Category Archives: design professionals

Too Complex and Fast? Slow Down, But Don’t Oversimplify

oversimplifyTo lead our collaborative future, architects need to decentralize or risk being further marginalized.

Architects know that they need to collaborate to succeed. But how will they go about doing it? How, in other words, will they make collaboration happen? As importantly, how will architects make the changes necessary to become not only more collaborative, but leaders of this effort, amidst disruptive change?

AEC leaders already do a great deal to encourage collaboration amongst their teams, providing vision, collaboration-conducive work environments, collaboration technology, and by removing obstacles – including themselves –when necessary, gladly getting out of everyone’s way. They encourage diversity, discussion – even disagreements – as a basis for moving the project forward. By telling their collaboration stories, leaders paint a picture of what collaboration looks like when it is done well. Most importantly, AEC leaders make sure every team member is making the same project. But AEC leaders cannot assure this happens in every meeting on every project. Who, then, on the team will lead the day-to-day collaboration challenge?

Barriers to Collaboration

We know collaboration is hard and takes time — to build relationships, to clear-up misunderstandings, to listen and to get things done. Past experience can hold teams back, and one of the barriers to collaboration remains organizational silos.

Brand erosion is also an impediment to collaboration. For a designer whose singular voice is her expression through her work, collaboration is equated with joint authorship, to some the antithesis of creative expression, muddying the message of the work, dispersing and diluting the voice and design intent of the creator. This thinking is of course mistaken, as leaders need to make clear. One only needs to compare a Beatles tune with any of the band member’s solo efforts to recognize that teams make better decisions – and importantly, results – than individuals. The real fear in collaborating is that we – and our work – will be mediocre, a race toward the lowest common denominator, and with it, irrelevance: we will be seen as just one more designer among designers.

The truth, of course, is by not collaborating architects become marginalized. Not knowing how to effectively collaborate will lead to their irrelevance.

Complexity and Speed

Of the trends impacting our new world of work – including digital tools, collaborative work processes with attendant blurring of roles and responsibilities, working remotely and together earlier – two trends have made all the others a necessity: complexity and speed. Our technology has an impact on the anticipated speed of decision-making. When still hand-drafting, while facing a construction-related question or dilemma, architects would say: We’ll work it out in the field. This was the architect’s go-to VIF: where the contractor on the architect’s behalf would be expected to Verify In Field. Later, working in CAD, architects would say: We’ll work it out in shop drawings. With little bim: We’ll work it out in CDs. And today, with social BIM, We need to work it out NOW!

In the face of increased project speed, we will be tempted to slow down. And we are well advised to do so. Studies show to make decisions that stick, we’re better off delaying choices for as long as practically possible. According to Frank Partnoy in Wait: The Art and Science of Delay, the best professionals understand how long they have available to make a decision, and then, given that time frame, they wait as long as they possibly can: “we are hard-wired to react quickly. Yet we are often better off resisting both biology and technology.” Since our current technology and integrated work process does not accommodate our waiting – in fact, it discourages it – leaders need to make it safe for their teams to make assured, unrushed decisions.

Likewise, despite construction being wickedly complicated, we should not be tempted to oversimplify. We need to take the complex and make it seem simple – without oversimplifying – resisting the temptation to treat a complex task as simpler than it is, potentially leading to oversights and mistakes.

Decentralize or be Marginalized

Architects continue to see themselves as central to decision-making, whether at the top of the project pyramid or a prominent point of the team triangle. Contracts notwithstanding, architects are not the point. For collaboration to work, architects need to get off the pyramid and go wherever and whenever they are needed.

Decentralization implies the transfer of authority from central to local offshoots who represent the firm and serve as its public face, whether as project manager, project architect or project designer – sometimes any two, or all three. These offshoots – like starfish arms – contain the complete DNA and trust of the organization.

Although collaboration requires the architect to decentralize, it has to start at the top, where firm leaders entrust employees to lead teams. What will it take for architects to decentralize? Successful collaboration requires facilitative leadership. For the architect to take on this role, they must play the part of process facilitators over content creators, becoming in essence co-creators. When each teammate contributes as a co-creator, no single person has to carry the load, including the leader. Decentralization allows architects to join the project – and be immediately effective – midstream. Ideally, the architect is called in before the owner even considers undertaking a building project, but the reality is – due in no small part to their own making – the architect is often called upon when the project is already well underway.

Given the collaborative nature of today’s project teams, consideration needs to be given to the firm representative’s leadership and communication style. As proxy stand-ins for the firm, each team leader needs to be able to communicate effectively at all times, with all in the room. Architects’ often-unconscious communication habits will be increasingly scrutinized and decreasingly tolerated in these tight-knit groups. Architects, working more closely with others from every facet of practice, will need to become more familiar with their communication style, paying particular attention to the ability to adjust one’s style to those of others from other work cultures and walks of life.

