Moving to Plan B: BIM and the Startup Mentality

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Albert Einstein

When’s the last time you looked at your business or practice through a fresh pair of eyes?

If the same old way of doing things – Plan A – is not working for you, consider relooking at how you’re going about it.

By working for you I mean:

Is the way you’re doing things today bringing in the bucks, sustainable, competitive, and nurturing to your staff, providing growth opportunities for your firm as well as growth-promoting opportunities for employees?

If you said no to any of these, there’s another way to go about business.

And the time is ripe for you to consider it.

Consider exploring Plan B.

B as in BIM

Christopher Parsons, founder of Knowledge Architecture, a knowledge management and information systems consultancy based in San Francisco, gets the credit for this one.

It’s a gem.

In a comment for a previous post on business model generation and BIM he wrote:

I believe that architects need to return to startup mentality — starting by conducting the search for the new “scalable, repeatable business model.”

That’s huge.

That’s it.

Just imagine.

It’s a new way of looking at your architectural practice.

As though it were a startup like SHoP or LTL Architects or any of the other fresh new faces that have been around for years, in some cases decades, and we’ve only recently started to pay close attention to.

Every business of course has its own variables. What works great for one may not work for yours.

But the great thing is you don’t actually have to open a design and production boutique under your considerable roof.

You only have to start thinking like one.

The Lowdown on Startups

What were you doing when these 8 practices startedup? What was the economy doing at the time these 8 firms were established?

  • Front, 2002
  • Gehry Technologies, 2002
  • Chris Hoxie, 2007
  • Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis Architects, 1997
  • MY Studio, 2001
  • nARCHITECTS, 1999
  • SHoP, 1996 and
  • George Yu Architects, 1992

You were probably doing business as usual.

How was business for you in 1992? What results did you see in 2002?

Startup Commonalities

What these organizations share:

  • a common denominator in technology’s application to architectural practice, especially the use of BIM
  • a shared commitment to experimentation and learning-by-doing
  • a pragmatic, “roll-up-your-sleeves” approach
  • a belief that process matters as much as product
  • seek opportunities to redefine the role of craft in architectural practice
  • open to not resembling a traditional architectural firm
  • can be seen as architecture firms of the near future
  • technology and its incorporation into design and practice plays a large role
  • an openness to alternative approaches to building design and production, including research, diversity of work and other approaches
  • the design work itself can differ radically from one from to another and is not dependent upon the approach

Read more about these emerging firms here.

Again, you don’t have to become one of these nimble startups.

You just have to start to think like one of the more creative firms in the industry.

It’s not an either-or but a what-if proposition.

What do you have to lose?

Startup Mentality

We’re still hesitant to consider our businesses as startups after the quick assent and burn-out of the dot.com bust a decade ago.

Startups are agile – most large firms would like to be more like small firms because they are flexible and nimble – as opposed to intrepid behemoths.

Again, we’re not suggesting launching a new venture in this economic climate, but launching a new vision for your business.

The mentality in this post’s title.

What is a mentality?

It’s a mental attitude that determines how you will interpret and respond to situations

A mindset – a way of thinking, one’s view and outlook.

So what’s a startup mentality?

Beginner’s Mind

It’s about thinking like a beginner.

Having an attitude of openness, eagerness and lack of preconceptions.

Even when you’ve been practicing at an advanced level for years.

Just as a beginner would.

It’s a mentality that’s innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices.

And it’s about thinking like an entrepreneur.

Without projecting your worries and concerns onto your situation.

Remember how fearless you were in school or early in your career?

That was probably due less to your mental make-up than to the fact that you didn’t know better.

Today you do know better – and your knowledge and awareness are inhibiting your thinking, your willingness and ability to see your practice in a different light.

It’s about having the ability to step back and see opportunities that may have been lying dormant.

It’s about setting a direction for your employees – giving them a why but not dictating the means and methods of how to get there.

It’s about doing scenario planning – projecting your new idea into the future – and seeing what might result from it.

This is what architects do after all.

You are already exceptionally talented at this.

You spend all day applying this ability to your client’s situation.

Try for a change applying it to your own situation and circumstance.

Consider this a design assignment like any other.

Questions

  • Are there business models that you’ve seen succeed for other industries that you might consider for your own organization? The Long tail? Offering “free” services? Minor trust-based adjustments of existing team collaborations around agent CM formats in which the owner and team are long-time collaborators?
  • In you firm, can you take an agile, flexible and nimble attitude and approach to innovation?
  • Within your firm, how would you go about proposing a startup mentality?
  • How are you going to monetize the enhanced uses of BIM and its add-ons within your practice?
  • How aware are you of how others have started to go about doing this?
  • Are you willing to conduct a search for a new scalable, repeatable business model for your organization?
  • How are you going to convince owners of the increased value that you are bringing to the table? And that you ought to be remunerated for this increase in effort and improved results?

and

  • Are you convinced?

How are you going to convince others of your deliverable’s considerable value and worth if you  are not yet on board?

Start by reading the book, Getting to Plan B, about the process of discovering a business model that works, with the assumption that your initial plan is most often wrong.

In other words:

Don’t reinvent the wheel, make it better.

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2 Comments

Filed under BIM, BIM organizations, craft, process

2 responses to “Moving to Plan B: BIM and the Startup Mentality

  1. Sivam Krish

    I totally agree with Christopher . Architects think they are solving different problems every time. They are not. There is a lot of commonality in projects. The current work practices are ancient – they do not make use of any of the learning’s from the software industry where code is modular and re-usable, even though the programs do completely different things.

    I think the key to efficiency is to study the commonality in design. This can be done through genetic modelling – which can produce 1000’s of design variations. But most importantly, what’s done can be re-used. This is the key aim of the open generative design initiative. We have just got started.

    sivam

    • randydeutsch

      Thanks Sivam for sharing your insights here. I appreciate it.

      I agree with you concerning your reference to generative design. With one caveat.

      I recently attended two presentations on generative design. The first was for its own sake – presenting over 1000 generative designs – without an explanation as to its application or purpose. After watching in silence for 15 minutes, the experience was mind-numbing.

      The second presenter showed their generative designs as applied to specific instances, and how their work solved intractable problems in these instances. A powerful display of the concpet.

      My point, in this instance, is that as a tool generative design is wonderful – as long as it is applied with a pupose and not for its own sake.

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