2002 Unfolding

January 1, 2002 · by James P. Cramer

We expect this year will have the ingredients for a gravitational strength to pull you both backward and forward (or apart)...It's a wide-open game for entrepreneurs in this industry. With that background in mind, here are a few paradoxes to consider

We expect this year will have the ingredients for a gravitational strength to pull you both backward and forward (or apart). We’ll see an economy for architects and designers more like that in 1998 (financially speaking) and more like 2008 in project delivery innovation terms. Therefore, the swings from professional practice norms will catch many off guard. Surely, the conventional wisdom in the A/E/C arenas is no more to be relied upon. It’s a wide-open game for entrepreneurs in this industry. With that background in mind, here are a few paradoxes to consider:

1. Every great strength is a great weakness.Two concerns to keep in mind on this one: even your strongest attributes can become weaknesses when you apply them where they don’t belong. Architects who are exceptional designers may fail to build up other qualities such as working smart, listening to others on the A/E/C team or marketing with passion. And for a firm who has carved out a niche in a building segment in dramatic decline, that firm may not be perceived in the marketplace as having transferable knowledge to other building types.

2. By nature, the future destabilizes the present; likewise, the present resists the future.To prosper in these changing times you need to focus on the future with fresh vision. Often many of us resist living in multiple tenses (past, present, future). An ability to do just that provides for regenerative relevance. An increase in firm leaders’ experience will paradoxically foster a growing trust in simple intuition. A trust of visceral reactions over complicated analytical thinking separates the best of class firms from the pack. Remember, the most successful designers “unlearn” the limiting beliefs and barriers to new solutions.

3. Nothing is as invisible as the obvious.DFC Senior Fellow Richard Farson says that the “invisible obvious” is where the real opportunities are for your future success. Deeply held ideologies, cultural values, tunnel vision and selective perception are all enemies of the future of the professional service firm. For instance, often the resources for ownership and leadership transition are already within a firm, yet owners are eager to look outside where they perceive the grass to be greener. Sometimes with just a little help putting the pieces of the puzzle together will make all the difference and bring to light new solutions to be synergized into a firms success planning.

At the beginning of this New Year it might be well to consider what architects, engineers, and designers will be like in the future. Long ago, futurist Jerry Glenn said that creative service professionals and computers would be converging. Architects, engineers, and designers would become more computer-like. The DFC will look at dozens of new research reports this coming year including MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) that take much of what designers know and puts it into computer robotics.

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