I enjoyed reading your article.

Interestingly, I am the mirror image: I work with people to help them realize their potential for leadership in the practice of collaborative innovation. I have found, over time, that the practices that seem to define architecture apply well to the practice of collaborative innovation: having a vision, yet, at the same time, having a willingness to experiment with ways to achieve that vision through drawing and modeling. “Design thinking” is likely not a foreign concept in this space.

More recently I have introduced the concept of the blueprint as architectural metaphor as a way to conceive of and articulate one’s story around the practice of collaborative innovation…


Doug Collins, May 5, 2012

Doug, Glad you liked the article.
I’m increasingly convinced that focusing on innovation short-circuits experimentation. Design tools are a natural fit for experimentation. And design thinking is a great way to tease out deep solutions to difficult problems. But the increasing pressure to innovate has everybody( architects included) thinking that innovation is an objective, rather than a result of other processes.
Buildings are becoming more and more collections of commodity items arranged in standard configurations with predictable results. Architects often react to this Lego-like commoditization of buildings by designing buildings wild shapes and expensive materials. This is a knee-jerk reaction that can backfire dramatically. And it often creates buildings that are wasteful of both energy and resources.
We prefer a subtler and more disciplined approach. We study each project and select a handful of critical elements to reinvent for the situation. Using models and mockups we explore specific characteristics of the design and push them to be something unique.
For the UMass CNS Greenhouse, we struggled to find a laboratory building shape that harmonized with the natural, efficient form of a greenhouse -so that the people working in both environments would feel at home in either. We studied multiple exterior cladding systems for the laboratory, searching for a simple material that would evoke the bucolic character of western Massachusetts. And we worked with dozens of materials to create an interior environment that would feel inviting and open, while being very sustainable and forgiving.
These are examples of targeted experimentation around concrete goals, leading to small ( but important) innovations. But I believe the process is extensible to much larger scales of innovation. As long as you have the energy and a clear, concrete problem to solve, innovation is easy. But if you lose focus on the process of solving the problem and try to jump straight to the solution, you won’t get anywhere.

Jacob Werner, May 8, 2012