Do you cling to the comfort of the way things are “supposed to be” as you compulsively align the objects on your desk? Are you made uncomfortable when new practice paradigms are introduced, choosing first to disregard, then criticize them, only grudgingly adopting them when your clients say you have to? On the innovation curve spectrum you would rank as a laggard. But you probably don’t see yourself that way. You think that you are being smart by not jumping ahead as an early adopter of the latest trends. You grouse about how the market is changing and everything is so much more competitive. You really have no clue how to survive in this changing market, so you double down on the old way of doing things, you stay in your comfort zone and maybe feel really clever that you are making the same old presentations and decisions, but using digital technology. Like the Luddites resisting mechanization during the Industrial Revolution, you are futilely fighting change. Is the new the predator of the old, or simply its evolution?
The emperor has no clothesSkills are transferable, habits and routines are not. A creative mind set free knows no limits. So ask yourself, are new paradigms that challenge your comfort zone really bad, or are they threatening to expose your own fears that you aren’t creative enough to handle the change?A small reward is better than noneSure in a red-ocean, highly competitive environment, there are still winners and losers. In fact that’s the point- to eliminate competition at all costs. But that also diminishes you because it undercuts the overall value not just of an old paradigm, but of who you are and why a client should work with you at all. The next time you feel the urge to smugly declare “winning,” just think of Charlie Sheen.It’s the new normalThis mindset, now pervading our culture, is just pathetic. To think that you have to settle for living up to less than your full potential (and by transference your work and the effect it has on others) shortchanges society as a whole. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of a future that doesn’t have to happen. If you find yourself just settling, it’s time to start asking why you are holding on to processes and paradigms that are clearly not serving you. No one can be innovative if they aren’t passionate and accepting a bleak fade into the abyss is hardly inspirational.
A great piece by Thomas Fridstein for Design Intelligence, “Adapting for Success in the New Practice Environment” exhorts us to embrace the opportunity that comes with change. His tips for blowing up the old way we practice involve evaluating everything we do with fresh eyes:
As my friend, life coach Jane Scott Ashley once told me, “Life isn’t what’s happening while you cling for dear life to the trapeze you’re on. It’s what happens when you let go so you can reach the next one.”1. Look at the context of practice much as we would analyze the context of a project site2. Adapt for success by being, creative, client-focused, competent (and yes even with new technologies or design methods, Fridstein specifically mentions sustainability and BIM), cost-effective, collaborative and global.3. Design the design firm by looking at ways you can serve clients better while inspiring and nurturing your employees more. Last century’s model with its pretext that you are lucky just to be working doesn’t cut it anymore (yes, he does bandy about the term “the new normal” to express the fact that change is here to stay. I am choosing to forgive him for that because otherwise it’s an insightful piece).