Deeper Strategic Thinking

July 26, 2005 · by James P. Cramer

In the 10th anniversary issue of DesignIntelligence, I wrote an article titled “Why the Future Won’t Need Today’s Architects” that some of you thought was overly sensationalist. My point was simply that changing demographics, technology breakthroughs, and scientific discoveries will bring a new and challenging context for architects, designers, engineers, and their clients. The bottom line was that each leader and design organization must create a blueprint that goes beyond survival toward a new agile relevancy.

In the 10th anniversary issue of DesignIntelligence, I wrote an article titled “Why the Future Won’t Need Today’s Architects” that some of you thought was overly sensationalist. My point was simply that changing demographics, technology breakthroughs, and scientific discoveries will bring a new and challenging context for architects, designers, engineers, and their clients. The bottom line was that each leader and design organization must create a blueprint that goes beyond survival toward a new agile relevancy.

Since that article was published, I have received daily letters and emails that probe for more refreshed thinking on the subject. Today I will explain why leaders need to deploy deeper strategic thinking in their organizations.

Our first belief is that the future will be disruptive. We should expect it to be. Take any of trends we have been discussing, and it becomes evident that big changes need to be made. A firm’s technology policies, for instance, are central to economic success or failure. Finding the path to success in a time of changing context is the job of the firm’s leadership.

The mix of congruent attitudes, organization design, technology policies, and top design talent is what I think it takes to move into new and positive productive systems. Leaders must be courageous enough to redefine traditional roles of their firms—or they will be passed by.

This decade is becoming “the decade of design” and will probably be seen as one of the most important paradigm breakthroughs in the 21st century. I say this because of the significance of design and the environment. Survival by design is now a subject discussed at the best architecture AND business schools.

Therefore, firm leaders need courage for deeper strategic thinking. But what deeper strategic thinking means actually differs depending on building type, audience, timing, and the array of complex issues inherent in each firm’s culture.

Sure, there will be those who stand aside from the paradigm changes and choose not to participate. They may be a president or managing principal, but they will remain in a frustrated state and not in the exciting global economy for architects, designers, and engineers, and they will fall behind.

The ability to adapt to changing circumstances (strategic thinking) creates the new winners in our industry. Winners take the time to look up toward the horizon so they can position themselves with new relevancy and new success.

We live in a new global knowledge-based economy that affects firms large and small. This economy is right here for you to explore and navigate, enabling you to win more and lose less in a time of flux, yet increase professional satisfaction.

—James P. Cramer

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