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Top Takeaways from Lean In Design Forum - Innovation & Collaboration

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The Importance of Carving out Time for Inspiration to Improve Results

During the week I am an Architect and Lean Specialist at EUA, on the weekends I am a serious gardener.  My house is on two acres with extensive perennial beds and a large vegetable garden.  My family and EUA coworkers enjoy the bounty of our vegetable garden during the summer. 

When I attended the Lean Design Forum at the end of May in Chicago, I was excited that I had time to visit the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park before the conference.  I had seen a presentation by one of the garden designers at a Master Gardener meeting a couple years ago and wanted to experience it in person. The garden is a delightful natural oasis in an urban environment.  I loved the juxtaposition of the native plantings against the Chicago skyline.  It was incredibly peaceful, I could hear the bees buzzing among the flowers.  I came away from the garden visit inspired with ideas to try in my own garden.  I especially liked the combination of purple allium among the hostas, I have a great shady spot at home where that could work. 

I enjoyed attending the Lean in Design Forum because just like my garden visit, I came away from this conference with great ideas and tools to implement in my own work and projects.  I really enjoyed talking to my colleagues in design and construction to hear what works well for their teams to improve project delivery and team performance.  This year’s forum focused on Innovation and Collaboration and here are my key takeaways. 

Innovation Takeaways

  • I really enjoyed the interactive keynote session with all attendees. The real-time survey questions asked about change and the adoption of Lean in the design and construction industry.  It was the first time I had seen this used at a conference and it was interesting to see results right away that I could discuss with my colleagues.
  • The Rogers adoption curve asks – Are you an innovator or laggard? Are you the first to adopt and willing to take a risk or do you avoid change until no alternatives are available?  It was interesting to reflect on where I fit on the curve in my work life and personal life.  In most instances I’m an early adopter for ideas and new processes but a late majority when it comes to using technology.  I still use an iPhone 6. 
  • Five concepts were discussed as strategies for introducing change. Whether it is my work life, my garden hobby or even my family, I started to get ideas on how to apply these.
    • Create alignment
    • Maximize communication
    • Spark motivation
    • Develop capability
    • Share knowledge

Collaboration Takeaways

  • How can we work together better? The strategies for introducing change also apply to creating higher performing teams. Many of the forum presentations discussed tools for improving team communication and sharing knowledge.  Using technology tools to help project teams was a focus, also digital visual planning and visualization software were discussed a lot.  Low technology tools like post-it notes are still important to the Lean design process, planning a design schedule collaboratively with a team on paper was one of my favorite sessions. 
  • The benefits of being Agile and the concept of Scrum. Agile is a project management strategy that uses short development cycles to focus on continuous improvement. With this approach the project team is better able to respond to feedback on the design and make iterative changes to the project. I also attended a panel discussion on using Scrum with a project team.  This was a new concept for me, and I found it very intriguing.  I took away tools to increase frequency of communication among my team members and will be adding more impromptu huddles to the work week.

Find Your Inspiration

If we really look for it, we can find inspiration in almost anything in life. Look for opportunities for inspiration, try to carve out time to see something new, like visiting a new garden to get ideas for landscaping, or attending a conference about something you are passionate about. It can be a very invigorating experience and be the inspiration you need to take a new approach. 

Robin Anderson, AIA, LEED AP

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