Archive for the ‘Collaboration’ Category

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We have explained how the Cause Health movement is focused on health assets rather than health deficits. The creation of thoughtfully developed and integrated artwork is a tangible celebration of this salutogenic point of view.

Our approach to incorporating art at Sechelt Hospital on the Sunshine Coast in British Columbia demonstrates both a healthy process and a healthy result. This art brings to life the rich history, culture, legends and spirit of the First Nations shishalh people. We conceived of three major installations by local artists that would radiate messages of healing, protection and collaboration.

These works consist of a lobby sunburst mural, exterior entrance totem poles, and memorable elevator lobby symbols. Together they bring meaning, special identity and recognition that highly emotional life events happen here.

This holistic approach earned an international award for use of art in the patient environment at the 10th Annual Design and Health World Congress.

Drawing on the talents of Coast Salish shishalh people who first settled here thousands of years ago, the theme of healing was essential not only in relation to the hospital but also with regard to the First Nations’ painful history on this particular land. Generations of disease and misguided government policies, including hardship specifically related to hospital’s site, had taken a devastating toll. However, the Salish shishalh have moved forward to rebuild and heal painful memories. At a recent public ceremony to celebrate the unveiling of these completed artworks to the community, carver Tony Paul said that the totems convey messages of welcoming and healing, “Not just healing our health, but also healing our people.”

The poles at the entrance tell stories that connect the physical and spiritual worlds. A 50′ x 20′ sculptural sunburst mural was created by artist Shain Jackson who explains, ‘The Canoe People represent community; when others paddle with you in a canoe it is acknowledged that you are headed to the same place and devoted to the same goal.”

Young artists from the community were involved from start to finish in order to learn the entire process: from working with administrators and architects, to presenting and quoting on the work, to fabrication and installation.

Sechelt Hospital (originally St. Mary’s Hospital) has been listed as the 10th most environmentally friendly hospital in the world; the only one selected from Canada. This LEED Gold certified project also recently won a SAB Canadian Green Building Award. It was designed with the goal of becoming North America’s first carbon-neutral hospital.

– Sharon VanderKaay

project: St. Mary’s Hospital, Farrow in association with Perkins + Will Architects

mural photography: Latreille & Delage




How can creative thinking be developed in school and the workplace?

Research described in a recent Newsweek cover story, “The Creativity Crisis,” indicates that schools in the United States are heading in the wrong direction by emphasizing rote learning. Analysis of creative capability scores for nearly 300,000 children and adults determined that scores have been moving steadily downward since 1990.

Meanwhile The European Union has been “instituting problem-base learning programs—curricula driven by real world inquiry—for both children and adults,” while “in China there has been widespread education reform to extinguish the drill-and-kill teaching style. Instead, Chinese schools are also adopting a problem-based learning approach.”

I had the good fortune to be introduced to problem-based learning (PBL) in 1995 by Dr. John Premi at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. McMaster’s medical school is known internationally for having pioneered the use of PBL in the 1960’s. As well, Dr. Premi and his colleagues developed a groundbreaking PBL program to support continuing education for physicians.

After fifteen years of applying this approach to collaborative inquiry and reflection in the context my life in the field of design, I believe PBL (along with action learning, project-based learning and other inquiry based methods) is far more effective than oxymoronic “teaching creativity.” To my mind, creative thinking is a by-product of wrestling with ambiguity, seeing opportunities within constraints and thinking critically. Needless to say, my own doctor was educated via PBL.

As the Newsweek article points out, the need for ingenuity is too urgent for any country to “just hope for inspiration to strike.” Authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman note, “All around us are matters of national and international importance that are crying out for creative solutions, from saving the Gulf of Mexico to bringing peace to Afghanistan to delivering health care. Such solutions emerge from a healthy marketplace of ideas, sustained by a populace constantly contributing original ideas and receptive to the ideas of others.”

Well said.

-Sharon VanderKaay

If all of our politicians understood the nature of innovation as well as councillor Adam Vaughan, there might be a dominant feeling of abundance in our society, instead of a looming sense of scarcity. Yesterday, during his “Adam’s Walks” tour of five parks plus a schoolyard in Toronto’s Seaton Village and the Annex, Adam explained the impressive multiplying effect of changing how we think when planning shared neighborhood spaces. He also revealed some appalling examples of consequences when governments add unnecessary barriers that prevent action on innovative initiatives.

Instead of the old notion that generic urban parks should be bestowed and maintained by remote bureaucrats at their sole discretion, Adam described what happens when community members of all ages become co-creators and partners who are invested in ongoing success. Common concerns – ranging from maintenance, to dogs runs vs. children’s play areas, to safety issues – are best tackled, he says, with “strong, healthy and respectful dialogue.” Out of this dialogue emerge ideas for unconventional uses that benefit the community, as well as new ways to maintain and protect the vibrancy of these spaces. Such ideas have included non-traditional funding models, alternative sources of energy generation, and reimagining the park as a living learning project for nearby schools.         

All of which builds social capital while raising adjacent residential property values. The co-creation approach also turns a potentially hostile and alienating planning process into a healthy opportunity for citizens to draw on local talent. For those who would otherwise oppose the plan outright, being part of the solution provides the best insight into complex factors that affect controversial decisions.   

Adam is not magician who can make all the barriers of city bureaucracy disappear, but he knows a lot about the magic than can happen when knowledgeable people put their heads together instead of simply reacting to a plan.  

