FIPEL Lighting to Replace LEDs?

A research group at Wake Forest University has been nosing around the lab experimenting with Organic LED tech for quite a while. They've found a way to create a light that overcomes the mercury-based fluorescent light and the bluish-tinge of LEDs. I might also add that these new Field-induced polymer electroluminescent (FIPEL) lamps can be shaped in many different formats, have the lifespans of LEDs and don't require the dangerous materials of CFLs or Rare Earths of LEDs. Oh, and they are twice as efficient as the CFL lamps. Price and availability you ask? Well that seems to be an open question at this point. A commercial lighting company is currently working with the scientists at Wake Forest to bring the product to market in 2013.

Applications for this new product are wide ranging says David Carroll, the scientist leading the development of this technology at Wake Forest. Uses for this lighting technology extend to digital signage and transportation applications.  Carroll sees potential uses for large display lighting, from store marquees to signs on buses and subway cars, not to mention the millions of square feet of space in commercial and residential structures.

See the entire publication in Organic Electronics
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This is a post in the continuing conversation about new materials and their Connections to the Built Environment and the Links to sustainability, buildings and our environment.


Fiscal Cliff, Retirement, Change Management, Federal Budget and Stupid Trends

A while back I started tracking some keywords with Google trends and today I'm reporting an interesting set of trends. It appears that stupidity and retirement are fairly equal in interest by people from Google's reports. Notice that Change Management has been consistently more interesting than the Federal Budget. This is an interesting correlation of connections.

I also find it interesting that the long term interest in the pair of retirement and stupid are about 70/8 over the pair of Change Management and Federal Budget or almost nine times the interest. What are we to deduce from this? Is Stupidity always more entertaining and interesting that federal budgets or change. I suspect so, since just about every reality show on TV now is about how ridiculous people are when they look for something, do their job or try to do something on their own. What does that say about retirement? Well there are a lot of us Boomers looking it straight in the eye and we've discovered the internet, so we fixate searches on what is staring us in the eye. A lot of us have lost a lot of what we had stashed away and in the last six years haven't recovered or maybe won't recover.

For a lot of professional and corporate management folks, these topics occupy a lot of our waking and even sleeping hours. So, as we move forward, be on the lookout for stupid people and retirees. They are all around you. Along the way if you hear about change management remember it's always there, humming along in the background, persistent, not going anywhere. It's likely the fiscal cliff will fall off the charts in a couple of weeks to be replaced with something else. Keep watching and let's see what happens with these topics of interest.


The Entrenched IT Department gets a "Heave-Ho"

The following article appeared in a reading list related to CIOs. Seems CIOs are on the hot seat lately, partly for good reason. I look at this article and wonder why almost half of the staff reduction at Citi is from the IT departments? Are they that overstaffed? Are they ineffective? Apparently "yes" is the appropriate answer based on Michael Corbat's comment, "...(Citigroup) identified areas and products where its scale does not provide for meaningful returns." 

In my mind, when an IT group (or any group for that matter) no longer responds to the business they are supposed to serve, it results in statements like the one above. If CIOs are to be able to prove their worth and provide meaningful returns they will need some radical shifts in thinking and action. No longer will they be able to think of themselves as keepers of the keys of technologies, but evangelists and enablers of technology where it can deliver nimble, agile and effective solutions. That's a game-changing difference in perception and action for IT execs, management and everyday technicians and coders. 

Citigroup axes 5,000 technology and operations jobs

Kathleen Hall Published: 05 Dec 2012 From SearchCIO.in
Citigroup is to lose more than 5,000 IT and operations jobs as part of the banking giant’s axing of 11,000 jobs globally.
Some 40% of the jobs being cut in the firm’s Global Consumer Banking arm are to come from IT operations and technology functions, resulting in the loss of 2,480 jobs.
Losses in its Institutional Clients Group operation will see 1,900 positions go, of which more than half are in the operations and technology functions that support the business.
By reducing its global workforce by 4%, Citi expects to record pre-tax charges of $1bn in the fourth quarter of 2012 and approximately $100m of related charges in the first half of 2013.
Michael Corbat, CEO at Citigroup, said the bank had identified areas and products where its scale does not provide for meaningful returns.
“We will further increase our operating efficiency by reducing excess capacity and expenses, whether they centre on technology, real estate or simplifying our operations," he added.
Citi's operations and technology function is expected to achieve greater efficiency through increasing standardisation and the use of automated processes, streamlining the organisational structure, and consolidating functions and moving certain positions to lower-cost locations, said the bank.

I'll have to take some issue with Mr. Corbat's final statement in the article. Standardization and streamlining organizational structures, even consolidation don't result in substantive change which results in real innovation or a competitive edge. It's just the same old 'bean-counter' mentality of cutting costs with a large scythe and hoping the results will justify the actions. Too often we have seen this only exacerbates the issues. While I do agree most corporate structures carry way too much fat and waste along than is good for them. Just going to the clinic to have liposuction isn't the real cure, a good dose of mindset change has to accompany the surgery at the same time.

In my mind, the change in mindset should happen first and if the fat doesn't fall away with the change in mindset, then surgery might be in order. Well, let's watch and see if the surgery has the desired effect. Don't be surprised if you see more press about other major elements of Citi being reorganized with surgery. From our viewpoint, stopping some stupid activities would probably be far more effective and result in realignments and reductions where really needed in IT and other areas as well.  


Some Clarification on (SMART)x Game Changers

Yesterday I posted an article about the (SMART)x Games Changers seminars James L. Salmon is presenting in 2013. Some of you were overwhelmed by James' list of acronyms. He realized he overwhelmed most of you so he posted a quick definition of the (CM)x. CM = Change Management. the ()x part is the multiple parallel meanings CM has in the realm of Change Management. Here's the image he uses to explain this.

As you can see there are a number of other applications of the letters C and M which applies to Change Management.

NoSilos.com supports this thinking and is a sponsor of the Game Changers seminars James will be presenting.


Collaborative Construction Sponsors (SMART)x Game Changers in 2013

Our sister blog site hosted and written by James L. Salmon is upping the ante again. The efforts from our work at Strings, Connections and Links as well as the new site www.NoSilos.com are working together to support James' launch of the (SMART)x Game Changer series in 2013. This is going to be an interesting series of presentations and engaging conversations about how you can be involved in promoting permanent change in your organization, the projects you deliver and the evolution of services provided by the AEC industry.


How will I get my Twinkie Fix Now?. Part 6 - Chaos and Failure

Hostess officially announced they are shutting their doors. There is a crisis looming in the software world. How will the coders we feed pizza, Twinkies, Coke and energy drinks survive? They will now have an unbalanced diet. What's a software Project Manager to do?. For that matter, what will we do while watching football, baseball, or have for that afternoon pick-me-up? I'm going to miss my Twinkie, Ding-Dong, and Ho-Ho's. I really do love frozen Ding-Dongs in the summer. Chocolate, cold and tasty, what's not to like? But it's true the Hostess company is calling it quits after roughly one hundred years of existence.

