, people within the firm stepped down to fill the role of those immediately below them.
Interns were let go – and so junior architects took on their tasks – while maintaining their own workload.
Principals stepped down to ostensibly fill in for senior managers missing in action.
Hands-off designers – who formerly operated side-by-side – picked-up software, manned their posts and joined the DIY fray or else were permanently sidelined.
All of this while everybody took on additional tasks such as marketing, business development and IT; vacuuming, garbage and kitchen duty.
Often for less pay. And less gratitude. In less time.
Architects of course are not alone today in feeling squeezed.
The book, The Big Squeeze, by labor correspondent for the New York Times Steven Greenhouse, is a personal and emotionally compelling look at what the American worker is experiencing today, an all too human tale about the American way of living in our time.
In an interview, Greenhouse was asked: Why did you title your book The Big Squeeze?
Greenhouse responded: I really feel there’s a squeeze on workers. In many ways, corporate America is clamping down on its workers. Wages have been cut over the past few years. We’ve seen health benefits get worse. Middle-class Americans have health insurance while the typical worker has to pay twice as much for health insurance as was the case seven years ago. We’ve seen good pensions kind of disappear, evaporate and be replaced by 401(k)s, which I describe as Swiss-cheese retirement plans. A lot of workers don’t have 401(k)s—many workers have little to support themselves when they retire. While wages are stagnant and benefits are getting worse, workers also are being squeezed to work harder. There’s less job security than there used to be. And with all the rounds of downsizing, workers feel more insecure on the job. If you’re feeling insecure, you’re less likely to push for better wages and benefits.
That from the comparatively halcyon days of 2008.
What’s Within Our Control?
How much of the squeeze is brought about by factors outside our control (the economy, globalization, frozen credit, etc) and what is within our control to change and interpret differently?
In other words, despite what the world is giving us today, are employers making every effort to do the right thing?
Are employees doing everything in their power – emotionally, rationally, psychically and physically – to adjust to the new realities of the workplace?
Part of the stress architects are feeling these days is due to their internal make-up.
– have an exceptional capacity for dealing with a variety of people, events and challenges – often simultaneously. The current economy doesn’t honor this capacity of the architect – limiting the people we work with, the number and type of projects we work on and the types of challenges we contend with;
– truly believe they can do most anything they are given to work on. More often than not today architects are being told what to work on, how to do it, and given little say in the project’s definition or destiny;
– work must be play or it is often not worth doing. Worthwhile tasks for the architect are those that affirm and enlarge the self, involve learning on the job and more fun than drudgery. Little of the work architects are given to undertake today – when there is work – could be described as “play.”
– love to please others. They will overexert themselves – physically and psychologically – to please. Today they are finding that there are fewer people – colleagues to clients – to please;
– often work in fits and starts, and so when they become excited, they lose all sense of time, physical needs and anything else. They follow their enthusiasm until totally fatigued then collapse. More often today architects are experiencing a new kind of stress brought about from there being too little to do, too little to capture their attention and imagination, having to parse their work to fill in their allotted time;
– are rarely complacent. With their job security at risk, few are willing to go out on a limb to voice their opinion or attempt to improve a project or situation for fear of rocking the boat.
Architects generally make more starts than finishes – and the work they are given if it is about anything these days – is finish work: their motivating mantra reduced to get it done.
Taking on project work that is outside of their – and the firm’s – expertise, the result of overzealous and opportunistic marketing efforts.
Someone brought in this project, promises made without your input, and now you have to complete it.
It is not uncommon for architects to work themselves into exhaustion while following an inspiration. Open to a never-ending flow of alternatives in any situation, the work they are given today does not call for their creativity but their ability to come to a quick and certain conclusion: not normally the architect’s strong suit.
As architects we don’t even know how much we have to give.
If we’re capable of lifting a car off of someone who has just been run over, we are capable of achieving a great deal more than we can fathom.
When an employee knows that they are valued – for their penetrating mind, their passions and interests, for their person, who they are – and recognized for their contributions to the firm, they will find that extra place from which they have the capacity to give.
Employers, ask yourself:
- Are you preparing your staff to be more productive?
- Are you being realistic about the amount of work you give them and expect them to undertake?
- Do you explain on a regular basis how the firm’s and world’s circumstances are driving this situation and that – while no one can predict when it will end – it is temporary?
- Are you doing all you can to keep your employees engaged with the work they’ve been given to complete?
- Or have you left it to them to fend for themselves, sink or swim?
Prepare your staff to give – from themselves, willingly, and not because they feel like they are being squeezed from all directions – in terms of time, money and output.
Employees, ask yourself:
- Are you getting enough rest?
- How about optimal nutrition and exercise?
- Are you making adjustments in your lifestyle to account for these changes in the workplace?
- Have you identified ways outside of work to remain energized, invigorated and to refuel? Have you identified a prize for yourself, however you define it – passing the ARE or studying for the LEED exam, taking a course in hand sketching, traveling or visiting projects that inspire you or however you define it for yourself – and kept your eyes on that prize?
- Do you feel like you are being squeezed in every direction, used up for your cheap labor, relatively flexible demands on your free time, your heightened energy levels, your need to gain experience, your wanting to climb the corporate ladder, your fear of being abandoned as so many of your peers?
As an architect, you are meant to give. Are you interpreting your current situation as the world telling you not to give of, and from, yourself?
The energy, attention, skill and talent are there in you to give – you only need to know how to properly prepare for it.
Greater productivity is ours to have – as individuals and as a profession.
The construction industry – which has seen no productivity gain in the past 40 years – will only improve if each individual who participates makes it their goal to achieve greater productivity and work more effectively.
To work smarter, not work more.
It all starts with you – one architect.
So, how much juice can you get from one architect?
Unless we change the way we work with and engage with ourselves and each other, the world may never know.
The Rise of the Knowledge-Driven Architect July 10, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in change, collaboration, management, questions, survival, transformation.
Tags: AIA, American Institute of Architects, evidence-based design, information, KA Connect, knowledge, Knowledge Architecture, knowledge management, knowledge-driven
In fourth grade the same dentist came to our elementary school gymnasium and showed the entire student body how to brush properly: side to side. He did not acknowledge the fact that the method had changed.
In fifth grade the dentist came to our elementary school and showed the assembled students in the gymnasium how to brush properly: in a circular motion. Again, no reference to the method changing.
Having moved on to middle school, I didn’t stick around to find out what they recommended the following year. One can easily imagine them gathered at the assembly year after year recommending another method.
This varietal display of effective brushing technique did not bode well for the dental profession. Nor, for that matter, for elementary school.
But because the gymnasium had daylight, according to researchers, I have managed to retain this vital information all of these years.
Knowledge: The Podcast
In the AIA podcast, The Knowledge Agenda: Transforming a Profession, Markku Allison AIA, ever-resourceful Resource Architect at AIA talks with Walter Hainsfurther FAIA, President at Kurtz Associates Architects, Vice President at American Institute of Architects and chair of the AIA Board Knowledge Committee, about this much-anticipated change to the profession.
Warning: This post raises as many questions as the podcast seeks to answer.
Markku fires the first shot by stating that knowledge is the most valuable asset of the architect.
In other words, defining what knowledge actually is and how is it differentiated from data and information.
And if in fact knowledge, what kind is it?
Academic knowledge (defined as what practitioners don’t find useful) or practical knowledge (defined as useless to academics.) Theoretical, logical or semantic?
Systemic or empirical?
Direct or indirect? Procedural or intuitive?
Explicit or tacit knowledge?
When Walter says in the podcast that we gain much of our knowledge anecdotally – through habit, similar to oral history – is this just another way of saying much of our knowledge is tacit, which is by definition highly personal and hard to formalize, making it difficult to communicate or share with others? Will doing-away with our anecdotal approach to design and building impact our tacit learning and implicit sharing of knowledge?
And is this all just a new way of reformulating the architect’s special burden of proof? That we design subjectively but explain and justify rationally? However ill-advised and indefensible, since architecture is both an art and a science, it is something most great architects have practiced for millennia.
Architects’ Ways of Knowing
It may just be a case that architects know what they know in ways that can’t be served by a giant, knowledge-filled clearinghouse.
Anyone who has recently read one of the four extant versions and editions of How Designers Think by Bryan Lawson (which shamefully is almost no one) will be familiar with his companion piece, What Designers Know, exploring and detailing the knowledge that architects work with, how they use this knowledge, whether design knowledge is special and where design knowledge comes from. It’s a life-changing good read.
The bottom line is that architects – by training and experience – gain knowledge in multiple ways: by way of drawings, site visits and travel, interactions with computer software, increasingly with the internet and through late night caffeine-fueled conversations. Not to mention learning by doing. 80% about what I know about architectural practice I know from eavesdropping on 20% of a particularly vocal project manager’s forceful, voice-carrying phone conversations earlier in my career (a vastly underrated knowledge-gaining method.)
Show Me the Data!
Knowledge in this case is based on results – not reasons. You want to design something one way – you show me the data, the metrics, the analytics.
Evidence-based design, an approach to healthcare design giving importance to design features that impact patient health, well-being, mood, and safety, as well as staff stress and safety, has a growing body of research showing that proper design of the built environment contributes to improving key outcomes. This is what clients would like to know. This area of study has gone on to impact other building types that involves creating better, more effective designs by using an approach based on evidence and outcomes rather than intuition and anecdotal information.
In the podcast, Walter alludes to there being a lot of knowledge on the web. Whether this is information or knowledge is a question worth asking. As is how much on the web is useful and how much dross.
How do we decide what knowledge to utilize in our next project? Someone – an early adopter – tries something out, returns for a post-occupancy and uploads the results.
Do you use it? What worked in Santa Cruz may not play in Peoria.
And the knowledge – in these fast-paced times – may have to be easily digestible, the equivalent of sugar-coated. How the knowledge is marketed becomes of critical importance.
How does this differ from CTRL+C: Copy, CTRL+V: Paste information out of such “knowledge guides” as Architectural Graphic Standards and Time-Saver Standards for Architectural Design Data, with contributions by world authorities and specialists reflecting essential changes and new knowledge in the field of architecture where one size never quite fits all? If you were to make a suit jacket by averaging all the suit sizes of men in Chicago it would result in a suit that fit no one.
