Thought Starters

Would you like to be left alone with your ideas?

In the architecture and design field one can say that Architects and Designers, in a traditional sense, evolve the way space is shaped. The attitudes of design thinking influence the evolution of what space becomes. As designers we have a responsibility to meet the needs of our clients with viable functional solutions and in order to do so we need to gather expertise across a wide spectrum of skill sets. This function, the gathering of expertise, is widely known as collaboration and is necessary for the successful outcome of any project.

But how do we ensure the goals of a project are effectively communicated without prejudice or influence from our personal needs or agendas?

Ego and personal agendas play into solutions every day and many “starchitects” are lauded for their unique vision and flavour that they bring to a project. In fact, we all know some are hired specifically because of their singular vision. It is indeed impressive however do you ever wonder what may be sacrificed in order to create that vision? I think you will agree that the personality of leadership needs to be very strong and the ability to convince the client, committee or consortium needs to be without an ounce of self-doubt. But is a singular vision with a crew of drones assembling the component parts the right formula?

More often than not it works that way.

Influence is a driving factor in this industry (likely any industry) and is why the responsibility of the designer to understand and assimilate a program of requirements is so critical to the outcome of a project. When a program is influenced by anything other than the experience and skills for the type of work required the result can become less than optimal. If it is only one individual, alone, it is then up to that individual’s impartiality to ensure the needs of their client is met.

An awesome responsibility, for sure.

I am reading a book called FLOW by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi which talks, in layman terms, about how to gain the optimal experience, in other words, the ability to be “in the zone.” In order to understand how flow is learned the book starts out by explaining some simple psychology on experiences. We all know this but it’s good to remember that our actions are a direct reflection on how we process information. Our responses to stimuli are influenced by the way we learned to be who we are. In other words our solutions to problems are as unique as fingerprints and because of that what we propose as a solution is directly affected by who we are.

We are individuals with unique approaches.

Is it possible to remain entirely impartial then? If you are a computer (or PC ala Max Headroom) maybe but not as a human. Is it even necessary? Consider the following; one person’s solution will be heavily influenced by their education, culture, class, race and so on down the line. Similarities aside one answer to a problem is just that; an option. A cross section of ideas from different skill sets can offer so much more in terms of potential for an optimal solution.

Do you agree?

In many ways we are learning that the top down management style is no longer the most effective tool to gain top performance from a team in a similar way that a singular vision is no longer the best way to ensure the execution of the design problem becomes the most effective solution.

So, how can we change that? Or do we even want to?

Would it make sense to share ideas among the expertise at your disposal? Call it sharing, integrated design, collaboration or something of the like. It’s literally not about personality at that point and more about a cross section of personal expertise.

As an example, Ontario Family Health Teams, have practitioners who share knowledge when assessing patients who require treatment to ensure the patient receives a holistic view of their potential diagnosis. A patient’s care is addressed by a variety of health care professionals including doctors, nurses, social workers and dieticians who bring their expertise together to evaluate and offer different viewpoints on treatment.

This is not a new concept.

Take a look at some of the firms who use this philosophy; from the design side you have firms like IDEO and NBBJ and from the management side there are firms such as McKinsey and BCG. There are certainly others which you can tell me about. Maybe even a few in other industries who use their resources in a different or unique way.

Why not involve accountants, urban planners, designers, administrators, look at people’s hobbies, pastimes or solicit your team to do some research from their unique perspective. Engage them but be careful to offer direction in order to maintain productivity without stifling their creativity.

Crowdsourcing is an example that, at its scale, has produced viable results. The idea is that two heads are better than one, four is better than two and at the scale of thousands many, many heads working together or in alignment toward a common goal can produce incredible results.

But how do you manage that?

Sure. In order to keep the train moving in a forward direction management becomes an acute concern especially with a concept like crowdsourcing but also at the level of simple multi-disciplinary collaboration. Risks such a resource and financial depletion and productivity are real but not without solutions. Intelligent planning can help disseminate those risks. You have to admit that reward could certainly outweigh the risk but if you are that risk averse then maybe the one trick pony is your bag of tricks.

We are simply looking at ways to break down some of that “siloed” thinking. Collaborate, get the greater team involved, use the skills and better yet seek out those like-minded diverse skill sets that will help you see the possibilities.

This is just my point of view form my personal perspective but I am hoping you will collaborate with me on this idea.

I guess that’s why we call it theviewfromhere.






About this Author: Ralph Dopping (199 Posts)

A quirky sense-o-humour coupled with an indelible sense of stylish sarcasm makes it difficult to take the world too seriously doesn't it? My faves: fun, passion and hard work. I work here everyday:


The world is not an oyster (always food on my mind!)! Could not agree more with Kaarina and Bill, together we are stronger and when sure the right person is at the wheel we can work magic!