The recent changes in culinary tastes have been the final nails in a coffin housing a continental baking giant of our culture. All because they failed to meet the market demand. They failed largely, because they failed incrementally, in small ways, hardly noticeable to those in the company, much like the frog being boiled alive in a warm pot of water. It feels so good, until it's too late.

I have attached a link to the AP article by J. M. Hirsch, one of their food editors and I suggest you take a few minutes to be cajoled and entertained while being informed. But the issue here really isn't that I won't be able to get the gut-busting calorie-charged Twinkie, it's that a perfectly good company will go out of existence, throwing 18,500 folks out of jobs, all because, a few knuckle-headed owners, managers and labor leaders were blissful frogs in a warm pot of change. I'm not here to lay blame and any single set of feet, all have some responsibility to bear in this debacle.

Chaos in markets is a bear. It is messy, confusing, hard to think about and even can make your head hurt. But that is no excuse for those in the wheelhouse of Ownership to to quit thinking and just give in. This isn't something that just happened. Hostess brands have been steadily declining over the past five years, but looking at the brand and products released in the past few years, does nothing to inspire confidence. No real change in Hostess or Wonder white bread for the past 20 years. No image makeover to bring the hearty full grain goodness to Hostess brands, anywhere. The image of a highly processed food products company, never responding to the changing perceptions of new mothers and fathers concerned about gluten intake, high fructose corn products and industrial dyes being ingested by their little darlings.

Why no change? I'm not sure. I haven't been invited to look at the insides of Hostess, but by outward appearance they were stuck on digging a hole with a "Stupid Stick" as a friend of mine so eloquently puts it. They just kept on digging, without knowing why or when it was time to stop. They knew how to dig, it was comfortable, it had worked in the past, why not now? They hadn't noticed that the stuff they were digging in had changed from easy loam to hard rock. They continued to use shovels when they needed air hammers or a little blasting powder.

So if you find yourself digging and it seems you are working much harder than before, maybe it's time to put down the " Stupid Stick" you have in your hand, crawl out of your comfortable hole and look around. You might find you are digging in the wrong hole. You might find you will need new tools to dig your new hole. (That is if your business is digging holes.) The important thing is to interrupt what you are doing and look around, look hard and long and see if there is something you need to change, then leave the old behind and embrace the new and move ahead.

Do it together. No single person can survive in this mad, mad, mad world we live in today. One final reminder, 'Collaboration is the Glue of Success."

This is a continuing series of articles on the current change and chaos our business work world is experiencing. How we can navigate the treacherous waters and succeed when we are observant, open minded and innovative.


Chaos & Change - Part 5 -HR. Part of the problem...

I admit it. I have a permanent negative bias for HR departments. They should be part of the solution, but they aren't. They are controlling where they need to be open. They are obstructionists where they should be enabling. They are restrictive where they should be expansive.

This post is one of a continuing series on the factors I see contributing to the debilitating chaos and waste in our working lives, no matter if in the private, public or non-profit worlds. Waste is a terrible thing to endure. If our organizations are to be effective in the 21st century, pervasive change needs to occur. For the start of the series see "Part 1-Chaos and Failure are Brothers" and continue through the series. I think you will find something which hits home for you and your organization. At that point it is up to you to start affecting the change needed in your world-take responsibility, move ahead.

In a recent blog post by Mike Cook entitled, "Is SHRM Fiddling While HR Goes Down in Flames?" he asks some really good questions about the current mindset of HR departments.
"In the course of my work I have many occasions to address local gatherings of HR professionals and am confounded by the lack of urgency I see towards the development of what seems to me the number one issue facing organizations, significantly improved capabilities in the acquisition, development and retention of the necessary talent for the business they are a part of."
I agree wholeheartedly with Mike. What is going on with HR in general? Have they been asleep in their little cocoons for the last 5 years? Have they even seen the transformations taking place in their companies which reward exploration, innovation and multidisciplinary involvement? Apparently not. While their house is burning, they continue to fiddle the tunes of the 1990's and have seemingly missed the 21st century transformations since 2006.

The chaos they contribute to an organization adds to the "Stupid Index" (my interpretation) of their companies they are supposed to be serving. Instead of contributing, they are distracting and compartmentalizing the efforts of their constituents they are called to serve. If I sound like I'm on a ran, I guess I am. I loathe the continued waste on the scale HR groups usually contribute to a company, when they could be a strategic contributor, rather than a tactical obstacle. Apparently those who know this subject much better than I and have recently reported their findings which supports the real life experiences I've had with HR groups. Both the Boston Consulting group and McKinsey are respected companies who measure their findings and support their positions with hard research.

When they find little or no change in HR departments over the past five years in meeting the changing market conditions of the organizations they supposedly serve, it supports the continuing mountain of evidence building that today's organizations are in dire need to shed old and ineffective action and thinking and replace it with more agile and responsive organizations. Permanent Change Management is needed, now.

My thanks to Mike for writing such a revealing and on point post. Hopefully, some CEOs and HR directors will awaken to the burning timbers around them, get the fire out and rebuild a new house which is really a responsive representative of their constituent stakeholders.

This is a continuing series of articles as a Connection about Chaos and Change Management in the workplace. Other ideas here include Lean, Agile and Management 2.0 management theory as applied to complex or wicked problems. 


The Changing Culture in IT

Recently The Gartner Group published a study reviewing the changes in perception of IT groups in companies. Apparently, IT groups and specifically CIO's are beginning to catch on that they aren't there to run a trouble ticket service and keep the protection walls up, but should be business enablers.

Gartner identified four possible new futures for enterprise IT organizations.

1. IT as a Global Service Provider
This future looks more like IT is a company within a company. Run with it's own charter delivering IT services and business process management as a centralized effort. No longer does this IT organization run itself as a cost center, but takes on a marketing perspective and seeks out new clients to 'buy' their services which deliver real value throughout the entire organization. This organization realizes it is competing with outsourcing activities to remain relevant to the company it serves.
2. IT as the Engine Room
Another future looks like IT as an enabler of assets which it is constantly growing within. Again this organization is proactive in seeking out new opportunities to deliver value to the business both at the department and enterprise levels. This future looks at finding ways to deliver as much or more for less while responding to ever changing business needs.
3. IT “is” the Business
This future is an extension of the host business where information and knowledge is the real business. In this case the business is an example of what the business is. It's taking the delivery of what you sell and apply it directly to your own business. Focus on information flow which spawns innovation throughout a value chain instead of supporting the typical services found in most companies.
4. Everyone’s IT
Now we get to the new radical paradigm. And this one is a real shift in thinking. "Loose the dogs of data," is the mantra of this IT organization. Enable everyone in the company to use information and technology. Take a very proactive and investigative attitude about how information and technology creates advantage for the company. More importantly Data is the focus, technology is only an enabler. This is a bit of anarchy since now the IT is diffused throughout the entire organization and not centralized as an activity. New champions will arise to take leadership roles which formerly were seen the exclusive realm of the IT gurus. Only the more mature organizations will likely see the advantages of this collaborative, open and horizontal deployment of IT so most likely it will be the model of newer companies or collectives.

