How to Excite an Architect: Designers’ Dreamtime

Written by Charles Nelson - December 11, 2019

I have been in discussion with colleagues as to the best way to make a technical manual readable, exciting, a “must-read page-turner”. These discussions have been continuing in whatever part of one’s brain is at work while the rest is asleep. Last night I had a great dream:

I was part of a large practice that decided to find out how to really motivate architects – hit those hot buttons. This practice sought proposals from every source it could find, and many were received. The best, however, was a big box containing a 6 foot (1.8m) square masonite and wood maze. It was designed to hold marbles that could be arranged in various patterns. It came with a number of pieces of clear glass marbles, sewn together in random patterns, like fabric made from beads. It seemed obvious that the goal was to fit the patterns into the maze, but efforts to do this failed.

Directions that came with the game stated “Architects will try for a few minutes to fit the marble sections into the maze, but will rapidly become frustrated. They will quickly decide that they must cut the strings and “free” the marbles, so they can be creatively placed, and not bound by the pre-arranged order of the patterns. In fact, the patterns do not actually fit into the maze; they are only there to increase the architect’s desire for freedom in creating new patterns. So we include a large sack of plain marbles. Architects will spend hours finding beautiful patterns, and other architects will be drawn to watch them.”

The directions went on to say: “Much can be learned about teamwork and leadership in your practice with this tool. Some will try to take control of the design process and tell others what to do. Some will want credit for the designs. Some will stand aside but give advice. Some will work quietly and diligently on the designs.”

This whole idea seemed very promising in the dream, as only things can that your subconscious has invented prior to the light of day. In the next sequence of the dream, I was explaining this great learning & motivating game to a group of people, when a young man (who I thought I recognized as a composite of my children) objected, saying, “You are waving your arms and making all this noise about another idea in your search for practice quality, but you are totally missing the point. We don’t want to listen to your dreams, we want you to listen to our dreams.”

Continual improvement haunts one even in a dream!

If any of you dreamers reading this comes up with a better way to excite and motivate architects, please let me know!

Charles Nelson AIA, LFRAIA, AECPM

12 April 2005