FOCI: Multiple-centered – not centerless – leadership

Architects – seeing that others have helped narrow their options significantly – narrow them further by opting to see themselves as single purpose entities. One example of this is described in Victoria Beach’s salvo in the newly published 15th edition of the Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice where she asks architects to see themselves more as design-focused celebrity chefs and less as engineers assuring the health, safety and welfare of the public. For architects, it’s a both/and, not either/or, proposition.

In fact, architects in the coming years will be needed less as content providers of design intent than as facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators (or FOCI) of this information and process. Architects will have an opportunity to lead this process if they can learn to become better listeners, aggregators and refiners of the information that arises during the various stages of design and construction.

With the blurring of roles brought about by working collaboratively on integrated teams, the architect’s job is to keep decisions – often multiple decisions – in play. Collaboration and digital practice require a formwork on which to base multi-faceted decisions on increasingly complex projects. One such formwork is that of the rubric FOCI: in lieu of a singular central focus of the center, think of the multiple centers of the ellipse. A redefinition of decision-making that takes digital technology and collaboration into consideration creates such a formwork that will help the architect to communicate effectively with multi-disciplinary teams. To move from a circular to an elliptical model, the architect needs to decentralize.

To decentralize, architects also need to move away from the spotlight where they are the central focus. Many architects are introverts and would gladly succumb the spotlight to others. Architects don’t need to be the loudest one in the room to lead, just the one who listens best. To accomplish this, architects need to focus less, and FOCI more, by serving as project facilitators, orchestrators, collaborators and integrators. By decentralizing, the architect is no longer decision-maker so much as facilitator of project information and decision-making process. As facilitative leaders, architects can become experts in knowing how to find information as opposed to what the information is. When collaborating, it is not about how much any one person happens to know: projects today are too complex for any one person to know everything. Knowing from whom – and where – on the team to find information is more important than one’s ability to store and retrieve it. Architects will also serve as strategic orchestrators of large teams from the earliest stages, often made up with primary, secondary and even tertiary players. The C in FOCI is in flux: the C can represent collaborators or creators or controllers or coordinators. Architects, of course, are component and system integrators.

This post is an excerpt from Randy Deutsch’s article How We Can Make Collaboration Work: How architects can decentralize rather than be marginalized in the Jan-Feb 2014 Trends issue of DesignIntelligence journal.

Read and visit DesignIntelligence.

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Filed under collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, people, process

6 Qualities That Make Architects Ideally Suited to Lead Collaborative Integrated Teams

leadersIn order to effectively lead collaborative teams, architects would do well to downplay possessing specialized knowledge. Knowledge acquired in school and practice should be thought of as the price of admission, not their “Advance to GO” card, as so many on the team in this connected age have access to and share this same knowledge. Along with specialized knowledge, as a professional duty of practice, architects will also need to reevaluate the role of professional judgment, design intent, responsible control, direct supervision, and serving as the hander-down of rulings in the shape-shifting required from working simultaneously on collaborative teams.

Recognizing that nothing incites a non-architect’s derision, ridicule and ire swifter than to start a sentence “The architect is uniquely qualified to…” here are six qualities that make architects ideally suited to lead collaborative, integrated teams:

1. Architects can lead collaborative teams by tapping into their ability to maintain two or more opposing thoughts until an amenable solution arises. Roger Martin’s The Opposable Mind, on the problem-solving power of integrative thinking, describes the human brain’s ability “to hold two conflicting ideas in constructive tension.” Like F. Scott Fitzgerald’s test of a first-rate intelligence as “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function,” architects need to become even more comfortable working with and maintaining two or more opposing thoughts earlier in their careers. Architects famously can simultaneously maintain two lines of thought – e.g. their own and their client’s; their client’s and that of the public-at-large; the paying client and the non-paying client; the 99% and the 1%; the circumstantial and the ideal; science and art; reason and intuition; evidence and the ineffable; HSW and aesthetics; practical and dreamer. In an interview with the author, Phil Bernstein described the difference between young designers and older designers as the ability to manage an increasingly larger set of variables: “When I was working for Cesar Pelli, that was one of the amazing things about him – he could keep so many things in his head and he could balance them and weigh one against the other, and he could edit out what he called the systematic generation of useless alternatives. He would prevent us from going down that avenue.”

2. Architects are problem identifiers. Not only problem solvers, architects recognize that identifying the right problem to solve is often 80% of the solution. Frequently, the problem assigned is not the one that truly requires addressing. Architects work to make sure that everyone is focused on the most pressing, pertinent problem.

3. Architects see the big picture. Solution-oriented engineers sometimes have a difficult time seeing the forest from the trees. Malcolm Gladwell in Blink called this ability to see information in its wider context coup d’oeilcourt sense or “giss,” the power of the glance, the ability to immediately make sense of situations. Architects, by the end of their formal training, have begun to develop this ability, by thinking laterally and simultaneously – not linearly. Neither exclusively right- nor left- – architects are whole-brain thinkers. In the midst of prolonged analysis, architects can help to keep things whole.