According to John Mahoney, vice president and analyst at Gartner, this new breed of CIO will set the stage for these futures, defining their new roles and identifying the charter of their new organizations. To ensure adoption these CIOs will need to involve the rest of the senior team and IT stakeholders for this kind of change will set a new direction for the entire company.

I have my suspicions that if this forth option were looked at as a possible model for other senior responsibilities, real interdisciplinary activity would take hold and then those companies adopting this new model will find themselves outpacing all others in their market segments. Certainly, this is a model of hybrid thinking and looking at solving complex problems the new millennium companies will need to address. 


Chaos and Misdirection - Part 4 - A Classic Case of Missed Opprotunities

This is the forth part in a continuing series about missed business opportunities inside businesses which create points of failure and loss of value. In this article I highlight a trend inside companies where one part of the company should be engaged and responsible with a key component of the company's success and for any number of reasons they aren't. Use the links here to read parts one, two and three.

Chris Murphy, Editor for InformationWeek magazine has a recent blog post entitled, "Will CMOs Outspend CIOs?" For those of you not in the know, CMO is Chief Marketing Officer. Just another alphabet soup entry in the seemingly never-ending stream. The important take away from Chris' article is that Information Technology has largely taken to a bunker mentality and has stopped being the R&D arm needed for strategic decisions in a flexible corporate organization. Here is a classic case of created silos of operation hindering real growth and innovation in any organization. Here's what I think is the crucial take-away of Chris' article.


Why Projects Fail So Often?

I must give Marc J. Schiller some credit. His article appearing in CIO Insight July 2012 "Why IT Stakeholder Management Fails: Blame Mindset Mismatches" was one of the key drivers to rewrite the content in more general terms and apply it to other domains. 

The Stakeholder and Consultant / Designer / Problem Solver: 
Why Projects Fail So Often.

Fact: Stakeholders perceptions govern the real possibility of any project's success.

Fact: A lot of time is spent managing the expectations and behaviors of stakeholders.

Fact: The absence or mishandling of stakeholders, their expectations and desires results in loss of credibility for project leadership.

What's a project leader to do?
Blame someone else, anybody else, stakeholders, team members, management, the contract ... anything, anyone.

Failure: Is There A Conflict of the Minds?

Blaming others is a convenient response, but it seldom yields much benefit. Why not look at the problem from a different perspective? Just why do people think the way they do? iIt isn't that different people think incorrectly so much as they have a different perspective and that leads them to interpret what the see and hear differently than you do. So, it's no surprise the misunderstandings we all encounter are so prevalent and why so much time and space is taken up thinking about stakeholder management, or in other contexts, 
change management.

Mindset Conflict #1:  "This is My world and How You fit in."
So many times the professional problem solver wants the object of their work to understand something of their world and how it works. Unfortunately, your client could care less. They don't want to understand who you are and how you work, they want you to understand them and how they work. Your challenges don't mean much to them, but their challenges are the soup of confusion of their lives. They want the confusion to go away. You are supposed to be there to make that happen. The last thing they want is to have to learn something else, their brains are already bursting. 
So get over yourself. Remember why you got the engagement in the first place and only focus on what is going to produce benefit or value for your client. 

Mindset Conflict #2: Results Always Trump Process
Complex problems are always tangled with processes. After all you wouldn't even be talking to this client if the issues were simple. Often these engagements have processes where Some of them don't work, others don't produce any real value or usable result and other processes aren't even included. What's a PM to do? Clients want you to take ownership of a project. Even when you spare them the gory details (Conflich #1), they still just want results without much, if any work from their group.  
So how do you get results which will matter? How do you get the stakeholders out of their silos? Can they even tell you what you need to know to produce the results they think they want. The real issue here is who is going to own the results, you or the stakeholders? If the stakeholders are going to own the results, how do you get them engaged? The typical stakeholder response of , "I don't care how you do it, just make it happen." doesn't help, but creates a chasm of distrust and sets up everyone for a guaranteed failure. 

Mindset Conflict #3: When you think the project is almost finished, the stakeholders are just waking up.
The project is in the home stretch. You kept everyone aware, informed and you think engaged. The new change is about to be rolled out. Systems will go live in a couple of days, The training seemed to be a success, and people are getting excited about your work. But you hear some scuttlebutt from some the trainers that something didn't seem to go so well with some of the modules. Your phone is ringing and a department head is asking you, "What were you thinking? You are telling my people they have to change the whole workflow of their day. This just won't work for us at all. What are you going to do about this?"
  You know they signed off at every major milestone, they even gave you great rating on your training. What's wrong? How did this get so out of control?
All that certainly happened, but once again your perception and theirs didn't match. For the stakeholders, this was just a 'dry run' not the real thing. Something to look at. Finally, on the last days a few people wake up and understand what you are training them on isn't a probable solution, but THE SOLUTION. And in their eyes, it just isn't right, no not at all. 

Up until the very end they were only paying attention with about 50 percent of their awareness. You thought they were really engaged, after all they did ask pretty good questions which you accommodated in the final product. What went wrong?
Meanwhile your production teams are getting ready to pop champagne corks. They met their budgets and timelines, it's time to celebrate. Another mismatched expectation. You are really between a rock and a hard place between the stakeholders and the work producers. 

Does this sound familiar? Unfortunately, this is the reality for about 70 percent of change initiatives. Despite the best intentions, focused communication, thorough training and intended stakeholder management, the results are a disaster and your credibility, your champion's credibility and even the executive suite's credibility are all called into question. Recovery from these situations is almost impossible if this is an internal corporate effort. Someone's going to suffer the consequences, the only question is who will be the survivors?

In the next column, we will look at what you can do to address these three root issues of stakeholder management when seeking a big change.

This is a continuing series of articles as a Connection about Chaos and Change Management in the workplace. Other ideas here include change management, Brain Reprogramming, Agile and collaboration, neuroscience and Project Management  as applied to complex or wicked problems.


What do Tomatoes, Natural Gas, Water and Power Have in Common?

Energy, Power, Water and Fertilizer combine for a Grand Slam

They have two companies in common, GE and Houweling’s Tomatoes, a leading North American greenhouse grower. GE just announced a couple of weeks ago that Houweling's Tomatoes has started operations with an inventive and integrated Combined Heat and Power (CHP) installation using GE Turbocharged, natural gas fired engines coupled with a CO2 sequestering and purifying system which provides fertilizer for growing tomatoes. An added bonus is gathering the water vapor released in the combustion process and using that to help the tomatoes along as well.

There are more bonuses as well. The excess energy from the GE engines provides energy to the local power grid and offsets some the cost of running the system. Also, the captured combustion water also offsets water from the local groundwater system as well. this is the kind of distributed and integrated water/energy implementations which can benefit the business and the local community as well.
Here are the high-level benefits as I see them:
1. Lower cost of operation for the grower
2. Lower water demand from local sources
3. Increased and diversified energy production
4. reclamation  of typical energy and water put to work producing value
5. A diversified local economy creating new capital inside the community.
6. Higher overall air quality results for this business, creating better air quality for their region.

