The Candidate Question Series Volume 4

Recently Candidates for the 2014 / 2015 AIA First Vice President / President Elect were asked to answer a series of questions from the AIA California Council and the AIA Center for Emerging Professionals. Although the questions came specifically from those two AIA components, I believe they’re somewhat universal and may be of interest to our membership as a whole.

Over the next week or two leading up to the National Convention, I’ll publish my answers here in a series called “The Candidate Question Series.” This is the fourth post in that series.

What do you think about my answers? Leave a comment below. I’d like to know how you’d answer them too.

Positioning the Profession for the Future

Question: The impact and duration of the economic downturn has impacted the design and construction industry in ways we are just starting to realize. While by all accounts the tide has turned, the architectural profession has yet to fully recover. Firms that have “survived” the recession are now looking ahead toward a very different future, one where they will potentially have to change their business practices, and refocus their energies to be successful in a new economy.  At all levels, how can the AIA support members to network and pursue opportunities in a recovering market?

Answer: The expected answer to this question is to intensify exposure, provide more programs, increase networking opportunities, and create more toolkits. Sound familiar? Those are business as usual practices.

We must help our members improve their Brand messaging. Brand messaging is the voice they use. The 30,000 data points of Repositioning results have provided some insights that will allow the AIA to help all members.

Architects like to talk about process and their architecture. Clients (and the public) don’t care much about process. So, AIA can help architects change how they communicate about their work. In fact, studies have shown that just speaking louder isn’t the answer. Clarity and consistency are key:

  • Speak about impact: What is the difference made because of your work? What have your clients been able to do because of the architecture?
  • Speak in accessible and compelling terms.
  • Speak to YOUR audience, not ALL audiences.
  • Keep it simple. Clients want trustworthy information that is simple to understand.

AIA must continue to expose members to opportunities, but we can do more. We can expose our members to research findings that will positively impact their businesses. Repositioning findings are just the beginning to position AIA Architects for the future.

Repositioning the AIA for the Future

Question: The success of the Repositioning requires our collective energy to shift our perspective about what the AIA can do to serve members, advance the profession, and provides a tremendous opportunity for change. If you could make only one change to the AIA as part of the Repositioning Initiative, what would that be? Please be specific in the details and explanation of why.

Answer: Do you remember pre-recession architectural firms that would NEVER partner with another architectural firm to secure a project? Today, it happens all the time! It’s time for AIA leaders to apply this type of business savvy to AIA.

I view the one significant change as identifying shared resources on all levels. The key is clarifying, simplifying, and most importantly making members aware of initiatives and resources available.

We can no longer afford the luxury of each component acting independently. An individual component cannot be all things to all members. We need to prioritize our initiatives and define what each level of our organization does best and support them. We need to take the partner model, I mentioned, to our AIA.

Let’s consider a very visible example. Continuing education programming is provided by all facets of the AIA: local components, knowledge communities, state components, committees, national, conventions, etc. While it’s great we give our members so many choices, we compete with ourselves for attendees and sponsors. I’m confident there are some continuing education programming models that could be shared among components and/or hosted in multiple locations by several components.

Leveraging our multi-level resources will lead to a more effective business model and when coordinated, result in more services to our members.

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