4. Architects draw by hand, mouse and wand. Creatively ambidextrous, flexible and agile, architects are not stuck on any one means of communication or delivery. Architects make the best use of available technology to get the point across. Because architects envision what is not there, they help bring nascent ideas to life. Today, we cannot talk of leadership without the technology. We lead from the technology and the tools we use. In this way, architects lead collaboration from the middle by leading from the model.

5. Architects can lead collaborative teams by thinking like other team members, anticipating their concerns and questions before they arise. Architects see through other’s eyes, empathize and understand what is important to others. They have both deep skills and wide wingspan breadth. Architects are the only entity who serve not only the paying but non-paying client (society-at-large.) In trying to predict the consequences for any course of action, the architect needs to anticipate the responses of each of the integrated team members. To do this, an architect must know enough about each discipline to negotiate and synthesize competing demands.

6. Architects don’t lead collaborative teams because of their specialized skills, technology know-how, or privileged knowledge, but rather because of their comfort with ambiguity and uncertainty. Architects are best suited to lead collaborative teams by being able to extrapolate from incomplete information, and won’t let the lack of complete information stop them from moving forward.

The architect leading collaborative teams has implications for education in that independently trained professionals are inclined to remain independent in practice. According to NCARB’s contribution to the NAAB 2013 Accreditation Review Conference (ARC), over 80% of architects rated “collaboration with stakeholders” as important/critical, yet only 31.5% of interns and recently licensed architects indicated they had performed collaboratively prior to completion of their education program. This would need to change.

Let the Team be the Architect

The single most important issue confronting AEC leadership is, as Michael Schrage asked, how to pose problems and opportunities in forms that will elicit and inspire a collaborative response. Consultant Ed Friedrichs describes this as the ability “to inspire an entire team of participants to collaborate, to contribute the best they have to offer, in order to bring value to a client.”

Concerning collaborative teams, leaders need to ask of themselves – as well as prospective hires – are you the glue or the solvent? If architects are to be respected as leaders, their challenge is to communicate with their collaborators as equal partners in design.

In his book Architecture by Team, CRS’s William Caudill wrote: “The so called ‘great man’ approach must give way to the great team approach. From now on the great architects will be on great interdisciplinary teams.”

That was written in 1971. Buried on page 288 is the title of Chapter 109:

“Let the team – designers, manufacturers and builders – be the architect.”

So let the team be the architect, and the architect be the facilitative leader. And act soon, for we may not have another 40 years to see this out.

This post is an excerpt from Randy Deutsch’s article How We Can Make Collaboration Work: How architects can decentralize rather than be marginalized in the Jan-Feb 2014 Trends issue of DesignIntelligence journal.

Read and visit DesignIntelligence.

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Filed under collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, education, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process

What Will You Do That’s Extraordinary?

onelifeArchitects and others in the AEC industry are well-aware of the forces at work changing the way they go about their business.

Forces brought about primarily by the advent of the computer.

When in all pares down, there are three approaches you can take to participating.

You can work by hand, collaboratively with machines, or allow machines to do most of the heavy lifting.

In other words:

1. Analog

2. Man-machine collaboration, and

3. Machine

While in 2014 it is still possible to design a building and complete a set of documents by hand, you can also add, subtract and multiply on an abacus.

Doing everything by hand is a legacy from a bygone era.

While hand drawing is still a desirable skill to have in one’s toolkit, it’s an unrealistic proposition if you are going to compete in an industry where the only hand drawing is done primarily on tablets.

Working without the tools that are available in our era is an act of protest.

And regret, for living in an age dependent on all things digital. So going analog is no longer an option.

At the other extreme, firms like Aditazz recognize that computers can be put to use to help design projects – and discern the best alternatives – in less time, using less manpower.

An approach that can be especially useful when addressing complex building assignments.

Most architects, engineers and construction professionals today fall somewhere between the two extremes of analog and machine.

They recognize that computers have helped them to become more effective at what they do.

But that computers can’t make all the calls – ethical, contextual – at least not yet.

Working digitally today is a given, even if the AEC industry itself hasn’t become more productive or effective since the 1960s despite the introduction of computers into our workflows.

Computer Aided Drafting/Design (CAD) never lived up to the hype or promise to make architects, engineers and contractors more productive.

In many ways, CAD just became a digital version of what architects had long done by hand.

Even with BIM, when I ask architects how they are being more productive or effective working in BIM, they’ll mention that they create templates for repeatable portions of their projects (for example, in housing, kitchen and bath templates – with rules of thumb, building code and ADA constraints indicated.)

Which is great. A process that should be automated in the near future.