To get the full description hop over to the Distributed Energy blog.

This Article is part of a continuing series of articles on the Built Environment tying together Energy, Power, Water, Sustainability, Economic Stability and technology.


Chaos and Change - Part 3 - Lean, Agile and Mgt2.0 Can Succeed

This is the third article in a series about Chaos and Change. How they change our working worlds and how we can gain come control of the chaos. The previous installment was titled Chaos and Change are Brothers - Part 2  I suggest you might want to go back and catch it as well. 

The following is a reply I posted on Fierce Healthcare's discussion area. The site is one challenging healthcare folks to stay up with the latest developments in their fields. I came across Susan D, Hall's post in a LinkedIn Group and thought it interesting. While all of you know I'm a big supporter of better management and highly collaborative frameworks for companies, I thought it appropriate to clear the air about change initiatives and their chances to survive and make have some permanent change as a result. The following is my comment on Susan's blog post you can read here entitled, Lean leadership in healthcare: What does it take? Of course my comment there is posted here, but please read Susan's work as well.

Your Brains Work Best When They Can Turn from Failure to Success

As an evangelist for better business principles which are more lean, more agile and responsive both internally and externally, I applaud your efforts in healthcare. Unfortunately, the cards are stacked against you. J, Kotter in 1995, Turner and Crawford, 1988 and Prosci, 2005 all indicate that only 30% (at best) of projects introducing change in organizations have reported any real measurable change. If you look at the flip side, that's 70% failure. Now I'm


Taking a short side trail - Water, no Matter How You Call It..

Many of you know of my concern for the development of the small blue ball called Earth we all ride along on. I just finished a quick read on the "Water Efficiency" blog edited by Elizabeth Cutright. I enjoy reading Elizabeth's posts. I think she and her staff get it right more often than not and this week is another 'spot on' post. She titles this week's missive "Wastewater As “Want”-water". In it she contends, along with a lot of learned and experienced folks in the water business, that we need to take a larger view of water. A view beyond the separation of treatment, disposal and distribution and think of using water much like nature uses it. (My emphasis added below.)
In a special issue of Science released this month, in a report titled “Taking the ‘waste’ out of wastewater for human security and ecosystem stability,” a team of 16 authors from a variety of universities and research facilities combined their efforts to take a closer look at the potential of wastewater treatment, development, and reuse. At the heart of their inquiry was the question of how human behavior and outside-of-the-box resource management can not only reverse the damage done to the ecosystem and our water resources, but can actual restore, rehabilitate, and re-imagine our water resource landscape.

The Castor and Pollux identity crisis of water and energy

I've long held the view that we need to think of water and energy as a "Castor and Pollux" paring. Looking at water from a holistic viewpoint makes it easier to see how energy and water are an inseparable pair. Water is the first and one of the most efficient energy storage units in our ecology. It's state-change physics is a wonder to behold and that simple state change is the basis of the beginning of the industrial revolution and much or our electrical generation system today.

I hope you enjoy the read and take a close look at the issue of Science magazine as well.
This is an entry in a  continuing series regarding Connections within the Built Environment, water, energy, wicked problems and the use of hybrid thinking. Messy problems such as these are the focus of our discussions.


Chaos and Change are Brothers - Part 2

Recently a group of really bright folks, Dawn Naney, Clay Goser and Marcelo Azambuja posted a new document entitled "Accellerating the Adoption of Lean Thinking in the Construction Industry" which deals with the issue of adopting lean management theory within the construction industry. The following is part of the response I posted on the LinkedIn discussion group which Dawn posted. I thought after I wrote the response that it is just what I've been thinking about writing as Part 2 of this series, so here goes. I hope you enjoy the read. Of course you know Collaboration is the Glue for Success. If you haven't read Part 1 of this series then here's the link.

I would agree with the findings of the authors, but I contend there are a few of us in the business who have been talking about how to make the change stick and at the same time doing something about it. Up to this point we have been pretty quiet about it. (Yes gentle reader, I'll have much more to say here in this blog over the coming weeks.) The root issue revealed in the adoption curve that Gartner espouses, is the lack of efficient change management. When we stop


Changing: Part 1 - Chaos and Failure are Brothers

I recently came across a blog post by Karen Martin entitled "Cure the (Self-Inflicted) Chaos First" Here's an excerpt from her entry which hit home with me.
"The reason (for failure) isn’t a flaw in the methodologies, but a flaw inside of companies. Organizations in all sectors fail to meet their full potential because of self-inflicted chaos....I’m talking about chronic long-term chaos brought about by ambiguity, lack of focus, inconsistency—habits and behaviors that organizations can control but choose not to."
 I couldn't agree with Karen more. Standish, Gartner, Ernst & Young, Accenture, all the big consulting firms and a host of university studies indicate that only about 30% of projects which seek to instill permanent change in organizations actually experience some level of effectiveness.


My Saturday Gift to You, Gentle Reader: Longer, Happier and Effective Lives

It's not often that presenters at TED talks get standing "O"s but this talk from Jane McGonigal is one that definitely was deserved. I've known for a long time that my brain, yes even your brain is the most powerful tool we have to use as a human. Jane presents an engaging premise that you can use your brain to lengthen your life, strengthen your relationships and be a more content person. So this is my gift to you, gentle reader. Watch, listen then act and receive this gift for yourself.


Google Glass, Augmented Reality and Always-On

I just came across a follow on blog post by Josh Web who is one of those guys looking at what is going on and extending it to what might go on in the future. Some of you know I've been interested in the melding of visual and data driven technologies to provide a richer environment to work and live within. I first started thinking about this back in the late 1990's when I ran across a couple of guys in Dallas who were trying to get some augmented reality off the ground for HVAC field techs. They were really ahead of their time. Cell networks were just getting past the old analog services and Dallas has always been one of those testing markets for new doo-dads and services.

So, I've been wondering when we can get BIM, geocoding and virtual reality to work together and what that might mean to the AEC and Built Environment worlds. Wifi enabled cell phones can get down to pretty small increments for locational accuracy when four transceiver locations can pinpoint the WiFi device inside of 2 feet or less. How about using this kind of technology for mining, roadway construction, bridge construction, pipeline alignment and construction. All these types of projects would benefit from some form or combination of augmented reality merged with design and fabrication virtual models. The folks at Trimble Navigation already are embarked on the remote control of roadway construction machinery and open pit mining, but there is a lot more to be done.

Take a quick look at the slide presentation by Josh below and then let me know what you think about where we might be going with these idea in a couple of years.


A Potpori of Ideas for Your Friday Special

I've been pretty busy over the past couple of weeks so the blog has gone silent. So here are a couple of things that have caught my eye recently.
First lets start out with

Electrochemical flow capacitor: Hybrid battery-supercapacitor design targets grid storage

Pretty interesting technology to help solve the production irregularities from solar and wind without the harmful side effects of batteries. Still in the proving and experimental stages, but I think on the right track.


