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Building Knowledge in Architecture

Using books as floatation devices is nothing new.

Cradle to Cradle, subtitled Remaking the Way We Make Things, is printed on waterproof paper for this reason.

Poetry anthologies served this purpose after 9/11 as did commonplace books carried by soldiers.

In fact, the book I’m about to introduce you to defines the original use of the word “communication” to mean bringing something to the “common place, to the community, to make it part of the larger social group.”

That is what I hope to accomplish with this review.

Building Knowledge in Architecture is a new book and lifesaver by architect, educator, researcher, scholar and poet, Richard Foqué.

On the academic side, Foqué is a professor and dean emeritus at the Henry van de Velde Higher Institute of Architecture at the University College Antwerp.

On the practice side, Foqué is the founder and honorary principal of FDA Architects (now OSAR), one of the largest architectural firms in Flanders.

Richard Foqué’s work is characterized by the integration of architecture, art, design and science and reflected in the book “Bringing the World into Culture”, dedicated to Foqué and in which 21 eminent scholars, architects and designers bring a tribute to his work. An interdisciplinary thinker, Foqué lives and works in Antwerp, Belgium.

But don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because of his credentials.

Read this book because Richard Foqué is the first poet to write beautifully and meaningfully about the architect, design, creativity,

And as importantly, digital design tools such as BIM and collaborative work processes such as integrated design, design-build, lean construction and design thinking, subjects at the focus of these discussions.

You had me at Introduction

A book, like any of us, competes in a marketplace for attention.

Building Knowledge in Architecture, until today, appears to have been satisfied waiting patiently to be discovered on library shelves.

Book, wait no more.

To stand out and distinguish yourself, says consultant and author Sally Hogshead, you get only 9 seconds.

Because that’s how long our attention spans today have been shortened to.

Reader, here I’ll introduce you to what will surely become a fine traveling companion and fellow conversationalist in the weeks ahead.

But I’ll need 9 minutes to do so – not 9 seconds. So please bear with me.

Man Measuring the Clouds

A passing glance at a sculpture, Man Measuring the Clouds, inspired Foqué to reflect on architecture and what it means to be an architect today.

“The architect works in the field of tension between imagination and reality. The architect’s task is to convert the dreams and often unreachable wishes of the client into a buildable concept, which should be functional, technically resolved, and in compliance with all building and safety codes, but at the same time must inspire a sense of well-being and have the necessary aesthetic qualities to contribute to and enrich its context.”

Foqué then asks:

“Is the architect the person who is measuring the clouds all the time? Is architectural design, per se, an impossible task to perform? In other words, what is the essence of being an architect? What are the skills, competencies, and knowledge an architect needs to perform as a true professional?”

Aware of the access to practical knowledge readily available to other fields such as medicine, business and law, things can be otherwise for the architectural profession, the author sets out in search of a robust knowledge base architects can access:

“In my own practice, I have endeavored to use my professional experience and accumulated know-how in an innovative way for every new commission. But I have always been left with a feeling of discontent: Could I have done better? Did I use all the creative potential and knowledge at my disposal, and did I not overlook essential elements?”

Foqué concludes that the architectural profession no longer has a shared knowledge base. Building Knowledge in Architecture asks all of the important questions:

“Why did we abandon or sacrifice (this) knowledge base? Why is the architectural profession drifting? Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious? Why do we struggle to cope with contemporary technological evolution, and why is it so difficult to integrate in a satisfactory way new findings and insights into our design solutions? Why are we losing ground, and why are essential responsibilities of our professional practice being assumed by others?”

One page into the book, you realize you have underlined every line. It is one of those books.

The Creation of New Knowledge through Practice

The book is organized in two parts.

In Part 1, Building Knowledge in Architecture serves as a practical overview of contemporary architectural design methods, and proposes design – apart from science and art – as a third way to investigate the real world.

“Perceiving themselves as practitioners of a ‘creative’ profession, architects hover between science and art.” p. 25

This is one of the very few books that discuss new digital design tools such as building information modeling (BIM) from academic, theoretical and practical standpoints (discussed for the first time on p. 93.)

But also integrated project delivery (IPD) or at least a facsimile of the same.

In the section called The Exteriorization of the Design Process, Foqué indicates that recent evolution of communication information technology processes forces designers

“…to interact increasingly with his environment. He has no escape, so to speak, but must engage in a permanent dialogue with his surrounding world.” p. 82

Foqué points out that the concept of transdisciplinarity – and the way specialized knowledge can be integrated – harkens back to the work of developmental child psychologist, Jean Piaget, in the 1970’s.

Where, according to the author, specialized knowledge needs to be incorporated into a comprehensive body of integrated knowledge, “within a global system of values and well-considered choices.”

Per Piaget, those who have taken part on integrated design teams will recognize the suggestion that multidisciplinary collaboration is, at root, child’s play.

Key quotes:

“Learning should be revalorized in the sense that the creators of knowledge should also be held accountable for the application of that knowledge.” P. 24

“It is recognized that at the modern university, there exists a hierarchy of knowledge, which starts with the basic and fundamental science at the top, applied science in the middle, and technical skills at the bottom.” P. 26

Explaining why digital design tools, while used extensively, are infrequently taught at the university.

“…grounded in the field of tension between ‘technical’ performance and ‘artistic’ creation. It is exactly in that field of tension that every professional discipline grounds its own knowledge base.” P. 26

Foqué defines a critical component of the architect’s arsenal, intuition, as “a not-yet-conceptualized and not-yet-systematized form of knowledge.” P. 27

Beautiful.

Before I go on to quote every line in the book, I want to point out an additional pleasure in reading a book written with a poet’s sensibility.

In describing the synergistic integration of art, science and technology, Foqué uses the seemingly simple example of learning to ride a bike.

“If you describe every part of a bike in extreme detail and add these descriptions together, you will by no means have produced an appropriate description of a bike.”

He concludes this explanation:

“In other words, it is not by knowing the why that you master the how. You need to add the artistic dimension, the art of bike-riding.”

As only a poet – who is also an architect, educator, scholar – could have written.

Foqué explains the now familiar story of how architects abandoned responsibility, and in doing so, relinquished authority, over the past 40 years.

He asks: How can we reverse this decline?

Part 2 of the book presents his case, so to speak.

Reinventing the Obvious

In Part 2, Building Knowledge in Architecture makes the case for case studies in architecture.

The case goes something like this:

Because case studies are used as teaching tools at law, medicine, and in MBA programs, architectural training should also include more reading and creating of case studies.

Here’s the problem with this argument:

It doesn’t need to be made.

In the introduction, the author asks: Why are we sometimes reinventing the obvious?

And then proceeds to fall into this same trap.

Architecture curriculums already make use of case studies. I know, for example, when I taught an integrated design/technology studio, we made great use of them.

They are not only, as the author argues, a practical tool for documenting complicated building projects, finding solutions to technical problems and expanding a firm’s expertise.

They are also excellent opportunities for having architecture students work in teams and learn how to collaborate on a project team while still in school.

The complexity of building projects almost guarantees that the teams will be multidisciplinary.

An example is Aaron Greven’s course in the College of Architecture at Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in the Integrated Building Delivery program, a class that focuses on integrated practices and the technology that facilitates collaboration across a broad range of building project participants, for the Masters in Integrated Building Delivery program, a post-professional program that is in its pilot phase.

While the example does not prove the rule, I have previously reviewed these case study presentations here.

And more recently, they have been reviewed here.

The book does an excellent job explaining case study research as a means to establish a knowledge base and, as importantly, develops a practical method to do so.

“Architecture is no longer considered a true discipline, based on a comprehensive knowledge base, as it was for more than 2000 years. It is clear that this situation is no longer tenable, if architecture wants to survive in the Information Age, and in a quickly changing globalized world. A key question regarding the discipline of architecture today is how we can build a store of knowledge again.” P.174

But for me, proving the case for use of case studies in architectural education is not the reason to read this book.

This point has been made before here and more importantly, here.

Perhaps it is not case studies that are needed but a knowledge management and information system that can readily access the design professional’s accumulated knowledge.

There are people out there who do just this.

But this book does provide the rationale as well as a unique approach to constructing case studies, grounded in the arguments and methodology presented in the first part of the book.

And more importantly, this book explains how we can build knowledge in our profession and industry through the use of case studies.

