Monday, September 17, 2007

We DO IT Better

Collaborate, that is. This past Saturday I participated in the annual planning retreat of the Boston Society of Architects, known within the Greater Boston design community as the BSA. We began the program by all ninety-something of us in attendance stating or names, BSA or building industry affiliation and what we are passionate about. I said I was was passionate about collaboration and I know that we (the design community) will lead the fireworks of co-creation because we DO IT better than anyone else. (This play on words is intentionally playful. Yes, in my opinion, healthy collaboration almost always involves some flirting. Letting people know they are desirable partners is one of the arts of working with others few people talk about.)

The "we do it better" sentiment seemed to resonate in the room. Pam McKinney, one of the opening speakers, even referred to my claim in her concluding remarks. We all know in our hearts that the design-and-building community excells at collaboration, yet if no one else - in the business, legal, financial and/or medical communities - seems to know and, if no one knows it, does it even matter?

The conversation advanced, as it always does, to note that we all (the design community) spend too much time talking to people like ourselves that, for the most part, agree with us. How do we let others understand what we do and the value we bring to all human endeavor and compenate us fairly to share our knowledge with them?

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Time is Money

Many of us in the design community and beyond have heard "time is money" as one of the justifications for almost everything. Why to meet or not meet, come in early, stay late, the reasons others criticize our actions that appear to the observer to be a "waste of time".

I did not realize until I read George Lakoff's book Metaphors We Live By that "time is money" is a foundational metaphor. Evidently, according to Lakoff (a Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkley) language, thought, and learning are "constructed" through a system of metaphors. The metaphor "time is money" is tied to our culture in the west, especially the United States. The "time is money" concept encompasses our cultural experiences with money, limited resources, and valuable commodities. There are cultures where time has little or no relationship to any of these things.

Could it be that, as we continue to strive for and obtain quicker and quicker ways of doing things, time, as it relates to work and our work lives, is no longer the limiting factor? If we continue to focus on doing things more quickly because "time is money", we may lose sight of the reasons behind our frantic pace to keep up with the demands of the clock, colleagues and employers.

As my friend and collaborator, Turid Horgen, once said "If it takes nine months to make a baby, can nine women make a baby in one month?" Some things just take time, and rushing and/or expediting is not going to speed up the process. Whatever happened to "patience is a virtue" and "Rome wasn't built in a day"?

So if "time is money" is an outdated metaphor, what metaphor can we use or create to replace it. My vote is for a metaphor I read in the novel On Beauty by Zadie Smith. Zadie's metaphor, which she attributes to her husband, is "time is the way we spend our love".

I am sure there are other metaphors for time. For me, the reason to "play" with metaphors is because the metaphors we use unconsciously may be limiting our life choices. Being conscious and intentional about using metaphors consistent with our values may help us and others create a future where people, family and relationships are fundamental to our future survival, health and well-being.