Muda Walks in September: Guest Article

Hi everyone,
I've been rushing about the last couple of weeks and part of that was to broaden the writer base for Strings, Connections and Links. One of the really interesting and knowledgeable folks I found was Dennis Sowards. Dennis has been working as a lean practitioner for quite a while now and he has what I think is one of the more refreshing viewpoints on lean. I would encourage you to take him up on his offer to conduct a Muda (that's waste for those not in the know) Walk.

Here's Dennis' invitation. Oh yes, you don't have a lot of time, so sign up by Aug 28th. Take it away Dennis.

Muda Walk 2012
Dennis Sowards
How to improve operations? There are thousands of answers to this question and more are developed every day. One simple way to improve is to follow the Lean approach of “Go & See.” Masaaki Imai, a leading expert on Lean techniques, says that in companies


Chargers, Leakage, and Dams

Friday Bonus Post

I recently caught a link from one of the LinkedIn which intrigued me. All of us have devices that charge on USB or MicroUSB ports. You know phones, notebooks, tablets, cameras and the like. All of them use those 'wall warts' that not only charge the unit, but continue to drain power, even when not in use. Oh and they take up valuable outlet space as well, very annoying.


The Top Five Questions to Assure Survival in the AEC Business

Phil Bernstein, FAIA of Autodesk has an interesting article posted today on the Architecture daily news feed. http://goo.gl/yML4A.

Phil, gives you five questions to ask yourself. Strangely enough, these are almost the same five questions I've been challenging firms to ask themselves for the past 10 years. Phil, thanks for giving them the press time they deserve.

The Top Five Questions to Assure Survival in the AEC business
1. Where are you going to be in five years?


Metal Buildings and Net-Zero Performance, Are You Kidding?

The Friday Special Edition..
Metal Construction News and Net-Zero buildings? I mean metal building and net-zero design, who would have thought. But check this article out "10 Things to Know about Net-Zero." Mark Robins, Senior Editor of Metal Construction News writes about an unlikely topic, how metal buildings can achieve net-zero status. To his credit Mr. Robbins addresses the issues of air leakage and thermal performance as two of the largest issues


Penn State BIM Execution Plan Review

BIM Project Execution Planing Guide - Version 2.0I have to apologize to you, one of my loyal readers for taking so long to get back to the review of the Penn State BIM Execution Plans v 2.0. I'll get to the FM Planning Guide in a couple of weeks.

If you used this product before, you will find just about everything just as you left it, but there are better controls for what goes in and how you manage the elements. If this is new to you, then spend 30 minutes with the documentation and you will find a real gem. I still don't really like the use of a spreadsheet to deliver the working content, but it is easy and approachable for everyone. Most people will find it easy to use and modify if you have just a bit more than the basics in modifying and creating spreadsheets.

I would love to see this as a data-driven java or php app that could be implemented on a Unix LAMP or MSIE web server instead of the spreadsheets. There isn't very much in the sheets that makes a spreadsheet handy other than the all-pervasive tabular format of the process. Being tabular in presentation reduces it to a hierarchical data format which a MySQL data schema would handle very well. Modifying the elements would only be changing the variables and pseudo table headings and names, the linkages would likely stay all the same. If delivered in this format, then we would have a true collaborative environment where more than one person could reliably work on the project information anytime and from anywhere they were given permission. For one of you inventive and courageous programmers out there here's a ready-made project for you.

I really like the initial project information, documentation of goals, rating of the ability of the team members to perform tasks and the associated risks. It does make for the ability to make rational decisions about who will be making decisions about what and who will need help to get through the project without creating undue hazard to the rest of the team.

Communications between the teams, naming conventions for files, components, levels/layers, workgroups, even libraries of components can be defined here so everyone knows where and what can be used. I like the ability to give web addresses or file locations for these elements. If there is a wiki used to hold much of this information, then the url's to the correct pages and tags can be documented here.

Since it is delivered now as a spreadsheet, you can use as much or little of the framework which suits your project. If you have other sources for execution plans such as the one from Indiana, Texas or the Feds, then you can add those as additional sheets or rows within the framework as is needed.

In all, the authors have done a great job of creating a thorough and flexible framework for anyone just getting started or an old hand at BIM authoring a leg-up to better manage an increasingly complex job which has grown to be a central document contributing to the success of any integrated or collaborative BIM project.

In the thumb's up rating scale of 5 I'll have to give it a 5 for thoroughness and content and a 3 on delivery because it doesn't go far enough in my opinion to encourage collaborative participation.


The Disconnection in Learning in a Structured Environment

This is a Friday Bonus Article

For a couple of years now I've been thinking about how learning happens and how it happened and continues to happen for myself. Why would I contemplate such a topic? For the single reason that the amount of knowledge is expanding at a logarithmic rate and I'm fascinated in the discoveries of others. Smattering bits of knowledge from one area seems to spark new ideas in me about what I'm more interested in and a different perspective is often revealing to me. It reveals how very narrow my vision about a singular issue is, when it needs to be more broad in every respect. Michael Wesch, an assistant professor of social anthropology at Kansas State University studies social issues and uses the vast resources on the internet to bring relevance to the study of anthropology to his students in classes with enrollment of over 400 students. A daunting task to find ways to engage students in a way that they activey engage with anthropology.

The following Lecture was delivered in the UK at a conference put on by the Association of Learning Technology in 2009. Professor Wesch delivered this talk as the opening keynote address for the conference. I think you will find plenty in the talk to encourage thought provoking reflection about learning, our current educational environment, the use of the internet for positive change and how the internet shapes our lives and the activities we engage in. Even the idea that the internet may encourage a new level of creativity, not seen in our culture since the days of learning a craft to support yourself. So enjoy the hour of Michael's address and we'll follow up with a few ideas I came away with from the talk.

I'll take a couple of minutes to open a couple of ideas. One is connected with the built environment related to the physical space Michael talks about. First he mentions that the typical 400+ lecture hall just does not encourage participation between students. It is a singular use space, intended to deliver information, not interact with others and information at the same time. The second is that space is not nearly so important to them as the tools they use to build a community of relationships. This is a telling account of the effectiveness of tax and private monies being spent on learning environments which have largely failed to deliver the kind of supportive learning environment which encourages students to engage with the learning they are ostensibly at university to acquire. It's not that they don't like to learn, It is apparently they don't understand what they are supposed to learn. The quintessential conundrum of not knowing what you don't know and not knowing the importance of not knowing the value of what you don't know.

In a later post I'll get to some other interesting points in Michael's address but I wanted to lead with these two points since they probably have the most direct context with previous entries in this String of Connections with the Built Environment. So let's start with the effectiveness of spacial design and the relationships we build into those space and the inherent value, or not we achieve by relying on established norms.