Eminently Tweetable

The strengths of the book overwhelm its few weaknesses.

Weaknesses first. For all of the wonderful discussion about design and creativity throughout the first part of the book, there is nary a general mention of or reference to either in the index. It is almost as though the index was created for academics who might scrutinize sources for perfunctorily academic reasons but alas, not for the general reader’s ease of use.

Likewise, many of the otherwise wonderfully rich sources cited, are from the 1970’s or earlier. The book would have benefitted the reader (but no doubt not fellow academics) by referencing more contemporary examples of the same ideas or even the cited author’s more recent work.

On the strength side, the book’s diagrams are truly spectacular and help to illustrate many of the book’s finer concepts.

Another remarkable and no doubt unintended strength of the book is it is eminently tweetable.

A book of well-composed sentences, Building Knowledge in Architecture is remarkably aphoristic, and there are literally hundreds of quotable 140 character lines that are just crying out to be tweeted on Twitter:

“Intuitive thinking and rational thinking are not opponents; they are the twin poles between which the artist structures reality.” http://amzn.to/lyhDEl

Foqué explains that in earlier craft societies, severe penalties were imposed on those members who reveal knowledge in public. P. 93

Today, we are rewarded for the same by being retweeted.

See below for how critical Twitter is to this discussion.

Read or drown

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture even if you don’t learn anything new by reading this book (you will.)

Because you will come to realize that by doing so, you will know what you know for the first time.

And that is some accomplishment. For any book.

It is absolutely critical that you read this book. Why?

Here are 3 reasons:

For all of the reasons I have stated above.

For the reason that it tells us where we have been, where we are today and where we are headed.

And for this reason:

When drowning and you are thrown a life preserver you don’t say, “no thanks, I’ve seen one of these before,” and toss your line to safety aside.

Do so and you’ll surely drown.

A strength of this author, as mentioned, is that he has one foot in academia and the other in practice, a perspective evident in nearly every sentence:

“Professional disciplines…reduce the gap between real world problems and academic research, research increasingly captured by its own agenda.” P. 25

A book such as this can go a long way starting to fill the gap between education and practice.

That the author is a published poet can be seen in the book’s nearly perfect prose – so clear that you will not need to go back and read any sentence twice.

But you will do so anyway.

Because the sentences are so well-written they’ll strike a chord in you.

And you will find yourself rereading them for the sheer wonder and pleasure.

So don’t read Building Knowledge in Architecture because it develops a general design theory, a theoretical framework and practical instrumentation to establish a knowledge base for the discipline of architecture.

Read it if you want to improve your understanding of the impact and motives on decision making so that your designs are more responsive to real needs.

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because you are an architect, an educator or student.

Read it because books like this are why we still have books.

Read Building Knowledge in Architecture because we as a profession are adrift and this book has been thrown to us as a lifeline.

Read it because at a time when the publishing and construction industry are experiencing upheavals, it is heartening to discover a book that is as well-written and well-illustrated as it is well-constructed and physically beautiful.

The book feels good in the hand, like a book by Peter Zumthor.

When you hold it in your hand for the first time it will be as though you have done so before, as though the book is being returned to you after a long absence.

To you alone.

That is because this book has been written for you.

The book, Building Knowledge in Architecture, was recommended to me by Ryan Schultz, founder of http://www.openingdesign.com/ via Twitter

@randydeutsch Hi Randy, speaking of books… ran across this one today in the library… looks right up our alley: http://amzn.to/hX0YG2

@theoryshaw P. 78 of Building Knowledge in Architecture (Design as a rational Process: The Triangle Broken) could be your mission statement. Thanks!

Ryan, with fellow IPD maven Oscia Timschell, is launching a beta version of the new site in time for the AIA National Convention. Check it out and follow Ryan on Twitter @theoryshaw

FYI This blog was posted for readers at my other blog by a different name.

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BIM and Integrated Design: the College Curriculum

This is a first. I don’t know of any situation where a university course – let alone a curriculum – was named after a blog.

There are no Huffington Post studies, and one would need to look long and hard for a college course named after Boing Boing.

So you can imagine my surprise to discover – in so advanced a constitutional monarchy, unitary state and country as the UK – the announcement of the launch of BIM and Integrated Design: the college course.

