Monday, October 25, 2010

Start With Why

A few weeks ago at an Educational Practice Leader workshop in Baltimore, we were focusing our discussion and speculation on the future of education and learning. One of the workshop events was a review and discussion of topics facilitated through videos from a number of well known futurists and inspired leaders. The most powerful and transformational video was a talk by author, teacher and leadership consultant, Simon Sinek. The TEDx Talk covered the essence of his book, 'Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Action,' and while not specifically focused on our topic of the future trends in teaching and learning or the design of educational facilities, the talk reminds you to ask why you think about the impact of digital technology, globalization and the preparation of the next generation for the many global challenges. It forces you to think, overall, about why you do what you do. As Sinek says in the talk, people in business or, in our case, architectural and engineering design practice, generally know what their firm does, sometimes know how their firm goes about doing it, but very few can answer the most profound question of why they are doing it.

The why question is not about profit, sales or prestige, it's about the essential purpose and passion. Through examples from the Wright Brothers to Apple Computers and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he shows that inspired leaders always start with why. The talk makes key points about leaders: you can learn to lead, leaders inspire and passion must be linked to purpose. His message "People don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it" is repeatedly stated, and he highlights King's passion. King didn't say "I have a plan," he said "I have a dream." Closing the video, Sinek sums it all up:

"There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or authority, but those who lead, inspire us. Whether they're individuals or organizations, we follow those who lead, not because we have to, but because we want to. We follow those who lead, not for them, but for ourselves. And it's those who start with why that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Own Your Time

Similar to my recent post, Life in Small Bites, a recent Fast Company blog by Graham Button, 7 Trends to Watch in an Age of Info Overload, looks at why the more information we have the less informed we feel. While he offers seven truths to keep things in perspective, two involved terms new to me - 'information sickness' or over exposure, and 'continuous partial attention' for multi-tasking. But what I find more important, particularly as it relates to our architectural and engineering professions, is the link between the daily information pressure and decisions we make about how to spend our time. Graham states that the real wealth is in owning our own time and being able to use it for creative social change. A quote from Google CEO Eric Schmidt reinforces this time pressure vs. creativity link:

"Innovation is something that comes when you're not under the gun. So it's important that, even if you don't have balance in your life, you have some time for reflection… The creative parts of one's mind are not on a schedule."

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Life in Small Bites

In a recent story in the Boston Globe titled Break it Down for Me, Beth Teitell discusses how our society wants to consume everything - food, news, information, relationship advice - in short, condensed forms. It is a very interesting read about the state of today's society and how we respond to the overload of information by what she calls bite-sizing.

As researchers have noted, this chunking down of things is an attempt to impose some order upon chaos. However one can see beyond the predigested chunks of single service food options to something even more concerning, single service mind options. If you save time with bite-sizing, the question then is what will result from the time saved - more mindfulness or just more automatic actions?

I believe this phenomenon has profound impacts and puts at risk the thoughtful and mindful processes of an architectural and engineering practice. There will be many implications well beyond snack packs. What do you think it means to professionals, firms and our industry? How does it impact marketing, presentation and client communications? How will you use the freed up time?