There are several volumes that direct the norms for 'good design' in educational and other environments. They are guides to provide a safe, recognizable solution to educational space. I refer to the Architectural Graphic Standards and the Time Saver Standards. Most architectural design and construction companies have one of both of these tombs in their libraries or they are owned by employees who use them from time to time for various needs. While they are good reference materials, often designers fall back on established formula for solutions. You don't have to think much, just copy and move on. Check off another requirement from the list of needs the client presents you. So lecture halls become the same kind of environment they've been for the past 200 years. A stage for a sage. Come and learn at a particular time and place. Gain knowledge from a recognized sage who holds the keys to knowledge. They talk, you listen, you learn new stuff and eventually there will be a test to see if you did really listen. Perform well and you get a good grade. Such is the design paradigm we are stuck in. I say 'we' since both the educational owner and the designer have colluded to provide the space, thinking it will work, but in reality it isn't working very well at all.

What is so sad about the information being presented in these venues is that an expensive textbook isn't needed at all. All the information presented in most textbooks is available from several sources on the internet. Textbooks have a very tenuous existence in today's electronic age and the didactic delivery of that information is just as perilous. So what is a recognized expert, knowledgeable in an area of study and experience to do? How do they engage the populous coming to learn?

So far the answers are few but the suggestions are many. Open University in the UK is almost entirely online. It is a knowledge delivery environment focused on students engaging in learning at their level and pace, not a pace dictated by an artificial schedule. It seems to work. Open University has been operating since being established in 1969 and the first students enrolled in January 1971. It is a recognized accredited institution in Europe and the US. That's no small feat when you consider a large segment of their enrollment is graduate studies from around the world. While OU, as it is often known, is one of the leaders in distance learning, their experiments in collaborative and open coursework is legendary in educational circles. So what does this mean for the physical edifice of our alma maters? Will they go out of business? Will some of the disappear? Are they stubbornly holding on to an out-dated paradigm to be replaced by something not yet considered?

I'm not sure I have answers to any of the above questions. But one thing is for sure, Universities and Colleges are in the midst of significant change. The large subsidies state sponsored institutions have received in the past are just about gone. Research and public services, patent rights and licensing are the basis for survival of many institutions. Some saw the writing on the wall decades ago and have built reserves which make them financially independent and able to select what they will investigate and build programs that more closely meet the needs of our cultures and economy.

My second point is that the relationships that are built during learning become lifelong relationships. That is nothing new, but under the uber-connectedness of the internet today there is the reality of creating collaboration efforts between interested parties without regard to distance or time. It may not be the most convenient, but is is proving to be effective. No longer are the boundaries of departmental requirements important. The importance is the ability of people to communicate on topics of mutual interest and knowledge. New insights from others with seemingly no prior interest have given several fields of study tremendous breakthroughs in the past 10 years. Neurology and brain science has made great strides through the joint studies of biology, physics, mathematics and even music and the arts. Visualization technologies have made great advances by looking at the arts, biology and chemistry and physics. All with significant cross-fertilization of ideas and viewpoints. University learning centers can and I believe should be centers of encouragement for these associations, not the fragmented departmental and collegiate silos of the past. All should have something of interest to bring to the collective table of learning to assist others to see breakthroughs not realized in the myopic centers of thought of traditional departmental learning.

To me this is what is so engaging about what Michael is doing with his social anthropology students. He opens the possibility for them to see the world in a different way through leveraging what they already know to expose what they don't know. Isn't that what we are all doing with learning? Taking one set of experience and a lens of understanding and then looking around the corner at something we have never seen before and making the leaps of understanding from what we already know. When we have someone come along side to open new ways of looking at an issue, new understanding opens up and the peak around the corner isn't based on what we knew before, it's a completely new vision of reality.

That's why I beg, borrow and steal from others. It refocuses the lens of understanding about new ideas, processes and discoveries I'm interested in, revealing new ways of understanding issues I thought might be impossible to understand. It is a way of collaborating to gain new insights. It is why I always remember "Collaboration is the Glue of Success."

This article is a continuing series of articles which are Connections of Strings which have to do with the Built Environment, social issues, public education and the difficult and wicked problems all of live with every day.


BIM Metrics

The following is an email I wrote to a LinkdIn contact Tim Cole of Causeway Software. Tim had asked me about what I thought about how the Levels of Detail effect the kind of data which can be collected as Key Performance Metrics around BIM models. This is my second reply in the discussion between Tim and I and I thought others might be interested in this particular segment. The issue I'm dealing with is at the the heart of metrics in any form, and that's the data collected and for what purpose that data is intended. My contention that the kind of data some folks want to collect is a direct reflection on the authoring software and purpose of the project's original intention. So here goes. I hope you enjoy the read. And as always remember, "Collaboration is the Glue of Success."

I'm not sure how I came up with the five levels, but they are similar to the US AIA level of detail document. I've modified that level to suit what my experience has taught me and what I've seen more advanced Owners such as General Motors, Ford, Motorolla and Intel use as their increasing tiers of service they ask for. For man of us in the US the first level of use is just assumed to be a 3d model. I know you can have a flat drawing that has data attributes on it, but it really is not a virtual building model, it is just a flat drawing with data attributes. Yes I do know you can do 3d Acad with 3d blocks and attributes, and that could be constructed as a BIM model, but it is pretty crude and rudimentary. Acad never was intended to hold a lot of data attributes, it is a drafting program. Using it in the extended form is a bit cumbersome. Then there's Catia. A premiere 3d mechanical modeling tool Frank Gehry has spent millions on to make it into a building modeling tool. And a very good one, but at a tremendous cost to own and operate.

Then we get to the built for purpose software like Revit, Archicad, Tekla and Datacad. These tools were built to handle data and intended to model space and construction from the beginning. Revit's history comes out of a mechanical modeling history but the guys quickly found that a mechanical parametric modeler just didn't work well to construct buildings, so they started all over and used a completely different mathematical base for the definition of parts. There is only one other program I know of designed like Revit since the 1980's and Tekla owns that original source code now. Tekla and Revit share some common ancestry in the algorithms they use to define elements but Revit has taken that definition and internalized the data store to be almost entirely inside the model. That, I think, is the one weakness of Revit, but eventually they will change this and make most of the data external and accessible to 3rd parties as the projects grow in size and complexity.

The takeaway here is that purpose-built software intends to create a virtual building from the outset and not be a drafting or documentation tool. That is the biggest difference in the two camps or classes of software on the market today. Here in the US most of the users don't think of any 2d documents as BIM. Maybe intelligent drawings, but certainly not a virtual building. So for us starting at Level 1 as a 3d virtual building, although it may be just a very general idea of the design and construction, or maybe no construction technology has been thought of at all. It really just conveys a design intent and not much more. You know that these models are quick and dirty and there are a lot of 3d modeling tools that can be used to get this kind of result, but it's not a BIM model if there isn't any Information component in it to help w/ completing the design. This stage is where Onuma really works well. Their space and utilization tools are really nice for building models at this level. They allow you to use something like Sketchup and then marry that spatial model to data by importing the 3d into Onuma and apply lots of data attributes to the spatial construction. There is a lot of value there to FM and Capital planning folks that don't really care about the construction detail.