Perhaps architects ought to Whispersync onto their Kindles, once and for all, in less than a minute for $9.99, the Architect’s Complete Knowledge Companion?
Or create a complete online source for information and insight on architectural planning, design and detailing that will get your clients the results they are looking for.
Architect’s Special Burden of Proof
Evidence-based design bases design decisions on the best available current research evidence. Just as online question and answer sites identify the best answer, one can imagine the AIA’s Knowledge Agenda site having architects vote on the best answer. Or, in lieu of democratic voting, one can imagine using something like Ask.com’s AnswerFarm™ technology – their proprietary method of crawling and extracting question/answer pairs from hundreds of thousands of sources, including user generated content, FAQ pages, news/blog articles, and structured/semi-structured data.
There are knowledge-driven organizations that emphasize the people side of knowledge management – what it takes to get employees to contribute to a knowledge system including ways to orchestrate the required culture change, explaining how organizations can move from “hoarding” knowledge to “sharing” it, building a global strategy that allows them to respond faster to client’s needs.
Architects have a special burden of proof. For it is not enough to place windows in classrooms in order to get better test scores (cited in the podcast and in a million other places.) Architects are challenged to always consider the big picture – the little clients and big clients, the paying and non-paying.
Architects knowledge is a special type of epistemology. Architects may access research knowledge but they also have designerly or tacit knowledge.
Architects acquire their knowledge in myriad and unusual ways: from magazines and blogs, webinars and lectures, reference books and websites, manufacturer’s literature, heresy and hunches. Gut punches from path-narrowing options of previous decisions and lessons learned.
At every critical juncture of a project, architects ask 4 Questions:
1. What is actual?
2. What is necessary?
3. What is desirable?
4. What is possible?
What sort of knowledge results from asking these pertinent questions?
For knowledge-driven architects to come about, what will it take for us to change our thinking? To put results and results-oriented thinking first?
We’re told again and again that natural daylight in classrooms improves knowledge retention in students and improves test scores. A study found that the use of skylights, for example, improved test scores in reading by 8.8 points and in math by 12.3 points. This translates to a 19% faster learning rate for reading and a 20% faster learning rate for math.
Whether skylights or windows, were they operable or fixed? Was this location specific? Could the students see out the windows or was the day light indirect? Were students distracted by views or were the windows largely clerestory? Was this data taken before the prevalence of classroom computers and their opportunity to create glare? Were the windows tinted or clear, south facing or north, and did this matter?
Can anyone name one result in architectural knowledge besides the daylight-to-test-score relationship or how seating arrangements at work increase performance and reduce sick days?
12 Questions the Knowledge Agenda ought to consider:
1. What will it take for architects to be able to change from a knowledge-is-power mindset to one of open-book collaboration and sharing? More importantly, will senior management be able to overcome their knowledge-is-power-trips in time to train and promote the next generation of emerging talent?
2. Will architects be able to create the culture that supports knowledge sharing before others – including their competitors – do so?
3. Will architects have the discipline to become research-driven professionals in lieu of anecdote, folk-wisdom and other subjective means of architectural justification?
4. Will 24/7 access to a shared communal knowledge base help architects to resolve technical problems quickly and make immediate, informed decisions to help solve client issues?
5. How will this knowledge be attained, retained and in what form that is usable to the vast majority of architects in the planning, design and documentation process?
6. If we can agree that architects gain knowledge, at least in part, tacitly, and that tacit knowledge is highly personal and hard to formalize, making it difficult to communicate or share with others, then how exactly will this knowledge be stored and made accessible for architects to download and share?
7. The AIA all-too-well understands just how diverse the make-up of the profession is. As Bryan Lawson points out “It is quite possible to find two people who call themselves architects and yet hardly share any of their daily tasks.” Will the shared knowledge made available to architects take this inherent diversity in mind?
8. Is this idea of a knowledge clearinghouse the equivalent of building one big, loosely organized planetary brain for the architecture profession? Would the site serve much the way as Robert Wright recently proposed, where the point of evolution (in this case of the profession) is to create social brains and to weave them into a big brain?
9. If architects are being nudged, encouraged or prompted to share knowledge with one another – how far do we take it? Shouldn’t we also then share information with our professional counterparts, including interior designers and construction managers? Or will the big brain be card-carrying members-only? Or is this what Markku meant when, in the podcast, he says the outcome will be “a stronger focus on research, higher degrees of rigor and validating the resources of knowledge available to the profession and others?”
10. Is it fair to say that the web contains information and by collecting it we store knowledge? If true, then let’s stop saying that the internet contains lots of knowledge.
11. Data, information, knowledge and understanding all relate to the past: what has been and what is known. Architects must certainly acknowledge the past and address present needs, but as innovators, we must focus on the future. Had architects through time only utilized past knowledge there would have been few of what we enjoy and take for granted today: innovations of our built environment.
12. Is this really just another way of saying Albert Einstein’s oft-quoted “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand”?
But then again, in order to recall this, you would have to know that.