As you might expect from an architect who numbers paper and old beer crates among his preferred materials, the Japanese architect Shigeru Ban has some interesting things to say about buildings and maintenance. [via City of Sound]
“The lifespan of a building has nothing to do with the materials. It depends on what people do with it. If a building is loved, then it becomes permanent. When it is not loved, even a concrete building can be temporary. And the strength of the material has nothing to do with the strength of the building. It depends on the structural design. Buildings made of concrete are easily destroyed by earthquakes, but paper-tube buildings can survive without damage.”Source: Guardian Profile
MIYAKE DESIGN STUDIO GALLERY
One of Shigeru Ban’s emphases seems to be maintenance, or sustainability to give it a more fashionable take. Stability and permanence of a building includes amongst other things the idea that it can be easily looked after and repaired. Damaged paper tubes can be easily replaced by a new one, for example. There’s are obvious tie-ins with the lessons social software enthusiasts can learn from architecture, e.g intimacy gradients or lesser thoughts, and even urban design, such as whether it’s crimogenic or not.
Perhaps more tantalising, though, are the lessons we can’t, (or at least shouldn’t) learn?
Again via City of Sound, I came across Peter Lindberg’s notes on Stewart Brand’s book “How Buildings Learn” [There’s a review here]. Peter comments that
“According to Brand, brick-and-mortar architecture itself is in a state of illusion, having lost the knowledge of how to successfully build functioning, adaptable houses.”
Process is the sort of word that grown ups in suits use to throw their weight around and to convince others that they know what is going on and that it makes sense.
And Jon Husband’s remark about ERP
pouring “electronic concrete” over a newly-designed process that almost certainly is fated to begin changing relatively quickly
I’m not sure yet what I think about all this. I know that focusing solely on Process (capital P) is blinkered, and to be fair, I think many organisational architects understand this (see e.g. McKinsey’s 7S model or Burke-Litwin). What is harder, perhaps, is finding the equivalent of those little paper tubes, the strong (but not necessarily rigid) structures or processes (small p) and the materials to support people in organisations. “Love and resilience” is a bizarrely hard sell on its own.
Looking at a recent Forbes article, though, Google’s processes, seem some way to getting to those little paper tubes. You even get that in the title, “Google thinks small”. Taking a few selected quotes, you begin to feel that, while there’s no big P process, there are some definite small p’s, mostly geared to keeping interesting, productive conversations going.
“this company loves to talk it out, jettisoning hierarchy, business silos and layers of management for a flatter, “networked” structure where the guy with the best data wins.”
One key rule:You can’t call any idea “stupid.”
One true god rules at Google:data … “Often differences of opinion between smart people are differences of data,” says Marissa Mayer, director of consumer products … In some meetings people aren’t allowed to say “I think â€¦ ” but instead must say “The data suggest â€¦ ”
Every Google employee starts the week writing five lines on what he or she did the week before. They are posted on an internal Web site for all to see. New product ideas circulate among thousands of engineers on an “ideas mailing list.”
Workers are asked to spend 20% of their time on something that interests them, away from their main jobs. Companywide a full 10% of time is spent dreaming up blue-sky projects.
applicants may start with one of Google’s famous–and ridiculously difficult–exams. (Sample:”Find the first ten-digit prime number in the mathematical constant called â€˜e’.”) Prospects endure eight or more interviews. Each interviewer ranks them on a 1-to-4 scale; a 4 means “I would hire this person, and I will argue why,” while a 3 means “Inclined to hire, but can be argued out of it.” A panel of eight Googlers reviews the scores. Later annual regression analyses compare performance with initial ratings.
And there are, I’d guess, a number of different project processes. Underpinning all these are small p’s are two things: community and failure. People tend to share cubicles, however brilliant they are, and however brilliant you are you won’t get hired if a background checks shows you to be difficult to work with. And failure, or rather the acceptance of it, is built in.
Hundreds of projects go on at the same time. Most teams throw out new software in six weeks or less and look at how users respond hours later … One success in ten tries is okay; one in five is superb. Everyone from a failed venture moves to another urgent project.
Community and failure, then. Or love and resilience in other words.