Tag Archives: KA Connect

Why My BIM Book Didn’t Sell and Why I’m Writing Another One

BIM-and-Integrated-DesignWhen I meet architects and others working in the BIM world, they usually mention that they have a copy of my book.

My standard response is something like:

“My publisher told me someone bought a copy. Now I who it is.”

Which isn’t far from the truth.

Of course I thank them – for purchasing the book, for reading it, for mentioning this to me – none of which they’re obligated to do.

Next, they inevitably ask me The Question:

How many copies has it sold?

As I embark on the lengthy and arduous process of writing and publishing another book in the architecture and construction space, I was reminded by my publisher that my last book sold only 1000 copies.

“1069 copies,” I unhelpfully corrected them.

In 2009 I wrote, and in 2011 John Wiley and Sons published, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice.

1069 copies! Including all of you who read my BIM book and told me they liked it.

Twelve out of 12 readers gave it the coveted 5-star rating on Amazon.

Disney Imagineering told me that they reference the book.

Firm leaders told me that they have a copy that they circulate in their office.

A few professors made it required reading in their classes.

The University of Salford named* their BIM curriculum after it.

I created the world’s only BIM book video trailer set to classical guitar music.

AIA National emblazoned the book across their website.

I placed book ads online including at Bob Borson’s blog Life of an Architect.

I went around the country touting the benefits gained by reading my book.

In fact, in 2011 at KA Connect, during a Pecha Kucha presentation, I went totally blank. And whether out of sympathy or who knows what, the book never sold better.

That time (gratefully, the only time) I froze-up on stage was one of the best things to ever happen to me career-wise.

I handed out coupons and gave books away as door prizes.

I wrote dozens of blog posts bestowing its virtues.

I sent out hundreds of emails to colleagues requesting they share a link.

And sent copies of books to friends, magazine editors and bloggers in the hopes they’d write a review.

Despite these efforts to move books, all-in-all equal to – or even greater than – what it took to write the book, the book sold poorly.

Pandering to architects has never been a particularly effective business model.

I recognize that it was not all my fault. The BIM book arrived in the midst of the world’s greatest economic downturn.

The fact that the book came out in 2011 was not lost on the author or publisher.

Nor the fact that the book’s undiscounted asking price is $75, that the book comes in hardcover (no inexpensive paperback version,) the images are b/w, nor that it looks like a textbook.

Why would anyone (apparently my students included) willingly purchase and read a textbook?

The book was faulted by one reader for appealing in its title (“strategies for architectural practice”) primarily to architects, whereas the “integrated design” in the title includes – and ought to appeal to – Engineers, Constructors, Owners and others.

As the author of the book, I take full responsibility for the fact that it did not sell.

I am mature enough to recognize that just because I like to read – and try to do so for a couple hours each day – it doesn’t mean that others like to read.

And even if they do, they may not like to read books per se.

I know my students don’t do their required reading, the word softly translated by my students as voluntary.

As though to say, how dare I assign textbooks?!

If only they knew how well-written they are!

I know everyone has a copy of BIG BIM, little bim and The BIM Handbook, but do you realize how excellent the writing is in Dana (Deke) Smith and Michael Tardif’s Building Information Modeling: A Strategic Implementation Guide for Architects, Engineers, Constructors, and Real Estate Asset Managers?

Or how exacting and spectacular the writing is in François Lévy’s BIM in Small-Scale Sustainable Design? François Lévy’s book is brilliant. I didn’t let the fact that it concentrates on smaller projects or that he uses Vectorworks, to dissuade me from reading it for pure enjoyment.

Having written a BIM book, and BIM blog for 4 years, I have a real appreciation for how hard it is to cut through the clutter and hype and say something that is mercurial and potent and insightful. Lévy manages to do this on every page – sometimes several times a page – and it is a shame more people haven’t read his book and sang its praises.

I learn best by books but recognize that professionals have different ways they prefer to learn: some by video, some lecture, some tutorial, or site visit, or hands-on, or via gamification.

When I interviewed very important people (VIPs) for my BIM book (Phil Bernstein and Chuck Hardy, among many others) I was blown away by the insightful things they said. And also by the way they said them. New things, things that you couldn’t find anywhere else.

I became who I am because of the books I read – and continue to read. For me, reading is like living two lives. The advantage it provides you is empowering. Nothing, and I mean nothing, can provide one with what can be found in a good book. Not first-hand experience (because in books, you gain other’s experience vicariously on top of your own;) new ways of looking at things (on top of how you already look at things;) new ways to do things (ditto;) and perhaps best of all, insights that take your knowledge up a notch – that could otherwise only be acquired through long and hard work on your own. All that, and they fit snuggly on a shelf or nightstand, iPad or Kindle.

This is why – despite the disappointing sales of my first book – I am devoting the next year of my life to writing another book.

I believe in the power of books and the power of the written word.

Especially as an antidote for those days I spend behind a computer monitor, messing with digital this, and computational that.

Books seem to place what I’m doing into a larger context, and in doing so, the best ones help provide a purpose for the time when I’m not reading.

* OK, not really but a pretty amazing coincidence nonetheless.

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Filed under BIM, BIM conference, education, writing

T-Shaped BIM

Every now and then a simple, seemingly obvious concept comes around that transforms an entire industry. This post will introduce such a concept: the T-shaped BIM teammate.

Here, we are of course not talking about forming a T-shaped connection of walls in Revit. If you came here wanting to learn how to intersect walls in BIM, you’re a fool. Go here.

