Innovation is usually a bumpy road

Recently we printed our first multi-material, 1/8th scale model of our high-rise urban habitat we call “Falcon Tower”. We ran into some issues with material fusion such that the structural analysis model didn’t match with the data we were getting from the printed sensors. The sensors were reporting a striated mix of concrete and steel in the core that was compromising the structure and that would not meet the safety requirements when printed at full-scale. Being such a new technology, it’s understandable that serious issues like this will arise and this is the reason that we went to the expense of printing a scale model. From the perspective of the design-technology leader, I feel the weight of this initial failure bearing down on me. Clearly though, there’s an issue with the translation and scaling of the BIM to the current build of the MMP software because the hardware checked-out fine and the model passed both an automated quality check and a visual quality check done by yours-truly. Still, there’s a lot riding on this for our company as well as a risk of great expense for our client so there can be no question as to the reliability of the delivery process. Luckily, through my participation in the Deign Technology Summit over the years, I’ve forged some great relationships with my peers, most of which are venturing down the same path with multi-material building printing, and I can reach out to them to see if they are experiencing the same issues at scale and discuss solutions that I may have overlooked. Innovation can be a double-edge sword but I believe that without great risk there is seldom great reward.

This is fiction. One day in the near future I may be having this issue and I’m certain that I’ll still be relying on the colleagues I’ve met at DTS to help solve the issues quickly. Join this community of Design Technology Leaders this summer in Toronto to talk about innovation and other topics, and take a step towards a greater future for your company through a knowledge network that’s unmatched in this industry.

Our attendance is capped at 40, so please apply early. If you’d like to attend but did not receive an invitation, please email us at: and include your name, e-mail, title, company, approximate number of employees, company website and a brief response on “why you belong at DTS”. I look forward to seeing you there!

Growth, Strategic Transformation, and Stuff

I recently read a Stanford Business School article by Mark Leslie about growing a business through ‘strategic transformation’.  Leslie outlines a business’ typical life cycle and illustrates the optimal spring point at which one should consider transforming in order to sustain growth and longevity.  As you can see in the graph, his recommendation is to transform prior to hitting ‘peak business’.

image credit: First Round Review/

While Clayton Christensen’s “The Innovators Dilemma” offered a case study of this principle years ago, Leslie’s article is less about comparing entrenched firms with disruptors and focuses more on tech-oriented companies in general.  He offers Oracle as a canonical example of its growth through such transformation, driven by “opportunity-driven” leader Larry Ellison.  In contrast, Leslie discusses Nokia, and its recent trajectory being driven by “operationally-driven” decision making.


Bear with me for a minute, and let’s take a couple of leaps of faith.  First, let’s translate this logic to a services-oriented business, such as architecture and engineering, and let’s also zoom in a little and concentrate on the technologist’s role in such organizations.


It’s a frequent occurrence that technologists often find ourselves wanting to be opportunity-driven yet find themselves focusing on operationally-driven initiatives.  Standards and execution planning come to mind as two examples.  Also, it’s usually not an option to simply shift focus away from the operational needs of a business.  One of the values we bring is our ability to improve efficiency.   So, I ask, how do you manage to do both?  Is it in how your team is tasked?  If it’s just you, how do you determine how your time is divided?  How can you keep that balance between strategic and tactical?  Have you identified opportunities to do that better?


An even bigger question is this:  what does ‘strategic transformation’ mean in a services business?  Is it the same as in software, or product manufacturing? If not, how does it differ, and why?


Please join us this summer at DTS and let’s discuss.  I look forward to seeing you there!

DTS Registration Opens This Week!

Ok, so a month later, this is it!  Registration for the 2017 Design Technology Summit opens this week.  For those who may have missed my last post about the upcoming event, you can check it out here.

The application to attend DTS is now part of the overall BILT NA registration process.  You can select ‘DTS Only’ or, if you will be attending multiple events, select one of the BILT NA options and you will be asked which additional events you would like to attend later in the process.

More information on the event and pricing can also be found on our webpage

Our attendance is capped at 40, so please apply early.  I look forward to seeing you there!

Reality changes… you’ve got to keep up

Virtual reality has entered the main stream. Clients are asking for it. After decades of being the odd stepchild of rendering and the world wide web, virtual reality has come into its own thanks to developments in mobile and supporting technologies.  Some of you may remember the introduction of VRML in 1994 and the promise of Web3d a few years later. Prior to that, Morton Helig devised a multimodal stereoscopic machine called Sensorama, immersing the user into a virtual world for entertainment. Today, Design industries are seeing much value in virtual and augmented reality. For the healthcare industry, VR has proven to be invaluable and generally a real crowd pleaser. For instance our staff walk around existing Hospital Emergency Departments with our clients and their staff, displaying the virtualized renovations on iPads and Cardboard viewers. Decisions to design questions are quickly provided and feedback is ample. Miscommunication is minimized with these tools and attendees leave with a clear understanding of the designs presented. Value.
I look forward to discussing VR and AR with colleagues at the Design Technology Summit this summer in Toronto. Being a forum of leaders of large firms, DTS has got the answers you are looking for and the experience to tap as you venture into new avenues of design technologies.

The upcoming Summit looks to cross-pollinate with individuals and expertise outside of our industry, to inspire ideas and solutions to challenges you face. Discussion of your firm’s design-technology challenges is part of every Summit. Join the community of Design Technology Leaders this summer in Toronto and take a step towards driving increased value, new client opportunities or better quality in your firm.

MAYA: Most Advanced Yet Acceptable


Are you familiar with the MAYA principle? It was created by the industrial designer Raymond Loewy, who was responsible for the Coca Cola bottle, and logos for the US Postal Service, Greyhound Bus, and many others. Loewy’s philosophy was to design for the future, but to introduce it incrementally. While pushing for advancement, he sought a balance between the novel and the familiar, looking for just the right mix so that his ideas would be seen as forward-looking, but not alienating.

In his words:
“The adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.”

I’m pretty sure I‘ve had this conversation about the AEC industry once or twice, and I’m guessing you may have, too.

The Interaction Design Foundation has prepared some helpful tips for applying the MAYA principle in your work. They include:

  • Advance your design gradually over time – Do not make a lot of major changes right away as you risk scaring off your users. Understand what context your users are familiar with and which features have to be changed. When in doubt you should distinguish between: Nice to have and need to have.
  • Include familiar patterns in the visual design – so users can orient themselves
  • A design should be self-explanatory – if you have to explain it and need to include a manual or elaborate “help” features, your product is overly advanced or too complex to use.

Do you agree, or disagree? Have you tried this approach, and if so, in what context? Have you found it to be useful, or is there a better way? Please join us at DTS 2017 and share!

Photo credit: Author/Copyright holder: Raymond Loewy