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Bridging Gaps That Don’t Reside in Building Skins December 6, 2013

Posted by randydeutsch in architect, architect types, career, change, education, management, transformation.
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spanningNegotiating a book contract, writing and giving conference presentations, proceedings, and journal articles, along with teaching my college courses, I overbooked my calendar this fall.

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.

Uh oh…

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.

It is the Enviable Architect who gets to Stay on Deck and Burn October 27, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in Ambiguity, architect types, architecture industry, career, change, identity, survival, the economy, transformation.
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This post will introduce a very short poem.

One that I feel perfectly captures the predicament architects find themselves in today.

But first, a few words about change.                    

As in What will it take for architects to change?

Let’s start by removing the word “change.”

Changing the word change.

Architects don’t like the word any more than anyone else.

Change itself is stressful and just the word alone has been known to raise one’s blood pressure.

And fight or flight response.

So what will it take for architects to evolve?

In order to transform, the pain of remaining the way we are has to be stronger than the pain of doing things differently.

From what I have seen and heard, architects have reached their pain threshold.

We’re crying Uncle.

Ready for the next step in our ongoing evolution.

Bring on the Next Age.

The next stage in our development.

Is architecture a burning platform?

The term burning platform in business parlance means immediate and radical change due to dire circumstances.

Radical change in architects only comes when survival instincts trump comfort zone instincts.

When making major decisions or solving major problems a sense of urgency is required to achieve one’s goals.

Despite the hardships we face and have faced for the past several years, most of us have felt more of a numbness than any real urgency.

As though our eyes were transfixed on a nearby fire.

When it is we ourselves who are engulfed  in flames.

Architects who would like an excuse to stay on deck

Thinking about architects and our situation today reminded me of a poem I’ve long loved.

A poem by one of the 20th century’s most esteemed poets – a poet’s poet – Elizabeth Bishop.

The poem is entitled Casabianca.

Four sentences.

Goes like this:

Casabianca

Love’s the boy stood on the burning deck
trying to recite `The boy stood on
the burning deck.’ Love’s the son
stood stammering elocution
while the poor ship in flames went down.

Love’s the obstinate boy, the ship,
even the swimming sailors, who
would like a schoolroom platform, too,
or an excuse to stay
on deck. And love’s the burning boy.

If one would judiciously liken the poor boy in the poem to the architect today.

And substitute the boy’s burning love for the architect’s passion.

The poem could be about the architect’s inability to describe, explain and justify their relevance – while crisis ensues all around.

Crisis of identity, of economy, you name it.

Who we are. What we are.

Where we belong. Whether we belong.

The poem would then be structured from the individual, into the world, returning to the architect in the final line.

As with the architect’s creative process, the lens of this poem widens from the architect to everything else and then, finally, back to the architect.

Something we often forget, and don’t give ourselves enough credit for:

Architecture begins and ends with the architect.

I know. There’s no architecture without a willing client.

And someone has to build the darned thing.

But while the building may belong to the world at large, architecture largely remains in our domain.

The poem’s build from the poor boy – and then back to the burning boy – is what makes this poem a whole, complete and memorable work of art.

Something the architect (stammering elocution) knows a little about.

I really miss architecture.

I envy you who despite all give it your all every day.

For it is the enviable architect who gets to stay on deck and burn.

Maybe What the Architecture Profession Needs is a Small Heart Attack July 27, 2010

Posted by randydeutsch in change, collaboration, environment, survival, the economy, transformation.
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What will it take for us to change?

That’s the question I posed recently to a psychologist and a professor.

First, it’s important to recognize that architecture is a conservative profession.

We’re looking out for others – protecting the health, welfare and safety of the public.

We take a lot of risks and by nature are risk-averse.

So when we hear change knocking – it’s not often we’re first in line.

And yet – as the world is making clear – our job now is to change.

The biggest challenge is recognizing that we need to change.

What will motivate us to do so and how will we benefit by doing so?

Motivation vs. Benefit

Think of a recent change that you have made in your diet, lifestyle or habits.

What events, experiences, knowledge or people motivated you to change your behavior?

Where did this motivation come from?

Within you? Or from without?

What were the payoffs for making the needed change?

The reason I ask is this:

Unless there are clear benefits, we won’t change.

If the reasons are big enough, architects will change

While conducting research for my book, BIM and Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011,) I asked a psychologist and a professor each what it will take for architects to change.

With the new technologies and collaborative work processes upon us, do these call for the redesign of the architect?

And if so, how will we go about making our necessary changes?

The psychologist responded,

“How?” is about 10% of it.

90% of it is “Why?”

With an architect, if the reasons are big enough, they’ll change.

Unless they feel hurt, depressed, angry, upset, disappointed, without that there’s no leverage to change.

People change when they can no longer stand the way they’re living and architects are no different.

Architects are going to have to change when they can no longer stand to practice the way they’re doing it and realize that they have to change.

They’ll be forced into it.

When the reasons are big enough, they’ll change.

Unless the feared pain of changing is less than the feared pain of not changing, I’m not changing.

It’s not “This is good for you.”

I’ll fight you to the death on that one.

People don’t change because it’s good for them.

They don’t change for people.

I’ve come to appreciate “negative” feelings. I need those. That’s the leverage.

Architects are Always Changing

The professor took a different tact.

I asked him if this is an important question or is change in the profession and industry inevitable, a given?

The professor responded:

It comes back to the question whether people think it is productive for their own roles or place in the profession for change to happen.

People who are asking that often feel threatened because they may be in positions of power and for them status quo is beneficial. So they don’t want a change.

Whereas people who want to make a place for themselves are often the ones who are trying to change things.

Change is inevitable.

The idea that architecture has ever been a consistent type of practice is a myth.

It has always changed.

There will always be people for whom change will seem alluring and filled with opportunity to advance and position themselves better.

There will always be this element of change.

We cannot predict when things will change in various contexts – but change is always this element in there that’s at play.

In a pretty amazing book succinctly summarizing the recent economic crisis, author John Lanchester borrows a concluding metaphor from climate scientist James Lovelock who observed that

What the planet needed was the equivalent of a small heart attack.

In Lanchester’s view, the recent economic crisis is the equivalent of capitalism’s small heart attack.

Such an episode in a person’s life is often beneficial because it forces the person to face unpleasant facts and to adopt a healthier lifestyle.

Perhaps it could have a similar effect on architects and the health of the profession?

Sometimes it takes a dramatic event to shake things up and to make people wake up.

So maybe what we are going through right now – with the economy, environmental challenges and technological changes – is a small heart attack?

Not so large so as to kill us.

But big enough to get our attention.

And get us to make the necessary changes.

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.

successive-sigmoid-curves1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

inflection_point

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.