I felt the need to build on my previous post, 'The Price of Innovation,’ after reading the Schumpeter column in last week's Economist. It contained the obituary for Mr Andy Grove, who was the driving force behind Intel (the micro processor giant), and for decades protected their market dominance and ability to keep pace with Moore's Law. One sentence jumped out at me:
"Mr Grove's genius was as an organisation-builder and manager rather than as an innovator."
Grove focused his own time on building organisations rather than the creating of new products. Maybe architects should think similarly? Rather than looking into new products and services, we should be creating organisations that share knowledge and expertise differently. A bonafide profession rather than combination of multi-nationals and cottage industry. We should be using our combined knowledge and experience to assert greater influence on the built environment, and sharing this with our students sooner too.
The RIBA was founded in 1834 for ‘…the general advancement of Civil Architecture, and for promoting and facilitating the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith…’.
I think new members of the profession should be actively involved in this mission. We are all advocates for the profession. If we don’t drive outside of the normal channels, and establish a new way to deal with the shifting image of the architect, we will never progress.
A current member RIBA Council, Ben Derbyshire recently published two articles (links below), concluding that the profession must focus on collaboration and knowledge sharing to increase their value and contribution, not only to clients, but society as a whole. Derbyshire cited the advent of the information age and an outdated commitment to a restrictive Code of Conduct as the major causes for the architect’s marginalisation.
The two articles describe two systems at different points in their history. One is a celebration of a successful organisation builder securing his industry’s future, the other article is a call to arms for a profession struggling to retain influence.
The construction industry is always changing around architects, and while we innovate and do really good work within these parameters the true challenge is finding a completely new approach. A friend recommended Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘David and Goliath’ the other day. After my last post discussing an industry dominated by dogma and incumbents, I think I will be giving it a read!
One of the points from Mr Derbyshire is that by measuring post-occupancy building performance, we can understand and improve building specifications. This has been made easier by the introduction of BIM. However the grumble from me is that this technology is yet to have a meaningful impact/uptake in the small scale residential sector.
After a few years of watching the large scale BIM models really take off, with entire offices switching to BIM, I can't help but feel that small practices are missing a trick. One of the biggest challenges with small architectural projects, is that the breakdown of development stages stays virtually the same as a project ten times it's size. The information and documentation, while not covering as much square footage, still needs to be produced, and I believe a good understanding of BIM could serve to streamline an area of work that is labour intensive.
With the influx of project managers, BIM managers and such, Mr Derbyshire believes architects have a serious decision to make. Do we want to be the ideas men of a project, only to hand it over to be delivered by another sector completely. Or, do we want to retain our role as a full service? If you want the latter, he believes we will need to fight for it. We therefore need a managed and organised drive into this new information age.
The Economist, March 26th-April 1st 2016; Schumpeter, The man who put Intel inside
Ben Derbyshire RIBA, Ethical Professionalism
Ben Derbyshire RIBA, Collaboration And Research Are Key To Survival Of The Profession
Andrew Grove, Only the Paranoid Survive
Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath