Selling it

Introducing an innovation in one’s firm is a little bit like the role of a salesperson(vendor/Rep/etc.) I would argue a very important role if you intend to be successful. Innovations seldomly sell themselves. There’s always someone in the line of approvals who doesn’t see the value. In a past life I was a salesman for a short period.

In the mid-90’s I was an account executive at a routing logistics software company, and I was responsible for the Northeast USA. I made “sales calls” and introduced value justifications for purchasing the innovative system of ours to trucking and delivery companies. The technology was so new that few people had even heard of computer routing, let alone had a computer doing anything for them in this regard. I wasn’t very good at selling the system but I learned a lot about sales and the drivers that lead to them. Now that the tables are turned, and I am typically on the purchasing side of things, I feel I have some very useful insight to help negotiate and get the best deals for my firm. On the other hand I am also in “sales” to some degree. I’m selling the partners on why we should spend gobs of money on something that they’ve never hear of or understand fully. I do this because I take ownership of the technological path of the company and see the “big picture” as it were.

Techniques with which to introduce and “sell” within our firms might be a good topic of discussion. DTS is a week away and we’ll be discussing Innovation and aspects surrounding it, among other things.  Bring your own questions, challenges, ideas, and conundrums!

Innovate or Die

It’s a statement that gets thrown around every once in-awhile and was perhaps more in vogue historically than in current memory. Interestingly enough it comes from the title of a book “Innovate or Die : A Personal Perspective on the Art of Innovation” by Dr. Jack Matson; almost ten years earlier there was another book “Grow or Die” by George Land. Was the second influenced by the first; perhaps Land was a C-level business consultant putting forward a hypothesis around the nature of all things, organic, humanity, commerce being linked intrinsically around basic rules related to growth. You either grow, or die. Whereas Matson’s thesis was fail quickly and fail often as a means to be successful. Most interesting, Matson is an engineer by training, how many engineers do you know that go around preaching to their employees “we should fail on figuring out how to make this building stand-up”.

I’m being a bit facetious of course, arguably we fail every day as part of the process of designing a building or at least architects do, and I think the most successful engineers take a similar iterative approach. It’s far better for us to fail “on paper” than in the real world and undoubtedly Matson knew that when he wrote his book. We even try our hardest to fail in the real world before full construction by way of mock-ups, physical and now more and more virtual, with virtual reality gear and everything.

Obviously (if you’ve been reading any of our blog posts) you know by now that DTS’ theme this year is innovation and I think we’ve put together some really great topics to anchor our discussions (see our site for a full agenda). If we are by our nature innovative in our profession, that is attempting to fail until we find the right solution, what does that mean to us, to technology? Are we guaranteed to evolve? Are there consequences if we do not? Are there consequences for not being broadly innovative, so for example being “innovative” in how a project is designed, but failing to be innovative about the process that results in the design. Must you have both to be successful long term or can the innovation only happen in the results of practice and not the practice itself?

Practice itself is an interesting term unto itself, we “practice architecture” (or engineering, or law, or medicine) does the etymology itself imply Matson’s title? If we are always practicing, then do we ever compete, do we ever finish the race and what does that imply or mean in the context of innovation?

Are you scratching your head yet? If you are, then you belong with us at DTS in Toronto! We have a few spots left and we’d love to fill them. Please consider applying to attend through our registration process, if you’re keen to think hard and talk about what all this means and more then you belong with our group!

Can You Be an Innovative Expert?

If you’re too fluent in a particular process, method, culture, or piece of software, can you really break out of it and innovate?

Eddie Van Halen didn’t think so.  He didn’t take guitar lessons growing up.  He experimented on his own and came up with his own signature sound through discovery.  Had he taken lessons, he once recounted, it would have limited his thinking.

Jack White doesn’t think so.  He deliberately chooses guitars that are a challenge to play, so he can’t get too comfortable with them.  When I used to play saxophone, I would put the hardest reed I could find on the horn, which makes controlling the sound difficult.  Why?  I liked to always be up for a challenge.

This Atlantic article I recently read describes some pretty serous shade being thrown at Apple when the iPhone was first introduced.  Notably, the head of RIM (now Blackberry) said it would never represent a “sort of sea change for BlackBerry”.

Do you think the CEO of the company that makes Blackberries might be a little biased?  I do.   How could he not?  RIM was on top of the world in 2007.  Times were good.  They had disrupted the phone industry by making a bulletproof device that had a dedicated fan base.  How does that saying go?  “If it ain’t broke…”

How frequently do you hear from other leaders in your firm that an innovative idea would never work?  Do you sometimes find it challenging to make progress?  Perhaps you yourself have found that you’ve been overly critical of an idea, and dismissed it a little too prematurely?  If so, you’re in good company.

Research into how the National Institutes of Health awards its research funding unearthed hostility toward new ideas, and a 2010 UPenn study concluded that people can dismiss new ideas because they introduce uncertainty.  In evaluating the new ideas, we have to think about them, which makes us uncomfortable.  In fact, we tend toward dismissiveness even when creativity is a stated goal!