According to the press release put out by the university, this is a world first.

United States schools have offered advanced degree and post-professional programs related to BIM and IPD as a delivery method for some time. Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) Master of Integrated Building Delivery program is but one example.

But never before has there been one specifically on the topic of BIM and Integrated Design.

As described in the course syllabus, this BIM and Integrated Design program is unique in that it approaches integrated design processes from a Lean design and construction perspective, with the use of enabling technologies – BIM and sustainability.

Also addressed in the program are the benefits that can be achieved through the adoption of BIM, including integrated processes; improved design coordination, information management and exchange; clash detection; clearer scheduling; improved sustainability outcomes; and improved value to clients and users.

While this looks like a lot of information to cover in a school curriculum, it is heartening to see that the considerable collaborative work processes of BIM –  impacting individuals, organizations and the industry – are emphasized in the course as well.

The BIM and Integrated Design program launches in September 2011 – coinciding with the release of my new book: BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice (John Wiley & Sons).

Read on for the full press release. Schools here would benefit from such a well-written article announcing new BIM and IPD-related courses and curricula.

At the end of this post is a link to a detailed description of the proposed course.

Skills gap warning as BIM becomes mandatory requirement

UK construction and design industry professionals must invest in skills training if they are to embrace the forthcoming implementation of Building Information Modeling (BIM). That is the view of Arto Kiviniemi, Professor of Digital Architectural Design at Salford University’s School of the Built Environment which today launches the world’s first MSc course on BIM and Integrated Design.
The government’s chief construction adviser Paul Morrell has indicated that BIM will become a key part of the government’s procurement of public buildings and that bidders and contractors on future public building projects would be expected to implement it on all future projects. A team is currently studying the use of BIM in government projects and will report its findings to the Construction Clients Board in March.
Integrated BIM means a fundamental change in the design, construction and facility management processes that involves data sharing between all shareholders based on digital models that can be used from a project’s early design stages through to completion and monitoring of subsequent performance.
The news that BIM will become mandatory in all public procurement has been met with some skepticism from the industry in the UK but Kiviniemi, one of the world’s leading authorities on BIM, has seen the benefits of the delivery of BIM across the US and Scandinavia, where it has been demanded by large public clients since 2007.
He explains: “In Scandinavia and the US public projects now use BIM and there is no doubt that it will become the standard in the UK and across Europe. It integrates the information that architects, engineers and contractors must deliver on a project and creates data which is usable in the integrated processes, simulations and life cycle management of buildings”.
“To make this work it is essential to share the data in open BIM format. The efficient utilization of data helps clients to make informed decisions and will  enable our industry to respond to the environmental challenges, as well as to increase the productivity if we develop our processes too. There are definitely some strong success stories and evidence of measurable benefits if you look at the international studies of BIM and IPD (Integrated Project Delivery).”
He warns: “Those who have not embraced BIM will be simply out of the running for public projects.”

The government’s introduction of BIM is designed to unlock new ways of working that will reduce cost and add long-term value to the development and management of built assets in the public sector. Paul Morrell has said that he hoped that the report would mark the beginning of a commitment to a timed programme of transformation and adoption.
Adopting an industry-wide BIM process is likely to reveal a significant learning gap in many companies with people left wondering how to implement this into their own practice. In response the School of the Built Environment at the University of Salford has launched a unique programme of Building Information Modeling and Integrated Design which commences in September 2011.
The course is designed to promote a deeper understanding of the impacts and business benefits of adopting integrated BIM on the supply chain organizations. It is aimed at design professionals, e.g. architects, architectural technologists, structural and M&E engineers, and design/project managers and will give companies a head start in implementing a BIM-based approach.

Look here for more information about the Masters Degree in BIM and Integrated Design.

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Are We Productive Yet?

The message was clear.

The way we – as a profession and industry – were going about things was self-destructive and unproductive.

It wasn’t working. Not for us and not for owners. Something had to be done.

Enter BIM and Integrated Design

Together BIM (Building Information Modeling) and IPD (Integrated Project Delivery) would save the day.

No longer would construction be the lone industry to not see any increase in productivity over the past 40 years.

Our troubles would be behind us.