But one wonders if this is just the digital equivalent of the “sticky back” boiler-plate details we used to attach to mylar sheets in our documents back in the 80s?

As the saying goes: Measure twice, draw once – and use it over and over if you can.

Thomas L. Friedman’s column in today’s New York Times discusses Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee’s new book, “The Second Machine Age.”

Authors of Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, their new book reveals the forces driving the reinvention of our lives our economy…and our industry.

The book focuses on three massive technological advances that recently reached their tipping points, advances they describe as “exponential, digital and combinatorial.”

A commenter at the Times website wrote:

A time is coming when most routine tasks can and will be done by computers.

This is really how computers can best support design and construction professionals.

Becoming an architect, for example, was never about aspiring to address routine tasks.

Routine tasks – whether running prints, drafting bathroom or column details – were in the past taken-on by architectural interns.

Today, due to their considerable smarts and technological know-how, these same emerging professionals are working on entire buildings.

They’re the first lookers and early responders inside digital building models.

All the more reason that routine tasks ought to become automated.

Freeing-up design and construction professionals to do what they do best.

The article commenter continued:

What happens then to the average people in the world? Extraordinary people will find ways to take care of themselves, but not everyone can be extraordinary.

Not everyone.

But you can.

You can be extraordinary. In fact, for those who want to work in the AEC industry, it’s a requirement.

Being extraordinary at what you do doesn’t change due to the technology you use.

Being extraordinary is all the more important in the workplace and at the jobsite today.

To distinguish oneself.

To differentiate yourself.

What will you do that’s extraordinary?

Bringing your weaknesses up to a level where they’re not so glaring, where they can no longer trip you up and undermine your career ascension, will only get you so far.

Working on your weaknesses will only make you ordinary.

Not extraordinary.

This year, identify a strength and develop it.

Take it as far as you can.

Seek help. Get training.

Track your progress.

Share your results.

Most AEC professionals today who are gainfully employed are already extraordinary people who are extraordinary at what they do.

The trick is in remaining so.

Heed the words of poet Mary Oliver, and ask yourself:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, design professionals, modeling, people, workflow

BIM’s Blue Ocean

After I give one of my talks on building information modeling the question I’m most often asked is:

What’s the best BIM business model?

What is the best way to make a profit utilizing building information modeling on projects in their organization?

In other words, how can we leverage the technology to reap the greatest financial reward?

It goes without saying that they have invested a great deal of money in soft- and hardware – and time in getting comfortable with each – and now want to know what the return is on their investment.

Is it the Free business model?

The Long Tail business model?

Or something altogether different?

It’s actually a lot simpler than any of these.

It’s called “coupling.”

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First, let’s take a quick look at two books that use the sea metaphor to help explain how businesses can best address our industry’s ongoing sea changes.

Then we’ll turn this metaphor on to design and construction professional’s situation to see how they can best benefit from the emerging technologies in their organizations.

C-Scape

A book every design and construction professional ought to read is

C-Scape: Conquer the Forces Changing Business Today, a book that shows how businesses can survive and thrive in the digital media revolution.

Don’t be turned-off by the book’s emphasis on media – especially digital and social media.

It’s the metaphor that’s applicable here.

The book’s storyline goes something like this:

Not so long ago, the business landscape was easier to chart.

That landscape has been upended, and in its place a “C-Scape” has emerged—a world where

  • Consumers, not producers and marketers, make the choices; where
  • Content, not distribution, is king; where
  • Curation becomes a primary currency of value; and where
  • Convergence continues to revolutionize every part of every business.

Taking a more in-depth look at each of these 4 Cs:

Consumers choose what, how, and when they consume information. This has given consumers more power than ever in the relationship with content creators and information sources. Those who don’t respect this new relationship will perish.

Content becomes king. With the Internet able to directly bring the buyer to the seller, the need to have a better product, not just one that is distributed better, will become paramount. Those who had distribution advantages will struggle so long as they are averse to focusing on competing with direct distribution.

Curation cures information overload. Businesses will need to monitor and curate conversations about their brands in order to prevent major blunders.

Convergence revolutionizes every form of communication. New forms of storytelling will emerge as all forms of communication converge on a single platform for the first time. Companies need to learn these new ways of telling stories about their products and brands.

You’ve probably experienced some of these forces yourself, on your teams and in your organizations.

There are some obvious overlaps with the construction industry.

But that’s not where we’re going with this.

While these concepts are astute, they represent the digital media’s C-landscape.

Not our own (unless you consider the idea that every organization is now in the media business.)

Design and Construction’s Seven Seas

Design and construction has its own seascape or C-Scape.

But its seven C’s don’t stand for consumers, content, curation and convergence.

Our seven C’s stand for:

  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Cooperation
  • Community
  • Complexity
  • Co-location
  • Co-creation

C-words, make note, all beginning with “co” – for “together.”

While Construction is another one (Coupling is as well) these 7 C’s represent our seascape or blue ocean.