Great post, Ralph, and a reading list to last for months. 


The key is having the 'right' conductor so the symphony can perform to the best of their abilities, right?


Hey Ralph!

Even though I work as a volunteer as a director at a Family History Center, and all of our consultants are volunteers too, I still manage them and direct them according to my vision and goals. 

My recent eye-opening challenge is related to what you are talking about. I have had to take a step back and ask why some problems haven't been addressed-needs actually that have turned into problems.

And the solutions do come in the form of collaboration, if that's the right word! There's no way I could or should fill all of the shoes that are required to meet the needs of all of the walk-ins, call-ins, and regulars at the center. We need all kinds of people with different skill sets to make the center run better and attract more people.The community has to be scoured for more volunteers that are willing to donate time and talent to the cause. 

I can see it, the solution(s), and am excited to get to work, but then I run into the problems that come with the volunteer world! It's a fun sell getting people to give for free the skills that put food on their family's table! But the point really is that when we work together we get more done and the quality of the service is enhanced for our clients. My job, after sharing and training for completion of the vision, is to keep everyone in the corral, and not let them get too far off track when they're serving at the center!!

Great thoughts, Ralph. Thanks!


Great thoughts here.  The world is changing, yet we still operate somewhat archaically. I think this structure change is what scares people about Gen Y.  They view the world as very flat and interwoven so they're out in front.


Keep it up!


A couple of points:


"Flow" or "being in the zone" is exactly what we focus on in athletic coaching. And I'll add that it works in business and in life too!


Whether it's called crowdsourcing, hybrid vigour, "sum of the parts greater than the whole"...when we involve multiple inputs from various sources, magic can happen.


Silos suck. Cheers! Kaarina





rdopping moderator

 @Late_Bloomers Not an oyster, huh (I like oysters too)?


Well, if we take what @Kaarina Dillabough  suggested and say silos suck and listen to what @bdorman264 suggested about having the right conductor then we certainly seem to be heading down the right fork in the road. Sharing your ideas will only make them stronger by making them better. Sharing those ideas across a variety of skills is even better for perspective and building nuance.


Thanks for coming by. I appreciate you taking the time to comment. I sure do look forward to future correspondence.

rdopping moderator

 @bdorman264 That is right, my fine sir. There you go. The essence of the post in 19 words. Where did I read recently (ahem @TheJackB  ahem) that keeping it simple and to the point makes the most sense.


As always, thanks Bill.

rdopping moderator

 @CrossBetsy This is EXACTLY why we write this stuff! Betsy, you get it more than anyone I know. I think you are doing something very admirable. i had no idea that you were part of a volunteer group. that is so cool. By the sound of it you are heading yourself and your team in the right direction. I agree wholeheartedly that collaboration is key with the team you have and that soliciting ideas and feedback from the resources at your disposal is a fantastic way to solve the issues that existing in your organization.


If you would like to talk about some of the challenges and discuss some of the ideas you want to implement I would be happy to find some time in my schedule to do a skype call and chat.


Thanks so much for coming by and thanks for sharing your thoughts. I read on @bdorman264  site that you may be stepping back a bit from social (or so it seemed). I wish you the best of luck and don't be a stranger.

rdopping moderator

 @TheThinkingLdr Thanks for stopping in. The world is indeed changing. If you are referring to sharing ideas globally via the internet I agree. While face to face communication is always beneficial when it comes to certain types of collaboration electronically we can achieve so much more. Even a forum like this is a simple example of how ideas can be shared and honed.


Thanks for your thoughts here. Appreciated.

rdopping moderator

 @KDillabough Yes sir! Silos suck and so does spin but that's a whole other subject altogether.


Thanks for taking the time to stop by and share your thoughts. Personally getting into the flow is one challenge and supporting that with the notion that sharing your ideas can create a collective flow toward better solutions is something that is not as prevalent in my industry as we would like to think.


Have a fab Friday!


 @rdopping  @bdorman264 Thanks, Ralph! I'll definitely take you up on that as the summer moves on and I get a bit more settled! I know you'd be able to help me a lot.

Thanks again for the great post!


  1. [...] which Ralph Dopping added: “Guess who my favourite Loony Tunes character is, “Be vaa-we quiet, we are [...]

  2. [...] Expertise such as psychology, engineering, ergonomics and behavioural sciences can, if engaged, bring value that can help inform and develop ideas that can be dovetailed into a standard space analysis study. We can’t do it alone if we want it to evolve. [...]