Together this dynamic duo would optimize project results, increase value to the owner, reduce waste and cost, shorten project schedules, improve working relationships and maximize efficiency through all phases of design, fabrication and construction.

Together, cost overruns would be overcome; delays and late changes would be history.

Or so the thinking goes.

Where are we headed?

Take a look at the above chart.

The orange line indicates construction productivity.

The blue line, the one edging upward, is everybody else.

If you look closely, the above chart takes us through 2004. Maybe 2006.

That’s roughly around the time IPD was first being discussed and soon introduced as a full-fledged delivery option.

We’re in need of a new chart – to see if BIM and IPD together are working.

Are making us more productive.

If all works as planned, the next release of this chart will look something like this

But we know these things take time.

We hear every day even if we were to turn on a dime and change our wasteful, harmful habits that global warming would take decades before we saw improvement.

It’s a bit like unemployment where we need to create jobs just to stay even.

Where even if we were to create 90,000 jobs per month that we would just break even and see no decrease in the current unemployment rate.

So why should we expect to see any improvement in the years since this chart was issued?

Because we started to work with BIM?

Because we have the first evidence of teams working with some success in Integrated Design?

No one believes things will take a sudden turn for the worse.

This is not even an option.

We will all be shocked and dismayed should the next release of this chart show that despite our changes and intentions and best efforts that things have started to go south

 

Has our industry flat-lined?

While we need to be patient to see results and an improvement there is still much we can be doing.

Unless we want to see our productivity remain flat well into a fifth decade, and accept the consequences, we will have to change.

100% adoption and implementation across the industry of BIM tools and work processes.

We need to move swiftly and expertly up the D ladder – using BIM not only for the low hanging fruit of coordination but working collaboratively, to reap the real benefits of using these tools on integrated teams.

And most importantly, we need to do this together.

 

We need to work for the project – not for our own private gain.

With the faith, belief, understanding and irony that when you work for the project, all gain.

We need to commit to making our teammates successful and look good and believe that by doing so we will look good as well.

We need to give up our self-regard when it comes at the expense of the team and the owner’s goals.

The project comes first.

We will not suffer any consequences if we maintain this as our mantra heading into the foreseeable future, one blessed with increasing workloads, design and construction opportunities.

Uppermost graph courtesy of Paul Teicholz, founding Director, Center for Integrated Facility Engineering, Stanford University

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Being Perfectly, Completely and Utterly \Tran(t)s-ˈper-ənt\

Kaffee: I want the truth!
Col. Jessep: [shouts] You can’t handle the truth!

A Few Good Men, 1992

Transparency is your only option, because the tribe will smell artifice.

Seth Godin, in an interview with copyblogger discussing Tribes.

Doc: You know what they say: People in glass houses sink sh-sh-ships.
Rocco: Doc, I gotta buy you, like, a proverb book or something.

The Boondock Saints, 1999

Have you ever been in a situation when someone just comes out with it and tells you exactly what they want?

Me neither.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

It was just funnier than writing “I have.”

But I’m just being completely transparent with you.

Actually, that’s not entirely true.

Entertaining you is more important than informing you.

But only here, in the opening of the post.

That way you’ll stick around – without realizing it – until you’re informed.

Gotcha!

That’s admittedly not being transparent.

But I’m only being transparent with you.

Being transparent – perfectly, completely and utterly transparent – can be like the magician who gives-away his tricks.

It might be informative – but not as much fun.

Let Me Make One Thing Perfectly Clear

This post is about transparency.

But if I was perfectly transparent with you I would inform you that it’s also about selling books.

But first a bit more about transparency.

Not transparency as a dominant consumer sensibility –

We all know when others aren’t being transparent with us,

And sense when we are being sold a bill of goods –

But as a way to build trust in integrated teams.

How Much Transparency is Too Much Transparency?

Do you, for example really need to know that there’s that hidden (t) in the word \Tran(t)s-ˈper-ənt\?

I could have lived without that.

[Though I will be sure to pronounce it hereafter.]

Isn’t transparency just a trendy term meaning trust or integrity or honesty?

Yes. It was trendy in 2004.

Transparency was the business buzzword du jour back in 2004.

Back when people said things like du jour.

And even at that time it was recognized that blogs and wikis were tools for transparency.