Why?

Because in our profession and industry collaboration and the other six concepts are virtually uncharted waters.

Blue Ocean Strategy

Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make Competition Irrelevant,

You might recall is a book where the blue ocean metaphor represents a vision of the kind of expanding, competitor-free markets that innovative companies can navigate.

Unlike “red oceans,” which are well-explored and crowded with competitors, “blue oceans” stand for “untapped market space” and growth.

A few of the book’s basic concepts – implying where we are today and where we are headed – can be summarized as follows:

  • Compete in existing market space >>> Create uncontested market space
  • Beat the competition >>> Make the competition irrelevant
  • Exploit existing demand >>> Create and capture new demand
  • Make the value/cost trade-off >>> Break the value/cost trade-off
  • Align the whole system of a company’s activities with its choice of differentiation or low cost >>> Align the whole system

BIM isn’t our blue ocean.

Collaboration is.

Why?

Because BIM has become – or is fast becoming – ubiquitous.

And collaboration is still largely uncharted territory.

For BIM to live up to its promise, we must make it our goal to use emerging technology to address analysis such as building performance and energy use.

As Phil Bernstein FAIA predicts, “as these platforms get more robust and analytical algorithms get more sophisticated the whole analysis problem moves from things we understand right now – things like airflow and the modulus of elasticity – to building codes and air quality.”

To accomplish this we’ll have to share what we know with one another.

There’s no other way for our industry – and for us – to move forward.

In order for us to achieve our goals and in order for BIM to realize its promise, we will have to first accept, then relearn, how to communicate and share information.

The best way for design and construction professionals to accomplish this is by working together.

By leveraging each other’s experience and expertise.

By keeping an open line of communication and exercising it constantly.

By looking to one another for insights and solutions.

If we are to survive and overcome the forces that are remaking the design and construction landscape, we will do whatever is in our power to learn to work compatibly and effectively.

Together.

Coupling Design and Construction

Design professionals, especially, like to go it alone.

They find the idea of sharing design input, and more so, responsibility threatening.

“Let me take it back to the office and study it” is their onsite mantra.

Concerning our desire to peel away and sequester ourselves, I love this quote from the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde.

Four small words that were barely noticed when she said them at the Jackson Hole Symposium:

“Decoupling is a myth.”

Making the case for the key issue for the world economy:

Everything is coupled to everything else.

As futurist and iconoclast Stowe Boyd notes, “the steps taken to date have not decomplexified the economic tarball. No real steps have been taken to make the world economic system less connected, and that is the only path to a safer world.”

Like the rest of the world and economy, we are all in this together.

Connected.

There’s no extracting any one entity from the collective.

For design and construction professionals, it’s all “co” from here on out.

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Filed under analysis, BIM, BIM organizations, business model, collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, modeling

2011-12 BIM Conferences

Next week I’ll be attending the Symposium on Technology for Design and Construction, a 2-day event on the topic of BIM and related technologies in design and construction.

This is a very affordable event with what looks like an excellent line-up of speakers from the construction industry.

If you happen to be in or around Chicago next week feel free to stop by and say hello.

When: Thursday, August 18, 2011 & Friday, August 19, 2011

Where: Northwestern University, Norris Center, Evanston, IL, US 60208

For more information, list of speakers and topics visit http://www.techforconstruction.com/

These conferences are great opportunities to learn about BIM and other technologies, see how others are working with it. But as importantly, they are excellent networking events where you can meet face to face with those you have only known up until now online as an avatar.

Some conferences fall between the cracks.

I often speak at AIA conferences that feature BIM- and IPD-related themes but aren’t listed as BIM-related conferences.

For example, I’ll be speaking on the subjects of BIM and IPD at this year’s AIA Illinois 2011 Conference COLLABORATION / INNOVATION.

From that name, you might guess there was IPD content but not necessarily BIM-related presentations. Click here for details and a PDF of the brochure. 

In a recent discussion about my BIM book, my publisher (John Wiley and Sons) asked me for a list of upcoming BIM-related events and conferences.

I soon realized that there isn’t such a list available online (please let me know if I’m mistaken) so here goes a first stab at such a list of international, national and local BIM and BIM-related conferences coming up in the next year or so and their links.

If you know of an event not listed here – or want to make a correction – please do so in the comments.

International, National and Local BIM and BIM-Related Conferences

ACE 5th Annual BIM Conference – “The Owner’s Conference”

Phoenix, Arizona Area

Wednesday September 14, 2011 & Thursday September 15, 2011

http://events.linkedin.com/ACE-5th-Annual-BIM-Conference-Owners/pub/727128

CanBIM 11 Regional Session

September 15 – 16, 2011

Edmonton, AB Canada

View Details

buildingSMART Week

September 20 – 23, 2011

Singapore

View Details

AGC IPD and Lean Construction Building Conference in San Antonio, Texas, Sept. 21-24, 2011, at the Westin La Cantera Resort

http://news.agc.org/2011/08/12/ipd-lean-construction-building-conference/

SolidCAD University

Oct 18 in Toronto

http://bit.ly/n3diBG

ICE BIM Conference 2011

Wednesday 19th October 2011, London, UK

http://www.ice-bim.com (see comment below)

http://revitst.blogspot.com/2011/06/ice-bim-conference-2011.html

Urban Land Institute

Oct 25-28 in LA

http://ULIfall.org

Fall 2011 BIMForum Washington DC  November 2-3, 2011

http://bimforum.org/2011/04/22/bimforum-schedule-2011-2013/

http://bimforum.org/2011/08/10/dc-bimforum-call-for-presentations-2/

Autodesk BIM Conference

Nov 16, 2011, London

http://t.co/zhfcO0E

AIA TAP Conference TAP @ BuildBoston

Nov 17, 2011 8:00 AM – 7:30 PM

http://network.aia.org/TechnologyinArchitecturalPractice/Events/EventDescription/?CalendarEventKey=fe691360-1614-4972-b00d-c421bb79a5cd

Autodesk University 2011

The Venetian in Las Vegas, November 29–December 1, 2011

http://au.autodesk.com/?nd=e2011

National BIM Conference

Dec 5-9, 2011 Washington DC

http://www.aececobuild.com/bim-conference

ENR FutureTech Conference

Dec 12-13 in San Francisco, CA

http://bit.ly/nE3ggb

Autodesk BIM Conference

(Should occur in or around Dec 2011)

http://aecmag.com/index.php?option=content&task=view&id=401

BIM 360 Virtual Conference

Hosted by IMAGINiT Technologies FRAMINGHAM, MA

(Should occur in February 2012)

http://imaginit.com/news/press-releases/2011/IMAGINiT-Hosts-BIM-360-Virtual-Conference

2012 Revit Technology Conference USA

(Should occur in June 2012, Boston MA; also occurs annually in May in Australia http://www.revitconference.com.au/rtc2011au/)

http://www.revitconference.com.au/index.htm

Know of any BIM or BIM-related conferences not listed here? Please let me know by leaving a comment. Thanks!

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Filed under BIM, BIM conference, collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD

Taking BIM and IPD to Task

Making BIM Beyond Boundaries Actionable

In my recent piece in DesignIntelligence, BIM Beyond Boundaries, I argue for widening our outlook and reach as we deepen our skills.

No doubt, a somewhat unpopular stance today.

In the article I am not suggesting that designers, architects and managers abandon their expertise:

  • Project designers can always deepen their skills.
  • Project architects can always improve their technology chops and knowhow.
  • Project managers can do the same for their leadership skills.
  • And others can improve their specialties.

What I am suggesting is for you to spend the next 90 days branching out.

Looking at new ways to work and practice effectively with your teammates.

So often these thought pieces remain just that – saved in our hard drives or on our nightstands – but seldom put into use.

Here, in this post, I unpack some key points from the article BIM Beyond Boundaries.

And make some suggested next steps that you can take based on the prescriptions made in the article.

Think of it as a way of taking the article to task – by making the content actionable.

Avoiding the typical response to feel good articles by answering the question: What now?

What follows are some suggested resources, activities and links to use as action items as you build your breadth as well as depth.

Skim the bullets below, find one that captures your attention and start expanding:

  • Form an informal group. Meet to discuss ways your firm can collaborate and partner
  • Bring other professionals into the office for lunch-and-learns – not just sales reps
  • Form a mastermind group in your firm and hold each other accountable for change items

“Opting for depth over breadth of expertise is a false choice that will lead individuals, organizations, the profession, and industry in the wrong direction.”

  • Apply the concepts from Daniel Goleman’s bestseller, Emotional Intelligence, into your workplace
  • Assign chapters and meet at lunch to discuss the book
  • Start here then apply it to leadership EQ
  • Read a book on social intelligence such as Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships or Social Intelligence: The New Science of Success

“Several forces are converging to create an unprecedented and timely opportunity for organizations that have embraced building information modeling (BIM). These forces — including the rise of the expert, the growing complexity and speed of projects, and BIM’s increasing recognition as an enabler, catalyst, and facilitator of team collaboration — also present significant challenges that can be overcome with the right approach and mindset.”

  • Expertise today requires change and growth, not retention of facts. Read Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success for a thorough understanding of the difference between a fixed and growth mindset
  • Identify those within your organization with a fixed mindset and determine their likelihood of working towards one of growth
  • Aim to make all of your key personnel those with growth mindsets
  • Consider applying ideas from Building Expertise: Cognitive Methods for Training and Performance Improvement to your organization’s learning initiatives
  • Consider joining  and participating in discussions on what it means to be an expert, among others, at the KA Connect LinkedIn group.

