I’d like to thank Dawn for suggesting a blog topic. If I’ve got her background correct, she’s trained as a structural engineer and an architect and has noticed (and taken the time to write) that many architects still practice as though they are still in school (I call that the Vintage Studio Mindset) rather than approach what we do as a business and take essential steps to be leaner (and gentler?). Dawn noted that only 10% of buildings in the United States are designed by architects and that architects (in general) should be more supportive of each other (like teaming). Does anyone have confirmation of this statistic?
What's my thought of this? The major difference I’ve noticed in the profession since getting registered in ’94 is that small firms/practitioners have the word share embedded in their hardwires. We are more willing to trust, ask, and collaborate; that is how we (small firms like mine) have learned to flourish. The opposite side of the share coin is trust. It takes a while to find the right chemistry of teaming folks. You make a few mistakes in the process but hopefully things don’t blow up while you’re refining the mix.
My direct experience is that most large firms/practitioners want to hang on very tightly for the fear that if one little part is let go of the whole thing might slip away. So it seems like there are two separate forces working on our field:
1) small firms who can do it and step up to the plate to make it happen for clients, i.e., who what that and how
2) large firms (I mean really large firms) that step up to the plate (as the chest-pounding CroMagnon) and make it happen.
Ultimately, both opposites still serve the same purpose (accomplishing the project for the client).
Did you see the Pixar movie, Finding Nemo? Remember the little fish that guarded the bubbles in the fish tank treasure chest as his bubbles? He’d run (swim) over to the treasure chest just as it was about blow its bubbles and say, “My bubbles! Mine! Mine! Mine! My bubbles! I think of that when I experience a big firm wanting to keep it all for themselves. (Ok but I have 3 kids, stock in Disney, and love a good silly laugh). After a while, when the fishes and (other animals) worked together (no I’m not socialist or communist) they figured out how to get Nemo hooked up with his dad and how to escape (or to quote Ellen DeGeneres as Dory “Ex Capeee”) the fish tank (did they ever figure out how to get out of the plastic bags?) But I digress.
From my perspective, I see that larger firms have a harder time adapting to changing environment whereas smaller firms are just built to recognize and adjust to a new sense of balance requirement (OK, I do karate too; hence the reference to adjust and balance.)
If you haven’t yet taken a look at the SPP web site, I encourage you to do so (www.AIA.org/SPP). Look specifically at the SPP Journal Archive. I remember working on one issue a few years back called Collaborate—immensely appropriate for this discussion. There is also another issue called School of Hard Knocks, where we shared (freely) what we learned.
—Lisa Stacholy, AIA