How can you use change in your AEC firm to awaken your creativity and that of your people? Maybe it’s time to really think about that.
As I write this, my wife and I are currently in the process of moving from a beautiful, large, well-designed mid-century modernesque house in suburban Fayetteville into a more than 150-year-old Victorian on a busy street downtown.
On some levels, that may seem crazy. Our current place really doesn’t need anything. It’s the most comfortable and well-laid out, spacious, and light home I have ever owned. It doesn’t need anything, there’s a place for everything, and we love our neighbors. Why move into a place that is fairly crusty and needs considerable work to bring it up to our standards? Sure – economically, it is a great deal. It’s cheaper than our house and has a couple extra lots facing a side street that are really valuable (even though we have no intentions of selling them). It will be beautiful with its 12-foot ceilings and we have a lot that will allow us to easily build a new super garage and office. It will be great once done, but what a lot of work and hassle to get there. It’s stressful for my wife. I’m tired and I don’t always like change.
But THAT is precisely WHY we needed to do this. Change – that is change for the SAKE of change – is good. It’s good for us to go through this even though we had no need to do it. This move has done something for me – besides helping me close my activity rings on my Apple Watch every day because of the work involved. Sure, it will be healthy to go through all of our stuff and thin that down some. But more than that, the change has energized me.
I have found myself thinking about what we will do with this new house and site every day. We have attacked the project. We planned all of our changes and have 10-15 people working daily so we can get it in halfway decent shape before moving in next week. We have already transformed the yard by clearing out dead trees and hundreds of feet worth of gigantic, overgrown shrubs that hid it from the street. We are creating a new master suite out of three bedrooms upstairs. We are planning our new detached garage/office/gym building with 1,000 feet of storage above.
Then there are those extra lots. I started thinking about what we could do with them. We COULD build something new there if we wanted to. Something compatible that looks like it has been there for a hundred years. Two stories of brick, huge unobstructed spaces with 12 foot ceilings and an elevator. A roof deck so we could watch the sunsets. Four or five car garage. You get the idea.
I think this whole thing has awakened my creativity. Even though we had an Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private company that used to do redevelopment, it’s truly been years since I had a real interest in this stuff. But I’m back! I can still do it (with a lot of help from my wife, of course, who has fabulous taste and is good with the budgeting). I’m not “done” when it comes to this stuff. Not even close to it.
Will this awakening translate to my teaching? I think so. I chair two local Vistage groups now. Will I be a better coach and advisor to my Vistage group members? I think so. Will I be a better mentor to my former students who own businesses because my brain is stirring? I sure hope so.
New scenery, new neighbors (I already met one who is an architect and my age who stopped by the new place), new routines, and new work to be done – all of this stuff keeps our brain cells alive.
So the question is, how can you use change – maybe change you don’t need to go through but could if you chose to – in your AEC firm to awaken your creativity and that of your people? Maybe it’s time to really think about that. Keep things fresh. Is it a new organization structure? New space? A complete rebranding? Some new people? New service offerings? What can you do to stir the pot and wake everyone up from their walking slumber? It could be time to make some changes, changes just for the sake of change. And then see what happens afterward!
Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.