Laura Handler, author of bim(x), posted a comment on the idea of an IDEO like practice in Architecture. Her suggestion of bringing in other design/construction disciplines into the process earlier forced me to examine my initial negative reaction to the idea.
Intellectually I think including these people on the team is important. Emotionally I cringe at the idea.
I think a lot of it has to do with semantics and my experiences with the consultants I’ve worked with on previous projects.
I remember clearly when I first realized my consultants and I weren’t speaking the same language. I asked a Mechanical Systems Engineer to Design the HVAC system for a building we were working on together. It was coming up on our Schematic Design Submittal so we needed something that would be helpful in furthering the conversation. What I was getting wasn’t what I was hoping for – too much text, too vague, dependent upon too many assumptions. When I pressed for more they responded by metaphorically throwing up their hands in dismay; did I really expect them to design a system in schematic design? Well yeah, of course. What I came to realize was that when I was saying Design they were hearing what I would have meant by Engineer. Once we understood the distinction, that all I needed was a simple one-line diagram with approximate sizes of ducts and units, they were able to produce what was needed for the submittal.
So, Design isn’t Design to everyone. To some, Design is Innovation; to others it’s Engineering. If we’re talking about Design as Innovation then, is it helpful to include those who think in terms of Engineering? My gut tells me no. Oddly, if the conversation is about Design as Engineering then I absolutely do think that the Innovators should be included… I’d go so far as to say they HAVE to be there.
I don’t like the term Engineering here… it’s too loaded. Maybe it’s enough to use right brain, left brain thinking. Certainly gets me out of the hot-seat with my consultants! <grin>
There is danger, I think, in bringing in left brain thinking into the process too early. During the earliest parts of the Design process, left brain thinkers supply the wrong sort of input and typically play Devil’s Advocate during the process (and I don’t think he/she/it needs any help).
Tom Kelley says it well in his book The Ten Faces of Innovation;
“What’s truly astonishing is how much punch is packed into that simple phrase. In fact, the Devil’s Advocate may be the biggest innovation killer in America today.
…innovation is the lifeblood of all organizations, and the Devil’s Advocate is toxic to [its] cause.”
So my knee-jerk negativity then stems from too much of this. Too much negativity. Too many instances of “yeah, but…”
I’ve known a few left brainers who can hang out with and challenge the right brainers. They’re few and far between and worth anything they ask. If these are the type of people Laura wants to include then that sounds like a fantastic team… one I can’t wait to join.