Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Helpful Advice On Collaborative Design With Millennials

Recently, Archispeak podcast 107 addressed the millennial question as it relates to the profession of architecture. If you’re like myself, you might have a great interest in the topic because the shift in demographics and resulting changes in behaviour are 1) inevitable and 2) have potential. Predicting that a demographic shift will occur is the easy part. I doubt anyone is reading this to learn millennials will soon occupy the majority of their workforce and marketplace. Predicting the resulting changes in human behaviour, on the other hand, is extremely complex, and I cast suspicion on anyone claiming they have special insight into human nature.

This puts speaker Simon Sinek, optimist and founder at Simon Sinek, Inc., in a somewhat tough position when he continues to popup in my various social media news feeds. Maybe you've seen his video about millennials circulating around Linkedin recently? Many of his statements are completely detached from my long-term and close work leading Millennials. There’s a lot at stake for firms that don't adapt. It seems reasonable firms in the AEC industry would want to understand in great detail the behaviour and point-of-view of the young adults joining their teams, slowly taking on more responsibility, and eventually making important and critical business decisions. Several things make me wonder if Simon really is the best champion for this cause.

This writing, however, is about extending the knowledge of building design, not tearing something unrelated down, so I move directly to describing a point Simon and other commenters often miss by introducing a short anecdote that happened on Linkedin. First, I should add Linkedin itself is rather neutral in this story. It’s just where I saw it happen. I’m actually somewhat confident that many of the answers we need in the world today are already on Linkedin.

Now for my part I did derail this comment section by being the first to suggest teamwork was the most ingredient in BIM workflows. This produced an immediate change in topic. Not a backlash mind you, but there was an amazing amount of self-assurance that it’s important “everyone know their role” and “make sure everyone knows their role”. What a digital native hears is, “Know your place. You are a cog,” to which they reflexively ask: "Isn't there a way we can collaborate?”

We end by considering the spirit of collaboration that is everywhere growing these days, extending far past generational boundaries. People who can spark this quality within groups will be valuable indeed. Technology does play a role in all this because in many ways that is what is facilitating the ability to collaborate so freely. Projects in the AEC industry will always need some type of a hierarchy. The projects are too big to be effectively managed without some centralized distribution of resources over time; but otherwise there’s no reason collaboration can’t be practiced in the office and field. Millennials and digital natives certainly have a challenge in front of them. But there are examples right in front of us to follow: It’s the teamwork of sports teams, the teamwork of volunteers, of hackerspaces, online collaboration, and open-source software.

The above is only an introduction of my thoughts on the issue. To keep this line of thought going at high quality requires resources I currently don’t have (but desperately want) and so will ask to be excused for stopping here.

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