The rest of you, stick around. You might learn something important.

And, as in past posts, it is not actually BIM that is T-shaped – it is you. Or Tu – French and familiar for you.

Some people are put-off by the word collaboration – and for that reason I am going to refrain from using it again in this post.

For them – the word – implies compromise, time-wasting, money-wasting, talent-wasting, and perhaps worst of all, people- and process-oriented as opposed to product- or building-oriented interactions.

To them, people are impediments to progress, not the lubricant that makes things flow. Perpetually in search of workarounds –they work around people whom they believe keep them from completing their work. You know the type.

The social case for BIM and Integrated Design

Integrated Design came into being for one reason and one reason alone: to achieve greater results for the owner and other project stakeholders. Including you.

There’s a compelling business case for working in integrated design: it enables the efficient and effective use of tools such as BIM and related technologies.

There’s a compelling technology case for working in integrated design: it potentially makes more efficient shared use of the software and work processes.

And there’s a compelling people case for working in integrated design: by colla- – by working with others, working together, cooperating traitorously or treasonously, sharing knowledge, learning and building consensus  – you and your team both can attain greater results.

Admittedly, not every project lends itself to the advantages of working co- co- co- together. For example, due to project size, schedule or client demands.

There’s another way to look at – working jointly – that may appeal to you more and potentially change the way you work from here on out.

The “|” in DIY

I used to work with someone who did it all himself. If there was a new program a project had to be accomplished in he’d learn it himself and do the work himself – even when he had several talented and eager others at his disposal. That way he knew the work was going to get done right. In a previous post I labeled this type of colleague’s approach DIY. I wrote about this concept – DIY vs. SxS – a while back here and will be speaking about it in a couple weeks at Christopher Parsons’s KA Connect 2010 here and here.

When he worked with others he thought he was delegating by handing-off tasks he didn’t want to do, but what he was doing was abdicating his role.

He was an “I” and as we know, there is no “I” in BIM

And as has been noted, no “I” in IPD either.

The T in archiTecT is more important, noteworthy, prominent and if you will, architectural, than the “I” in archItect or arch|tect which is divisive, isolating and dissenting.

“I” is a barrier – a barrier to co- co- co- cooperation – and as with the compelling and popular blog title Arch | Tech can imply a barrier between design and technology – or even design and construction – instead of stitching them together.

But the “|” doesn’t have to be an obstruction or impediment.

“|” can also be a net – as when Robert Frost famously opined that writing free verse is like playing tennis without a net.

Which is how I interpret the “|” in Arch | Tech, as a net between design and technology, lobbying the BIM back and forth.

As well, for that matter, as the “|” in BIM – volleying the model back and forth between design and construction, weaving a single unified model for use by all. 

But | digress.

The ideal T-shaped BIM teammate

Right now you’re happy to find an engineer or consultant that works in BIM. Period. No matter their shape – or what shape their in.

But in time, as BIM becomes ubimquitous, you will start to add another level of criteria as you put teams together.

You will start to require that all your Team members be T-shaped and you will want to Team with other T-shaped professionals.

And because They will want to Team with T-shaped Teammates, you will Take it upon yourself to become T-shaped yourself.

The ideal candidate/colleague/teammate working in BIM and Integrated Design has both of these qualities

  • Deep skills
  • Broad reach

The vertical “I” or “|” represents what you do well – your depth.

The horizontal bar across the top is your reach – reaching out to assist others.

And as importantly being assisted by them.

Place the bar atop the “I” and you get the T-shaped BIM Teammate.

By becoming T-shaped you are putting on two performances:

  • 1. results in your own position (the “I” or vertical stanchion) and
  • 2. results by co- co- conjugating with others on your team (the horizontal bar resting atop the “T”)

T-shaped BIM Teammates do two things really well. They

  • reciprocate in that they are willing to share information and ask for information when needed
  • are rewarded for their own performance as well as for contributing to others on the team

Read more about this important concept here and here.

What causes a person with deep skills but little wingspan to suddenly reach out to share information with her teammates? Namely this: empathy

Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO, alludes to the role empathy plays in the T-shaped person

We look for people who are so inquisitive about the world that they’re willing to try to do what you do. We call them “T-shaped people.” They have a principal skill that describes the vertical leg of the T — they’re mechanical engineers or industrial designers. But they are so empathetic that they can branch out into other skills, such as anthropology, and do them as well. They are able to explore insights from many different perspectives and recognize patterns of behavior that point to a universal human need. That’s what you’re after at this point — patterns that yield ideas.

You can read more about what Tim has to say On Being T-shaped here and read an incisive interview with Tim where he discusses being Mr. T here

Still not convinced – or for that matter – entertained? Then take this and call me in the morning.

It should be apparent by now that the T-bone concept may be new to BIM – but not to the world of IT and computing. The first citation to T-shaped people goes back almost 20 years to David Guest, “The hunt is on for the Renaissance Man of computing,” The Independent (London), September 17, 1991. Read it here.

Soon, our Integrated Design teams will be made up exclusively with T-shaped individuals.

Made up, that is, of archiTecTs, conTracTors, consultanTs and clienTs with both deep skills and wide reach.

In time, our teams will begin to resemble something of a T-shaped chorus line

TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

which, perchance, resembles a bridge or aqueduct

                  TTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT

an apt image and timeless symbol for carrying the client’s goals toward exceptional results.

Simply sea-changing.

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Filed under BIM, collaboration, design professionals, Integrated Design, modeling, people, process, workflow