The work I've been doing for the last 10 years has been focused on how to leverage the incredible resources of a virtual building process into the overall delivery methods we use. I've found that no matter what level of detail you use in a model there is a much more important story going on along side it which we leave completely out of the picture and that gap creates a lot of confusion and cost. Marrying those conversations with the model in a central storage repository so anyone connected to the project can understand why decisions were made would be a tremendous leap forward. There are so many levels where this 'conversation dialog map' could answer all kinds of questions about what is going on. Paired with a knowledge store of allied information keyed as a semantic network of relationships is what I think is needed to help BIM deliver the meta information which is really where the real value is during the building's lifetime. This goes way beyond the concept of levels of design and gets back more closely to the original questions about BIM metrics.

With a data store as described above you would know about how decisions were made, what the design assumptions and goals were, how they were intended to me met and how they were actually met in the end product. These are the metrics which are most important to Owners, not what level of detail we used in a model. The results of thoughts which turned into action, this is what building owners and investors are interested in. What was the return on investment for a design implemented over time? Did the extra money spent, really result in better service and a longer material service life?  Right now we aren't measuring this kind of performance. In fact, we aren't even actively determining if USGBC certified and rated buildings really perform over time as they were intended. There are some pilot projects going on, but a limited response for now. So do Owners really get any benefit out of a 'green' building? That to me is an important metric which few people are doing any significant work on now.

In the end, all metrics are driven by data. Data that can be reliably gathered and analyzed in a standard format (read an extension of accounting rules). Until the profession matures enough to settle on some data-driven processes, this question of metrics will be one of many words, conferences and papers and a few people who bravely go out and try something, anything to see what works. Those brave few will be the ones that set the pace for the rest of the professions years afterwards.
Andrew Abernathy
 This post is a continuing String of  articles as on the effects of Building Information Modeling and Virtual Design Construction on the Built Environment. As such there are Connections between the worlds of  design, software, economics, finance and Facilities Management.


BIM Without Collaboration Doesn't Measure Up

A couple of weeks ago Ted Garrison of New Construction Strategies interviewed me on one of my favorite topics, collaboration in context of the use of Building Information Modeling. Here's the quick synopsis Ted used when he posted the interview. Just click on the link below to listen. 
“BIM isn’t about drawing lines, it’s about building buildings virtually;” declares Andrew Abernathy. As a principle in Collaboration Consultant, Abernathy provides expertise on project management collaboration. Listen to him explain how BIM can improve your projects.

This  post is a part of a String of posts part of a conversation about design and virtual design and construction and BIM


Low Carbon Renewables as a Function of Area

Many of us have been intrigued by the possibility of alternative power sources to replace the dependence of petro-chemical sources due to their finite limits as opposed to the less finite and potentially more abundant sources from so-called renewables such as solar, wind, tidal and biomass. This past March in Warwick, UK there was a TEDx conference and one of the talks was delivered by Professor David MacKay, a physicist who thinks we should quit shouting at each other about the merits of one solution over another and step back a few minutes and look at the problem of replacing Petro-chemicals with renewables with some arithmetic.

He analyses the issue and creates a data set of consumption as watts/Square meter and then maps that against population density in different countries. A surprising result turns out to be that the UK could be a picture of what might happen to other countries in our world where the areas are small and population density continues to grow.

So, take about 15 minutes and watch the video and then we'll continue the discussion.
TEDx link



7+ Reasons PM's Don't Improve Efficiency or Productivity

Many of you know I subscribe to the art of stealing and transforming ideas to get new results or perspectives around difficult problems. It's just an axiom of our world, 'nothing is new under the sun.' Did you know they had vending machines in Pompeii? Amazing!

In a recent article on Projects@Work there was an article closely titled to this entry, but it related to CEO's. It was written by Mike Beard who is a pro at Project Management. Mike was writing about the folks in the C-Suite, but let's take a minute and step back to take a closer look at the everyday activities of project leaders and managers. I would contend that Mike's seven reasons falls squarely on the shoulders of just about every person who managed a project or held some kind of management responsibility. At sometime all of us have been party to one or more of these seven reasons. It's not an indictment, it's just the way we are as humans. It is also not an excuse for the behavior to continue. I would hope all of us are working to become better practitioners in our chosen fields and have some ability to look at ourselves candidly to measure how well we perform and act. So let's look at Mikes' Seven Reasons quickly and see how we measure up. Oh and I've added a bonus reason at the end for you.

1. We have met the enemy and he is us: (my paraphrase). Yup, I'm my own worst


Energy, Water and Food: Three legs of Civilizations' Stool

I just finished reading an interview which first appeared in the 4/23/12 issue of Forbes magazine that Rich Karlgaard, a Forbes staff member had with Shell Oil's Peter Voser. Mr. Voser is the new CEO of the UK owned oil giant headquartered in the Netherlands. He is the first CEO not of UK or Dutch citizenship and the first non-technical CEO for the company, he's an economist of all things. While you might not think of Shell as an environmental friendly company, one thing remains true, our world runs on petrochemicals and will for quite a long time. Mr. Vosser points out that until only very recently biofuels reached the 1% of consumption/production point and solar is very close behind biofuels. And that's after decades of pushing both of these alternative energy sources. So the chances of displacing oil in 10 years as a dominate player is pretty slim and likely none. Why is this important? Why do we preach diversity in energy production and high efficiency for buildings? 


The Tiny Spec of Water that Supports All of us.

"Its a Water-Full World": Scientific American, 5/26/2012. This recent article is based on research done by the US Geological Service comparing the distribution of water on our tiny blue globe we call home. Of the entire world's water which is approximately 1.38 Billion cubic kilometers 1,385 kilometer diameter drop. Only a tiny spec of water is actually usable fresh water we can use. That 56.2 kilometer diameter drop sustains the entire population on our earth. That's a very tiny percentage of the total amount of free water available on our globe. Somehow we manage to survive on that paltry amount.


Design Age - Part 4

After this installment I'm likely going to take a rest on the issues of complex design. If this is the first time you found the string, please go back and read the Introduction in Part 1 and the following installments in Part 2 and Part 3. They will give you the background needed to really understand the full impact of this most recent Part 4.
The Dilemma of the Crowd

For most problem solvers there is a paradigm we have been following for as long as we can remember. It's the trail of the lone discoverer. The 'me against nature, the world and all the other idiots who couldn't be bothered to figure this issue out' complex. But there is this strange phenomenon happening more and more often. The longer I spend time on this problem, the more and more angles and alleys it reveals. What I thought was going to be a simple solution to a problem I thought was clear, the more cloudy and tantelizingly obscure the issue becomes. I begin to talk to some close friends and colleagues about parts of the problem, not wanting to reveal everything at once, to get their take on the issue. Over time I reveal more and more of my discoveries and pretty soon, without my really understanding what is happening, I find they are talking about the same issue with their friends and I find out about this by accident. Now the idea is presented to me in a way I hadn't even considered and by asking a few question, I find out it's like the party game 'telephone.'
What I hear from this other person is only vaguely like my original idea, but it has some interestingly new twist of understanding I hadn't considered.