About Adam’s Walks
Inspired by Jane’s Walk (named in honour of Jane Jacobs), Toronto Ward 20 Trinity-Spadina councillor Adam Vaughan leads a series of free neighbourhood walking tours. These tours highlight opportunities and challenges for developing our civic spaces. Since inception in 2007, Jane’s Walks have taken place in cities across North America and the program quickly expanding internationally. In 2009 Jane’s Walks were held in 46 cities with a total of 315 walks offered. In 2010, there are 67 participating cities and over 410 tours on offer.

-Sharon VanderKaay

A fifteen-year study of over 600 projects in various sectors around the globe found that 85 percent failed to meet time and budget goals. This stunning revelation by Aaron Shenhar and Dov Dvir appears in their book Reinventing Project Management: The Diamond Approach in Successful Growth and Innovation. The primary reason cited for such failures was that “…executives as well as project teams failed to appreciate up front the extent of uncertainty and complexity involved (or failed to communicate the extent to each other) and failed to adapt their management style to the situation.”

In our experience with architectural project stakeholders, the dynamic relationship between scope, time and cost is improved by crafting an inspiring “hearts and minds” purpose statement (see “Liquid Arrow” graphic in post below) combined with the shared sense of being responsible for a legacy. If scope is the means to an end, what do we want to accomplish together? Using facilitated dialogue, we build a strong foundation for the project triangle (illustrated above). After the project’s purpose and legacy are fully explored and embraced, we can begin to co-create the vision. This level of analysis saves time and prevents the “iron triangle” of project management from becoming wobbly.

– Sharon VanderKaay

Ideas, like water, can become solidified too soon.

Nearly every firm claims to value collaboration, but differing amounts of interactive wall space speak louder than words about how people really work together. For example, the presence of one or two rickety flip charts (RFCs) in the corner of a meeting space says that thinking tends to occur in isolation and solutions are solidified before they are given wider exposure. Ideas in these RFC cultures tend to be owned by individuals and defended; the notion of emergent design would be out of place. Instead, wall-to-wall whiteboards invite participation while ideas are still in a liquid state.

-Sharon VanderKaay

Generations of architectural project managers have diligently applied tools and techniques that achieved some remarkable results, yet failed to meet budget, schedule and other targets. Traditionally, it was safe to assume that imposing tighter controls within a more mechanistic system was the best way to prevent these failures. Now there is growing awareness of the perils of pretending your real project exists in a closed, predictable, static environment.

Last year the world-renowned Project Management Institute presented their Book of the Year award to Managing Complex Projects, A New Model. Author Kathleen B. Hass recognizes that large projects have inherent dynamic qualities that we must work with – rather than attempt to fight against. “As projects get bigger and more complex, we tend to ‘do more of the same’ applying ever greater degrees of rigor in the way of methods, reviews and tests, resulting in higher costs, and not necessarily returning value,” says Hass. “What we do is explore the nature of complexity theory as it applies to projects.”

In other words, experienced project managers are realizing that the stakes are too high for us to rely on false assumptions and old mindsets to maximize project success. Below is a chart that captures our understanding of how complexity theory applies to large design and construction projects.

This is a huge topic that requires ongoing analysis. However it may be of interest to construction project managers that, nearly ten years ago, a group of leading software developers gathered to write an Agile Manifesto that identified what really matters in terms of rapid, results-driven software project delivery. Maybe a group of design and construction project managers will one day write a manifesto aimed at removing similar barriers.

Sharon VanderKaay

Functional, efficient, light and bright hospital design is pretty much the norm for new construction today. There’s solid evidence that links design with reduced need for medication and shorter hospital stays. This proof is vital, but there is also a need to explore unproven intangible design qualities.

Before funds are invested in new hospital construction, it’s worthwhile to articulate the kind of space people seek when they’re at their most vulnerable due to illness. Is it enough to simply choose from the current healthcare design influences of corporate office, chic hotel or upscale health spa? Or should the design aim to address spiritual needs?

Dissatisfaction with proven norms can lead to breakthroughs. A spark of innovation is ignited when someone says: “We can do better than that!”

Credit Valley Hospital was not afraid to wade into emotional conversations when they set out to define their vision several years ago. That level of commitment, combined with their willingness to break from conventional “healing environment” rhetoric, has made all the difference. Here’s how their inspiring words guided this hospital’s memorable design:

– Sharon VanderKaay

It’s easy to see why so many PPT slide presentations include images of interlocking gears to evoke maximum team efficiency. Gears convey a seductive sense of control; they are reassuringly neat and predictable. These mechanical parts are perfect for representing machine age detachment, and perhaps also suit transactions involving information technology.

But gear metaphors communicate the opposite of what’s required for innovation to occur in a knowledge era. Knowledge—in contrast to information—gains value when humans develop what they know through reflection and interaction. The reality of this process is far from neat, predictable and mechanical. Developing the wealth of knowledge that leads to innovation requires relationships built on trust. Gears do not evoke trust or thoughtful reflection. So let’s not misrepresent living, human activities—such as collaboration—with graphics that glorify interchangeable metal parts.

The above set of slides expands on this notion of contrast between mechanical and natural systems.  

– Sharon VanderKaay

The process of hatching creative ideas is often represented by a glowing light bulb or a gleaming technical image of some sort. Since we at Farrow give a lot of thought to the realities of implementing innovative approaches, we decided to capture five tips from our daily practice for the benefit of anyone who faces resistance to acting on their ideas. Here are 14 slides that introduce tactics for working through the emotional ups and downs of innovation. What do you think? What are your tips for attracting support and transforming naysayers?

-Sharon VanderKaay

  • About The Nature of Innovation

    We see our collaboration with clients and colleagues as providing a living lab for enriching the creative process. Farrow’s built work has been internationally recognized for leadership in human-centric design. This is where we come to discuss our ideas as they hatch and our experiences as they happen.
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