So where have we been all this time?

As with so many things, the AEC industry is only catching-up with transparency now.

In addition to perceived inefficiencies in the current delivery model and renewed scrutiny on costs and budgets some of the most significant drivers of change in the construction industry include lack of trust, too much conflict and a desire for transparency.

BIM streamlines the design process by really encouraging transparency, which encourages coordination, which reduces RFIs and waste. Likewise,

IPD is a clever solution to the tough organizational and contracting problems faced in today’s market, relying on careful participant selection, continuing dialog and transparency. And finally,

Lean construction tries to increase transparency between the stakeholders, managers and trades in order to know the impact of their work on the whole project while PMI doesn’t consider transparency in its methods.

So Why Are We Still Talking About It?

It may seem obvious, but even on integrated design teams we want different things.

We may have signed an agreement stating that we’ll all work for the good of the project, sharing in profit or loss, gain or pain.

For better or for worse.

But the contractor is hard-wired to still want easy-in/easy-out of the jobsite.

And the architect – bless her – doesn’t want the design intent to carry through to the completed project.

Screw intent.

Let’s be perfectly transparent. (What’s with this “intent” anyway?)

She wants the design to carry through.

Period.

Not to mention there’s a long history of distrust and aggressive behavior between the various parties.

What You Need to Know

You need to know that you can trust your teammate.

That you’re all here to serve the project – in service to the owner.

That you have – first the project’s, then the owner’s, then each other’s and lastly your own  – best interests in mind.

You need to know if you’re going to pull your pants down behind the garage that they’re going to pull their pants down too and not just stand there pointing and laughing.

In public ridicule and shame.

You need to know that.

Open Book, Open Door

If you go open book, you need to know that they’re going to do the same.

And that their use of the phrase “open book” matches your definition – and understanding – word for word.

It’s really quite simple.

To restore trust, talk straight.

And carry a big stick.

To level the playing field, be accessible, accountable and don’t exaggerate, overstate

or conceal.

And don’t say you have an open door policy because your office doesn’t have a door.

7 Habits of Truly Transparent Professionals

1. The Truly Transparent know what they want.

2. The Truly Transparent are immune to artifice.

They hear what is meant, not what is said.

And they say it back to you in their own words.

Until you hear it.

And they’re not concerned about appearances.

They’re concerned about being understood.

3. The Truly Transparent are direct.

They’re bold without being off-putting.

And remember, being bold isn’t the same as being blunt any more than being direct is the same as being offensive.

Transparency isn’t the same as saying everything that pops into your head irrespective of your audience and their feelings.

We couch our impressions, observations and feelings in terms that we judge others can understand and handle.

It’s one of the ironies of our times that you can be more transparent by couching what you say than by just letting it all hang out.

4. The Truly Transparent appear to be fearless.

Especially in situations where they have to show all their cards.

5. The Truly Transparent say it like it is.

They don’t hold back.

They don’t mince words.

They pull no punches.

Or try to pull one over on you.

They don’t obfuscate with professional language.

They don’t use words like obfuscate or tendentious (especially tendentious.)

They don’t say “fenestration” when they mean “window.”

They don’t speak in academic talk.

They choose their words carefully.

But you only hear their meaning not the words.

And understand, along with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., that a word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used.

They understand that.

6. The Truly Transparent are upfront with you.

They hide nothing.

Because they have nothing to hide.

7. The Truly Transparent don’t muddy the waters.

They’re crystal clear – don’t use double entendres.

Wouldn’t know a double entendre if it hit them.

They don’t tell stories and anecdotes where a “yes” will do.

They listen more than they say.

Trust – But First Conduct an Incredibly Technical and Detailed Background Check

In an interview for my forthcoming book (there he goes with his book again) I asked:

What would you suggest to an architect, when offered an opportunity to work on a project utilizing an integrated design platform – with shared risk and shared reward –  and their reaction is along the lines of “No way! Why would I risk my profit on someone else not making mistakes?” As in, “Why sign on to a project whose payoff relies on the other guy not screwing up?” Does it all come down to their comfort with risk – or is there something else going on here?

