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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.

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.

sigmoid-two-curvesWhere 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.

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

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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.

For Having Made the Journey March 8, 2009

Posted by randydeutsch in change, survival, the economy, transformation, transition.
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With Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser has written a book that is capable of changing ones outlook on life, and it is hard to think of a better guide and companion to have in these trying times.

I wouldn’t waste your time if this book wasn’t on my short list of most important books I’ve read. This is one of those rare books that will have you grappling with what to do with yourself once you have come to the last page. Subtitled “how difficult times can help us grow,” this is perhaps not the first book you might think of turning to when seeking answers to the questions life throws your way. But perhaps it ought to be?

Frequent words used to describe the book have been extremely well-written, clever, honest, entertaining, inspiring and transformative. Lesser, calling this last process of transformation “The Phoenix Process,” illustrates in clear and evocative prose how difficult times really can help us grow. Her image of the Phoenix rising from the ashes may resonate with some, for ashes are perhaps an apt metaphor for the times in which we live now – what has been done to our economy and environment – and will soon with some luck be building upon and growing out from.

This book of stories from Lesser’s life – and those of her well-known colleagues – told in short chapters has been on bookstore shelves since 2004 but it is only now that the bulk of people are discovering it, perhaps because they are seeing through different eyes than in the mid-decade halcyon days. These stories illustrate how times of pain and strife can awaken us to new ways of living more meaningful lives, offering a humanistic understanding of what it means to seek, grow, evolve and endure until we can ourselves each transform.

One of the themes of this book is the nature of life as change and constant transition. Other helpful books that explore this theme of thriving in times of change, that we will explore in a future post, include Your Job Survival Guide: A Manual for Thriving in Change, Deep Change: Discovering the Leader Within and Learning as a Way of Being, evocatively subtitled Strategies for Survival in a World of Permanent White Water. Lesser’s book is in some ways perhaps less practical – but it is more immediate and really ought to be read first.

As in now. Lesser’s mission is to help the reader see how fear and pain are normal reactions to crisis. Lesser acknowledges the unbearable and out-of-control nature of the crisis and loss experience and helps the reader grow in confidence that she will come through it all, lucid and stronger for having made the journey.

Architects everywhere, whether employed, under or un, sense that they will need to grow from this experience professionally and personally if they are to come out of it stronger. Whether every-man-for-himself in the office or lone-man-out at home, these times can no doubt be lonely ones. Lesser’s book provides the reader good company and just may give you the courage to keep on facing reality, being present with your feelings, and have your mind quieting down as if your life depended on it. Most importantly, it will allow you to understand that you are not the only one going through some drastic changes in life at this time in a way that, even if you rationally know that to be the case, you can understand emotionally, on a deeper level.

Written by someone who was willing to learn from her experiences, it is hoped that Broken Open will inspire you to write down and learn from your own – not so you won’t repeat them – but so you can perhaps give meaning to your personal and professional experiences, for yourself and for others. And, as it will have you feeling less inhibited about sharing those experiences, perhaps after putting the book down you will find yourself helping others through their own tough times through coaching and mentoring, serving as a resource or by simply shoring up support.