the architecture of constructing a practice

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    some light reading....

    Gregory Walker
    Sep 28, '11 5:37 PM EST

    in our start up vein, looking at the macro level, there's been a more pronounced uptick in companies that are re-thinking how they get off the ground. 'bootstrapping', 'lean', 'leveraged' - the words all change, but a majority of the principles stay the same.

    what's interesting to me isn't the mere concept of bootstrapping, but how companies mature from this initial push. there's an inherent desire, it almost seems, to push from the table on a sawhorse to custom millwork in a swanky office tower as quickly as possible. tied up in this are notions about our client pool, how we see and want to position our firms and displaying some sense of transition or 'arrival'. and this isn't limited to just the physical environment - it's tied to how we manage and run the companies. 

    so, some of the trends outlined in the books below may seem obvious, but ironically aren't followed all that often. which is probably why they have an audience. at any rate, check these out from a local library and share with the class. If nothing else, it'll expand your overall business lingo and will give you something to talk about with that mba at the next alumni mixer...


    The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

    Rework by Jason Friedman

    The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen



    • Did you ever see this article by Andy Grove in Bloomberg? It addresses this issue of scaling for startups, what you call 'maturing from the initial push'. It's related to manufacturing, but the lessons are similar:

      "Scaling is hard work but necessary to make innovation matter. The scaling process is no longer happening in the U.S. And as long as that's the case, plowing capital into young companies that build their factories elsewhere will continue to yield a bad return in terms of American jobs. "

      Oct 7, 11 3:21 pm  · 

      hi nicole - have not seen that particular article, but have read quite a few things by mr. grove. he's dead on in that one - thanks for sending it along.


      ries and friedman (in particular) are people that capture the imagination of v.c.'s because they keep a focus on a perpetual 'bootstrapping', something that i think happens quite often in most other creative industries that simply don't have people begging to throw money at them all the time. one of the great ironies of many software companies (something i'm finding out right now with a software project i'm involved with) is that they can get TOO much money. literally, there's too much given too soon and companies can lose focus on what really matters - what the core of their proposition and execution is. utterly bizarre concept for architects but it's very real there. taking that and the thoughts andy outlines, and you understand why people will invest 1B in groupon but can't see themselves investing in the hard work of manufacturing.

      Oct 8, 11 8:22 pm  · 

      I read somewhere else recently that this move towards depending on only the "high value" jobs to stay in the States while offshoring all production and even engineering is a huge and growing problem.  This author, whose name I can't remember, I can't even remember the source - said that iPads not only aren't made in the US but could not be, because we don't have knowledge of the production process here.

      Concurrently, I'm doing research on artisanal manufacturing and a common refrain is "We solve the problems as they come up on the production floor, and usually the solution is better than the original - we're innovating on the fly, because we don't have to go through any long testing process, focus groups, or managerial layers to get there."

      Oct 9, 11 9:29 pm  · 

      donna - i think that's actually the andy grove article than nicole was linking to. at least, he addresses the same point you brought up.


      what's fascinating about this line of thought is that, if you look at architecture, there are strains of this kind of division of labor. firms that are outsourcing their production to india or china (though more the former) - they're raising similar problems. if you or i were undercut by that kind of firm, how would we react? we've outsourced some of our renderings to a firm in beijing - the problem we face is we don't have a small army of free interns who can crank out rendering after rendering and the cost we pay (>350 per) wouldn't even come close to covering our direct labor costs, never mind full benefits. controlling the means of production though.... not sure i'd ever feel comfortable doing that. for all the reasons you're citing donna...

      Oct 10, 11 8:29 am  · 

      It was a different article, much shorter (a blog post) and very straightforward in saying we've screwed ourselves by sending the manufacturing stream knowledge overseas along with the labor, and very specifically talked about iPads.

      I toured TechShop SF this last week and they have clients who are using their facility to do rapid prototyping of small goods.  Turns out it's much, much cheaper to do the RP themselves, find the mistakes immediately, and try a few more times than to send a file to China then have the prototype sent back for review.

      I may be way wrong here, and I'm not at all speaking specifically about what renderings you may have had done overseas because I don't know what they were, but it seems interesting, innovative, funky renderings are still being made here - by recent grads, mostly! - while the kind of slick, marketing department images that all look alike are made overseas.  Of course the marketing department at the developer doesn't care if the rendering is innovative as long as it looks safe and sells condos!  So let's say the overseas renderings are Bud, while the local young grad renderings are the Lagunitas IPAs and Uplands Ales, is that a fair analogy? ;-)

      Oct 10, 11 10:15 am  · 

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Central to the blog is a long running interest in how we construct practices that enable and promote the kind of work we are all most interested in. From how firms are run, structured, and constructed, the main focus will be on exploring, expanding and demystifying how firms operate. I’ll be interviewing different practices – from startups to nationally recognized firms, bringing to print at least one a month. Our focus will be connecting Archinect readers with the business of practice.

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