In mid-September a friend challenged me on Facebook: Seven days, seven black & white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone every day.
Nearly every weekday evening after dinner, my brother, Jimmy, and I would do dishes and homework with the help of our maternal grandmother. She was the one who quizzed us on spelling, arithmetic, and things like state capitols. Having gone to school when memorization was key to learning, she was the rote memory queen.
Pilgrims, petitioners, the pious arrived before us. The wooden crosses they carried, sometimes barefoot, sometimes hundreds of miles across New Mexico, litter the path from parking lot. Others have transformed the chain link fence leading up to the sanctuary, attaching their offerings.
Over the last few years, I have had several of my clients ask me about leadership transitions. This is not my area of expertise. Ask me about branding, media relations, content development or even about workplaces or urbanism or healthcare design. But don’t ask me who is going to take over your architectural practice.
Curiously, even the most seemingly inarticulate people say intriguing things. If you listen, really listen. Organizations, and here I am referring to those I know best, design firms, will have the most banal descriptions on their website and in other materials. Worse, they will have hired someone to write copy and then it’s over the top, inflated and basically not credible. But it should not be that way.
Late August in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the monsoon rains held off until early evening so we could take in the wonders of Indian Market. In its 95th year and billed as the preeminent Native arts market in the world, it is nearly overwhelming. As the Southwest Association for Indian Arts says, "There is simply no other time and place in the Native arts world where the impact and influence of Native culture and identity is reinforced, reestablished and reinvented." I cannot judge meaning of the market in the wider world, but I know that every time we visit, the experience brings me circling back on my personal history with Native American culture, and with my pre-occupation with culture as force in our lives.
In 1996 Bill Gates wrote an essay titled "Content is king." Fast forward 20+ years and content's expanding kingdom means more and more of us are called on to write. But why are we writing? What story are we trying to telling? Asked to address these questions by the marketing team a large engineering firm, I gathered my thoughts.
For a dozen years, my remarkable partners, Marjanne Pearson and Paul Nakazawa, and I taught a course on professional practice classes in the Executive Education Program at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. Exhilarating, educational (for the educators) and exhausting. Our first gig ran for nine years — 1996 to 2004; the second from 2011to 2013. Much changed for the professions over all those years. What has not changed is my own curious relationship with Harvard. Not so much the real place, rather the over-determined Harvard of my mind.
Watching the crowd parade into the ballroom for the SMPS Build Business Gala last Thursday evening, reminded me of the line from Van Morrison's Wild Nights, "all the girls walk by dressed up for each other." Quite the catwalk. That hasn't changed much since the earliest grand galas (staged by the remarkable Jeanne Murphy, our first executive director.) Nor has the intention of using the event to honor the best of SMPS — our people and their work.