“At one time, being an expert meant knowing more than one’s competitors in a particular field. Firms that reinforced their expert culture hoarded information, which resulted in silos of expertise. Today, many firms are looking to hire people perceived as building and software technology experts, shortsightedly addressing today’s needs at the expense of tomorrow’s.”

  • Not all positions require the applicant to be an expert. See, for example, Why I Will Never, see Ever Hire A “Social Media Expert”

“Due to the speed and complexity of projects, we do not have time to acquire knowledge the old way — slowly, over time, through traditional means.”

  • Familiarize yourself with  the concept of “wicked problems”
  • Familiarize yourself with the concept of ‘design assist’ and other ways to tackle fast, large-scaled and complex projects
  • Access answers and best practices through online discussions and social media

“Being an expert is no longer about telling people what you know so much as understanding what questions to ask, who to ask, and applying knowledge flexibly and contextually to the specific situation at hand.

“Expertise has often been associated with teaching and mentoring. Today it’s more concerned with learning than knowing: less to do with continuing education and more with practicing and engaging in continuous education.”

  • Read the important new book, A New Culture of Learning. By exploring play, innovation, and the cultivation of the imagination as cornerstones of learning, the authors create a vision of learning for the future that is achievable, scalable and one that grows along with the technology that fosters it and the people who engage with it.
  • Give copies of the book to key colleagues and meet to discuss concepts and ideas with the intention of applying them to your organization.

“Social media presents the would-be expert with both opportunities and challenges. Working with the understanding that somebody somewhere has already done what you are trying to do, design professionals, like agile technology experts, can find what they’re looking for by tapping into their networks and aggregating the responses. Conversely, due to the rise of social media, virtually all anyone has to do today to be considered a technology expert is to call themselves one. Because social networks allow people to proclaim themselves experts, it can be hard to know who to turn to, resulting in the rise of otherwise unnecessary certifications.”

  • Apply what you’ve learned via ideas from the book The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media.

“To grow one’s professional reputation, expertise in BIM counter-intuitively requires unlearning, detachment, collaboration, and developing both deep skills and broad interests.”

“We tend to cooperate conditionally, responding to the behavior of others.”

  • If you haven’t done so already, read the blog post ‘Unlearning to Collaborate’
  • Take a look at Why We Cooperate by Michael Tomasello for a better understanding of how we all start out as collaborators and unlearn these behaviors along the way  

“As we grow in our careers, we tend to focus more on people issues and less on technology.”

  • When you consider your own career, does this sound accurate? What implications might this have in terms of how you focus your attention and time in the future? What can you start doing now to prepare?

“Achieving higher levels of BIM use — including analysis, computation, and fabrication — requires skills and a mindset that allow us to work productively and effectively in a collaborative setting.”

  • Many firms that have adopted and implemented BIM software solutions have not used the technology or process to their greatest advantage. To do so not only requires familiarizing yourself with these higher uses – but working more collaboratively with others on the team.
  • If you – or your organization – have not already done so, make the commitment to take-on BIM’s higher uses in the next 6-12 months.
  • Invite local experts who have used BIM for analysis, for sustainability, for fabrication to come to your office to give a demonstration. Or better yet, request and invite and make a visit to their operations to see how they are utilizing the tools and work processes. A simple visit such as this can spark a future teaming or partnering opportunity.
  • Follow-up by discussing how you can go about implementing this higher use of BIM on your next project.

“With BIM, technical expertise should not be considered more important than increasing one’s social intelligence, empathy, or the ability to relate well with others.”

  • Re-familiarize yourself with the concept of attaining and developing T-shaped skills.
  • Consider placing primarily T-shaped people on your project teams
  • Read-up on the subject in ‘T-Shaped BIM’ as well as here.

There is so much more we can all do to become well-rounded professionals.

These suggestions are only a start.

At the risk of overwhelming you, I’ll stop for now with these.

If you know of other sources – or have other suggestions or ideas of your own – please let us know by leaving a comment.

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Filed under BIM, BIM expert, BIM organizations, collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people, process, workflow

Peer Pressure Transforms our World, but Can it Transform our Industry?

In an interview for my book, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice (Wiley, 2011) I asked Perkins+Will CIO, Rich Nitzsche:

IT is constantly changing. P+W, founded in 1935 in Chicago, has 20 North  American offices and three overseas, with a total of 1,500 employeesat, is one of the world’s largest firms (#1 in Architect Magazine’s 2011 Architect 50.) How exactly do you turn a firm the size of an aircraft carrier around to embark on an entirely different IT direction?

Rich Nitzsche responded:

“Sometimes you feel like you’re in a dinghy pushing against that aircraft carrier. Not making a lot of progress. We didn’t do anything entirely different.”

“First of all,” he continued, “you have to have buy-in from the top.”

How effective is peer pressure in changing behavior?