Here’s what the interviewee said:

 If I were advising them, I would tell them as part of the advisory board to conduct an incredibly technical and detailed background check of every person who’s going to be on this team. A complete due diligence: all the way back to what they were doing in college. Find out from other projects they’ve done, other owners they’ve worked with, other developers and architects they’ve worked with, how many suits they’ve had, what their story is. If there’s a red herring or a red flag, I’d want to be all over that initially. Would they be able to work together? If everyone sees it as a benefit to everyone involved, if it’s a requirement for my getting the job, then I’ll have to weigh it against other projects I may have going at the time and the market outlook. It seems like less of a headache if I can make it easier on myself and sign a contract that says this is what I’m responsible for, the heck with the rest of you. On paper, it looks fantastic. Get everybody to sit at the same table, hammer out all the details, so we can avoid some of the hassles that normally arrive later. I see tremendous advantages for being able to do it, if everybody trusts everybody at the table; you can save yourself a lot of trouble.

How to be Perfectly Transparent without People Seeing through You

My life is like a glass of water, transparent. – Skakira

How to be perfectly transparent?

Know your audience. Understand their needs – what it is that they are looking for. Then try to give it to them.

Be direct – no indirections – this is not the time for poetic license, metaphors or similes. Be concrete.

As Pablo Picasso said: Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.

That’s a good quote. Don’t use quotes where the truth will do.

They’ll appreciate you for it.

And trust you for it.

And to be perfectly transparent, being transparent isn’t always a positive thing.

As when Dean Koontz wrote that the manipulation that all politicians use on one level or another is so transparent.

So keep in mind that even bad behavior can be transparent.

“I don’t know if I can trust you.”

When someone says “I don’t know if I can trust you” – or more directly, “I don’t trust you” – what they are really saying is

I don’t believe you.

I don’t believe you’re being straight with me.

I don’t sense that you’re telling me everything.

What is it that you’re not telling me?

You’re not walking the talk.

Or the walk.

Not practicing what you preach.

It’s an alignment problem.

Your action and words don’t align.

How often do you take your car in to get its wheels aligned? Every 10,000 miles?

Interestingly, you don’t align your wheels at set increments of time.

So how do you know when to align your wheels?

It’s something you just know – and have to pay attention to.

You will know you need an alignment if your car pulls to one direction or if your steering wheel vibrates at any constant speed.

So look for signs that start to tell you that you’re pulling in one direction.

Believe me, people will let you know.

You might be inadvertently driving your team – and teammates – off-course, off the road, or – worse – under the bus.

So look for signs along the way. They’re there.

Is Complete Transparency Even Possible?

In a word?

How about 27?

Being transparent with our motives implies that before I can expose to you why I am doing what I do, I need to acknowledge it to myself.

That’s hard to do.

For instance, I was recently asked by a journalist why I blog (journalists talk with him – now will you buy the book?)

If I were completely transparent I would say I blog

  • To build an online platform – with followers – who will continue to visit my blog, prompt others to do so and when the time comes buy my book.
  • Or, to be completely transparent, I write my blogs to leverage the internet to move more books. But why move more books?
  • To be completely and utterly transparent – to get the next book deal. Oh, and a few speaking engagements in interesting places. Move up from coach to business class. And an honorarium…

This may be transparent – but none of this is entirely true.  These are the reasons I write and they are

  • To entertain
  • To inform or teach
  • To learn – from others, from the experience of delving into new topics
  • To inspire and motivate
  • To help
  • To express myself
  • Discover meaning, purpose
  • Because I am compelled to share

But how much do you really need to know?

With transparency are we at risk of TMI?

And as important, how much do we know about what drives us to do what we do?

In Drive, Dan Pink says we’re motivated by autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Does that ring true for you?

You in the end have to judge whether I deliver on any of these bullets.

In other words, my being transparent about my motives may be immaterial to your take-away.

Your being entertained and informed.

In exchange for the time you spent here with me today.

I hope it was worthwhile for you – and that I lived-up to my promise.

Let me know (transparently, not anonymously.)

Who is to say that any of us know why we do what we do?

Malcolm Gladwell certainly demonstrated in Blink that few of us know what makes us tick.

And Daniel Gilbert in Stumbling on Happiness certainly proved that we have no idea what makes us happy.

In other words, trust – but keep your eyes open.

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