How can we as innovators avoid these sort of biases – both in ourselves, and in our organizations?  What strategies do you use to break yourself away from our apprehensions?  Please come and share your thoughts at DTS!  We look forward to a great conversation!

Apply to attend DTS (you’ll receive a multi-event discount if you’re also attending BILT).  We’ll review the application and contact you about attendance.  Don’t wait until the last minute though, we only have a few spots left and we may reach capacity soon!

Who Wants the Last Few Spots to DTS?!

We’re almost at the 30-day mark and only have a few openings left!  I wanted to take this opportunity to recap what we’ve discussed about the event so far.

In previous years, we’ve focused on three main topics: Management, Collaboration, and Innovation.  The conversations would tend to be heavy on the Management and Collaboration side, so this year we decided to give Innovation the limelight.  That’s not to say we won’t discuss the other two topics, we certainly will, but in the context of innovation.  This shift in focus will prompt fresh discussion, so if you’ve attended before this is a great opportunity to jump back in.

In my experience, the best way to ensure you’re headed down the right path and on the leading edge as a design technology leader is to network and engage in valuable conversation with other design technology leaders.  DTS is where that happens.  And because we limit attendance to 40, it’s possible for everyone to participate in the conversation and provide a unique perspective.

The event is structured with pre-planned topics to help spark the discussion.  This year’s agenda is outlined below:

  • Welcome to Innovation! What is it (really)? – An opportunity to discuss what innovation is to each of us and, hopefully, come to consensus on how we define it for Design Technology.
  • What are they doing…? – A look at innovations in other industries and how we could apply or learn from them.
  • Ghosts of Innovations Past & the Future – What innovations have we seen in the past and how can we use that recognition to anticipate the future?
  • Technology & Innovation: In a relationship or just friends? – Design Technology and the platforms we have available to us have both advanced significantly and perhaps not at all. In any case we can “do” a lot more than we could a decade ago so why aren’t we happy? What do we need to innovate or where is Innovation required?
  • What should we be doing to help shape the future of our practice? – We’ve spent nearly a day discussing innovation in our industry, its past, its present and possible future; what does all of that potentially mean to people like “us” i.e. Design Technologist’s. What is/will our role be in the future as technology changes/ improves.

I’ve left each DTS event with many invaluable takeaways that I brought back to my firm, which we used to help guide us forward and be on the leading edge of design technology.  I’m certainly excited for this year’s discussion and I hope to see you there!

Just apply to attend DTS (you’ll receive a multi-event discount if you’re also attending BILT).  We’ll review the application and contact you about attendance.  Don’t wait until the last minute though, we only have a few spots left and we may reach capacity soon.

So what are we talking about?…

Valid question! For a variety of reasons the committee did not finalize our agenda until just recently and we do apologize for that. We’ve discussed quite a bit in our blog posts sense January about the ideas of Innovation and why we think it really is an important discussion topic, but it is also quite nuanced and, in order for us to have useful discussions about “Innovation” then we really need to make sure we’re focused!

So, what will our focus be? Glad you asked, here are our program highlights; once again totaling nearly ten hours of discussion in a day in half!

  • Welcome to Innovation! What is it (really)? – An opportunity to discuss what innovation is to each of us and, hopefully, come to consensus on how we define it for Design Technology.
  • What are they doing…? – A look at innovations in other industries and how we could apply or learn from them.
  • Ghosts of Innovations Past & the Future – What innovations have we seen in the past and how can we use that recognition to anticipate the future?
  • Technology & Innovation: In a relationship or just friends? – Design Technology and the platforms we have available to us have both advanced significantly and perhaps not at all. In any case we can “do” a lot more than we could a decade ago so why aren’t we happy? What do we need to innovate or where is Innovation required?
  • What should we be doing to help shape the future of our practice? – We’ve spent nearly a day discussing innovation in our industry, its past, its present and possible future; what does all of that potentially mean to people like “us” i.e. Design Technologist’s. What is/will our role be in the future as technology changes/ improves.

If you’re picking up on a Dicken’s theme, you’re not mistaken, in our discussions over the last six months and looking at research done by others I think it’s clear that in order to look to the future we do need to understand the past, in addition we must understand our place relative to innovation, technology and what we mean by those terms in the first place.

We still have a few seats left (call it ten) and we’d love to fill them. If you think innovation is important to the progress of Architecture & Engineering then you should join us! Attendees of BILT will receive a Multi-event discount.

Are you a technology company working in the AEC sphere? Trying to attract attention? Want to show your support of Design Technologists and how important it is for us to have a forum for open and honest communication, then talk to us about sponsorship opportunities, we have something for every level.

Regardless, need help? We’re only an e-mail away at secretary AT rtcevents DoT com

See you at DTS & BILT NA