5M lbs of paper reduced by Shake and Fold

Joe Smith, Oregon activists shows us how to prevent over 5M lbs of paper per year going into land fills. Shake ----- Fold....


BIM and XPM: A Made Marriage - Part 4

So far in the previous parts One, Two and Three of this series I've introduced you to an alternative work management method using eXtreme Project Management theory (XPM). XPM is a variant of the Agile light-weight management movement. The roots of this management theory caught hold in the software world and has moved into other business domains. If you want to change your management to fit more closely with collaborative efforts and use BIM in your practice, then you need to give XPM a very close look. It has a lot of advantages to offer and gives a lot more control to the people actually doing the


Design Age - Part 3

In this installment of the series on the Design Age I'm going to describe further the Traditional and Emerging problem solving methods. The previous parts one and two I dealt with the definition of the issue surrounding the new Design Age and the issues of solution complexity and scarcity of resources to deal with these seemingly insurmountable problems. These are truly the "wicked" problems of our day.

For some of you reading this have probably thought 'why deal with this issue at all?' Just look around at any of the forum posts on any of the general design centered or AEC centered forums and you will see a host of questions clustered around several large topics such as Integrated Product Design or Building Information Modeling (BIM) and how to use this new class of software and process as it applies to design, construction and building maintenance. How does the supply chain become involved and a host of other issues? These questions have been bandied back and forth for over five or six years and no single answer seems to solve the issue. No single tool or process seems to completely define a singular solution. How can it when the problem is so large and has so many variables to work with?

This is not to say any one of the current partial solutions available as a process, methodology or software tool is wrong or is not effective, it is rather an issue of series of partial solutions as suggestions or viewpoints as to a method to address only a portion of the larger problem. For this reason, such a singularly large and complex problem cannot be solved by a singular problem solver. We hope and dream for such a solution, but the chances of it happening are just too small when we look at the interrelated variables connected to the problem.

Traditional Solvers, Those of the Scientific Method Persuasion
So let's look further on the basis of the two problem solving methods we have available to us today. One is the traditional singular subject matter expert using the scientific method. A master of the problem domain, with significant experience and practical knowledge across a wide area of issues. Even to the point of being a da vinci.

  • Existing and well known paradigm is comfortable.
  • Works well for technologically and data-driven solutions and methods
Best used when you have
  • Controlled environment
  • Controlled Scope
  • Singularly understood goal
  • Single language and meaning

A single person acts as the originator and choke-point for all solutions. This is the model of the lone designer, scientist in the lab and painter in the lonely room. Now don't get me wrong. For centuries this method has worked well for many of the problems we used it on. The Scientific Method has led us to some remarkable discoveries and bettered the lives of billions of people over the world. But this method intentionally limits the problem viewpoint to a controllable set of variables. Results are often partial and the best research scientists often admit in their findings that their results are only partial and at best, are only indications of a possible event or finding due to this artificial limiting of variables. When I see these disclaimers in research work I often think maybe their work needed a bit broader view and more input from other, often unlikely sources would have served them well. But this kind of scholarly work leaves no such opportunities if the traditional scientific method is to be followed.

Non-Traditional Solvers, Those of the 'Wicked' Persuasion
Enter the complex or "wicked"problem, where the  problem demands a network of designers and subject matter experts, often from a multitude of information domains. When a problem is posed to a group such as this, many times the supposed issue is only a symptom of a deeper issue not even realized in the original problem statement. Now there is an issue of redefining the problem through the lenses of the various information domains and the melding of multiple languages into a singular understanding. Often a new language idiom is defined so all the members can clearly communicate. Even the social dynamic of new alliances across differing information domains complicates the discussion of issues and possible solutions. This really gets messy for a while until some form of equilibrium is reached.

A whole new set of methods and techniques and skill sets are needed in this context. The soft 'people skills' now become as important, no more important than the technical knowledge and experience of each participant. For, if the group cannot put aside at least most of their egocentric universes nothing will be produced. A collective consensus is the goal here, not a democratic majority. Acceptance of the possibility of a predetermined outcome by consent, many times by only a plurality is the direction of the collective solution. Just as with the Scientific Method, there will be unintended consequences since not all variables surrounding the problem are accounted for. But this time there is an acceptance that those unknowns exist and will create some unknown result. And the realization that this is not the only answer possible, it is just an answer out of the millions or billions of possible answers, all with a different set of outcomes, some anticipated and others unanticipated.

It is a mess, but it is an informed mess. A mess of decisions made in light of the best information known at the time by a group of invested stakeholders. Stakeholders that are seeking the best answer they can find, given the filtering lenses of their experiences, information and resulting consensus. Horst Rittel said that this is almost an insane act to involve yourself in this process knowing there is no definitive solution and out of the infinite possible solutions your collective will pick one and it might not, in fact most likely will not, produce the result you intended.

Social planners, urban designers, transportation planners, even physicians and physicists all live with this set of paradoxical positions. Yet, if we are to move forward, some brave souls have to dive in, inform themselves, look at a problem from every possible viewpoint and then make a decision as to what they will do. Hoping that some of that what they anticipate to happen does happen, even new events which reveal new possibilities for better solutions.

The Meshing of A Mess
In the built environment domain and the narrow AEC/OOFM world, we have a seemingly unending set of variables from the domains of finance, physics, economics, spatial aesthetic, material sciences, biology, chemistry and even the human impact to name only a few, to consider. How do these mesh together? How to we find the important points of most impact and positive change? How do we resolve the questions of what values we hold most dear? Where do we find the most value? Even what is expressed as value when the constraints we have held in the past as defining boundaries are being wiped away on a daily basis?

These are the questions as professionals in this business we are called upon to answer. Up to this point I think the indictments against us as being the most inefficient and wasteful are the least of our worries. the damage we have done over the past five decades is largely from our own indecision, infighting and inaction. This has to change soon.

We know we are the largest contributors of waste in our economy and environment. We have demonstrated to be the most resistive to change of any other economic sector. To our credit we have recently begun to awake to these challenges. We don't have 10 or 20 years to solve these difficult issues. We need to be willing to open our eyes to new approaches to problem solving and beg, borrow and steal every possible tool at our disposal and combine those assets into a new solution engine that has not been seen before. I say put aside all our past preconceptions of how or why we did something and start with a clean slate and build a new way of improving our Built Environment. Why? Because we have some of the most difficult and yet impactfull problems to solve. The benefits are enormous while the risks are just as large. Not to act will only continue the same devastating results of the past.

So look beyond your traditional sphere of influence and business. Look to see what others are doing to make themselves more efficient and steal from them. Remake the idea to fit your needs and then do it all over again in ever broadening circles. The power of doubling will take effect and soon the influence of your original action will be the basis of a whole new wave of innovation and change, creating benefit for both the producer and the consumer in ways you never thought or intended.

On to Part 4, the last part for now.