“One of the things I’ve learned is we’d be sitting in an operations meeting with the guys who run our offices every day from a practical, bottom-line and staffing point of view.” 

This is where peer pressure came into play:

“One guy would grumble about how BIM is going,” Nitzsche added. “There’s a great opportunity to find the people around the table who have success stories to tell, who have already done the labor to get there. You need to let them shine – and let peer pressure do its work. Not in a mean-spirited way. It’s a way of saying ‘This can be done.’ You’ve done it – why not have a conversation about what it took? Try and highlight the success stories.”

“That’s something we’re trying to do a lot more of in IT – focus on communication. I’m finding that peer pressure is one of the most effective tools to try and persuade other groups to move ahead.”

I was a bit surprised by his response. So I asked:

With reference to BIM and other related technologies, how do you – in your role – create and communicate value for a firm as large and diverse as P+W?

Rich again answered in terms of peer pressure:

“There’s not an RFP that crosses our threshold that doesn’t have BIM as a requirement. And now we’re starting to see IPD show up. So if we’re going to compete with what we consider to be our peer group – and even with people who are smaller than us – we’ve got to be ready on all of these levels. So we’ve got to go in with a great BIM story and not only a great sustainability story but a leadership story about sustainable design. We have a green operating plan and green IT is part of the green operating plan. We’ve done a pretty good job of that. My goal this year is to get us into a leadership position about BIM and IPD – in the eyes of owners and our peers. Because we all measure ourselves to some degree in terms of how we measure ourselves in relation to our peers. And I would say we’re on the front edge when it comes to those two things.”

How did you know Revit was right for P+W?

“We have folks who insist that they can’t design in Revit. And I have other designers – who are just now emerging – who say that they can accomplish 95% of what they need to do in Revit. Designers who have taken it on as their personal mission who say that they’re going to wrestle this beast to the ground and bend it to my will as an architect. As these people emerge, we’ll do the peer pressure thing.”

“That said,” he concluded, “we can’t get stubborn about it and say we can’t use these tools – SketchUp and Rhino – to author your design idea. We would have open revolt.”

Peer pressure can transform the world, but can it transform our industry?

In National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, and MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant recipient, Tina Rosenberg’s “Join the Club: How Peer Pressure Can Transform the World,” she explores the thinking that human behavior is defined by our relationships with our colleagues and acquaintances.

Why did she make peer pressure the subject of her new book?

“Problems were in endless supply,” she writes. “But it was starting to seem more interesting and valuable to write about solutions.”

Solutions, that is, such as the virtues of peer pressure.

Rosenberg builds the case the most powerful motivator of our personal behavior is the search for status and peer approval.

But can peer pressure assure that we, as a profession and industry, will adopt the new technologies and collaborative work processes enmass?

Motivating through fear

A review in The New York Times pointed out that Rosenberg’s examples, while impressive, also raise doubts about peer pressure’s effectiveness.

“Many of the efforts that she reports on are successes in the short run but not in the longer run, or on a small scale but not a large scale,” reminding us that peer pressure alone cannot transform the world.

The Times review reminds us that our success as a society “depends on the strength of our communities, because the development of our best traits — trust, honesty, foresight, responsibility and compassion — depends upon our close interactions with others.”

So, peer pressure may not be able to transform our industry, but perhaps “it illuminates one crucial piece of the complex puzzle of social ­improvement.”

Join the club

You might recall from your youth peer pressure’s reputation for less beneficial behavior: doing what your friends did to go along with the pack.

Doing something just to fit in, to not rock the boat, to not stand out.

This behavior is perhaps understandable in a large corporate firm, where standing out is professionally ill-advised, and fitting-in the name of the game.

But here’s the rub:

If you have a good reason for using the tools you’re using, you ought to be able to explain and justify your choice.

You shouldn’t give-in to the powers that be because “everybody is doing it.”

It ought to be a choice, one that you make and most importantly, are free to make.

And yet, this admittedly can be difficult.

The concept of peer pressure implies the power of a group to impose its will upon an individual, “to coerce a state of being that might not otherwise exist.”

For as Rosenberg says, “We are all good boys at risk of the bad crowd. Peer pressure is a mighty and terrible force—so powerful that, for the vast majority of people, the best antidote to it is more peer pressure.”

Habits run deep

Many design professionals still refuse to change from their tools of choice – no matter the incentive.

And are just as unwilling to leave their silos and work together collaboratively.

As Rosenberg says in Join the Club, “No amount of information can budge us when we refuse to be budged. The catalog of justifications for destructive behaviors is a tribute to human ingenuity.”

Can an unwillingness to move to BIM, and not taking part on integrated teams, be considered “destructive behavior?”

Absolutely.

Can we be pressured, even coerced, to change against our wills?

I wouldn’t want to wait to find out.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, construction industry, design professionals, Integrated Design, Integrated Project Delivery, IPD, people