Friday, 5 September 2014

How to Innovate

Innovation is something of a buzz-word in the architectural press, but there is not much out there to define what innovation is or how to achieve it.  The Architectural profession and Building Industry do not innovate as much as they could, or should.  Development guidance for Architectural practices often follows an approach based on establishing and marketing a vision for the practice which places it in the hierarchy of the competition, within an established sector framework.  The result is that everyone is largely pitching for a place in the same pool where difference is limited by specialist design areas and size of projects, and that's what we base our USPs on.  This pool is defined by the professional structures of the Building Industry, the very structures which often act as boundaries and negate innovation.  But what if we were able to move these boundaries?

Many business plan development strategies are focused on how to operate within the professional structures of the existing industrial sector.  When you are working within the same set of conventions as everyone else, it is difficult to establish a distinction within the market.  

Phil McKinney's book Beyond the Obvious is an inspirational resource.  It describes the methods for establishing a business innovation strategy and how to manage it.  The practices it teaches are not bound to conforming to the established patterns of an industrial sector.  Instead they seek to challenge them.  They are not limited to seeing how one practice can raise its position in the pecking order of other practices.  Instead they challenge you to think how to stand apart from the rest, not just above.  Beyond the Obvious combines many techniques such as brainstorming and lateral thinking, with Killer Questions to encourage organisations to have the bravest ideas - ideas which could be game-changing, not just to the business but to the industry itself.

Phil McKinney's methods challenge conventions by asking Killer Questions about the Who (your Client), What (your business) and How (your working practices).  Workshops can uncover some very daring and challenging ideas.  FIRE is an acronym for the management stages for developing innovative ideas and making them real.

It's a must read for any practice wanting to innovate, grow, develop, economise, or even play with creative ideas (because that's what Architects like to do - right?).  The book describes very precisely the methodology for establishing an innovative culture in to your business practice, and road mapping a way forward to a more creative, dynamic and profitable future.  I'd recommend bolting it into your (streamlined, efficient, engaging and user friendly) QA system, to ensure it is integrated in to the heart of your business practice.

Thanks Phil!


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