Keeping Your Eyes Fixed on the Future

Written by Charles Nelson - December 11, 2019

Keeping your eyes fixed on the future is the best way to repeat the mistakes of the past.

In Bob Dylan’s famous song “She Belongs to Me”, the refrain is “She’s an artist. She don’t look back”.

That describes a lot of architects I know. Never take your eyes off your vision.

The novelist George Santayana said “Those who can’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it”. Winston Churchill revised the idea a bit, saying in 1948, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it”.

And so it is with designers. Those who attend our project management training program – literally 100% of them – say they believe in conducting a “post-mortem” at the completion of a project. Yet less than 5% of them say they actually do it. Reasons given are mostly “We had to start the next project” and/or “We ran out of money”.

The other 95% plus? They’re artists; they don’t look back. They may remember a few things that didn’t go so well, but in reality, very few design professionals have any system for collecting and organising lessons learned. The few that do rarely have a convenient means for accessing this history, and even fewer make this historical review a priority for doing better next time.

If any of you reading this know of a durable system for learning from history, and actively accessing this learning on future projects, let me know! The design professions really need to escape the condemnation of repeating their less-than-excellent performance.

Charles Nelson AIA, LFRAIA, AECPM

28 November 2018