Tag Archives: LEED

Communication: A must-have to get Innovation from Teamwork

Last month, both the New York Times Magazine and Quartz published articles regarding the recent findings of a Google study: That it pays to be nice to our teammates. Yes, it turns-out our friends at Sesame Street were right: Cooperation really does make it happen.

Both sources linked to a Ted Talk given by an old friend of ours, Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at Harvard Business School, Amy Edmondson, whose own research has led her to similar discoveries about teamwork. In the talk, she says that, when working in teams, “Every time we withhold (a question, concern, or idea), we rob ourselves and our colleagues of small amounts of learning — and we don’t innovate”.

Did you catch that last bit?! It was pretty important. Her study revealed that when we don’t communicate, “we don’t innovate”. So, her research in this case focuses around creating a comfortable work environment, or as she calls it, a “psychologically safe” workplace where everyone on the team has a voice.

Of course, us green building industry folks have known about this for years – we call it “integrative design”, and it’s even been outlined by the United States Green Building Council as a possible credit toward the most up-to-date LEED certification.

In reading these articles and watching Amy’s Ted Talk, I couldn’t help but hear echoes from our 2013 interview with Architect, Bill Reed, another friend and iLiv advisor. Bill’s work with teams has given him superstar status on the green building circuit, and it’s no surprise that he and Amy’s work has brought them to similar conclusions. Back then, Bill told us, among other things, that we must be “co-learners” instead of “experts”. He said that “mutual learning” is imperative to a systems approach, and that it is necessary in order to find deep synergies — and to be truly innovative in teams.

Innovation is important. And it turns out that in teams, and on projects with lots of uncertainty, innovation won’t happen unless we’re nice and respectful of each other. We’ve got to learn to work well together, and that means communicating well together.

As a frequent collaborator and team leader, myself, I find this really interesting. And so, I plan to spend some time in the coming months looking deeper into how it is that we can get the most creativity from individuals on our teams. And, since we humans always want to improve, I will also look into how it is that we can ensure that individuals on our teams get the most out of our projects for themselves.

Can you think of a time on a team when you wanted to ask a question, or had a certain concern, or an idea, but didn’t feel comfortable enough to stand-up and voice it? I sure can. Please share your experiences in the comments section – Amy’s work tells us that sharing these stories (“acknowledging your own fallibility”) is a building block of psychological safety, after all. In the meantime, I’ll be looking forward to opening-up and learning more about the world’s latest, greatest, approaches to teamwork, communication, and innovation.

 

LEED Gold certification our 1st AEC Project!

We hit a bit of a milestone yesterday as the very first project ever run in All-In by a General Contractor was officially granted LEED Gold certification.

It was on the 6th of May, 2011 that we walked into Webcor’s office… Our long-time advisor, Ann Edminster wanted to introduce us to her friend Phil Williams — And Phil immediately brought in his Sustainability and LEED Rockstar, Megan White.

Over the years, we had the chance to do some site visits, work with students who were interested in the project, sit in on LEED charrettes with the team, and learn a whole lot about AEC, its processes, and the way its many teams work together. This project will be in our hearts forever.

Huge Gratitude and Congratulations to Webcor and the whole CMS team!

Site photo from SFGate, August, 2011
Site photo from SFGate, August, 2011

5 ways to a better integrative process

bill

We have some pretty fantastic advisors at iLiv and Bill Reed is one of them. In the green building and sustainable design space, Bill is a leader, a thinker, a teacher, a practitioner’s practitioner, an architect, and an author.

Bill’s ideas about Integrative Process are applicable to any team seeking to change the way they work together in order to achieve results that far surpass anything they have done before. So those of you who are not green builders or sustainability overachievers should keep reading in any case.

There is more about Bill at the bottom of the page, but for now, let’s get straight to what Bill has to say:

Any movement towards a sustainable condition requires change.

Moving towards sustainability means that we need to move towards understanding how life works. This means we need to engage in the awareness of complex systems interaction. While most people may feel that they are “systems designers” by the very nature of their work in delivering complex projects, they typically are not working at the level of finding deep synergies among the multiple human and technical systems involved. Nor are they deeply considering how the people processes within the project team, and the living systems beyond, are engaged in a way that inspires long-term health.

Here are 5 ways to a better Integrative Process:

1. Understand the invisible living and operating connections and patterns in and beyond the project

Sustainable design requires a different mindset or mental model. This model is able to look at systems in a more complex way. Instead of looking at just the physical elements of the building, the invisible connections between the elements need to be understood. These invisible connections and patterns, for example, may be manifest in the downstream impact of toxins in building materials, the multiple efficiency and cost relationships between the many variables in an HVAC system and the building envelope, or the impact on social systems due to logging practices or any raw material extraction. At the social scale, it may be engaging in helping the client understand how to be in a more powerful and community building relationship within the place you are building. From an environmental perspective it can mean identifying the healthy patterns of life in the watershed within which you are building and developing new patterns of relationship as part of the process of design.

2. Engage your team beyond just coordination

Sustainable design is not simply about the “coordination” of design features. A rigorous level of enthusiastic and early engagement by all participants is required. A deep understanding of the tools and processes used to explore and make evaluations is required. Since no one has all of this knowledge himself or herself, the role of the team takes on great importance. A systems approach requires a collaborative approach.

3. Don’t be “experts”, be “co-learners”

The very strength of the integrative approach has in it a potential weakness: fostering and working within a collaborative framework is hard because we have been trained to be “experts”. The client expects it, and the team members feel they need to exhibit it. But the basis of a systems approach is the establishment of a network of mutual learning. It is essential to move from being experts to being co-learners. The nodes of individual knowledge that each team member embodies are important, but the network of collective knowledge is far greater and more powerful. Click here to learn about an online collaborative process tool that focuses teams’ collective knowledge through ongoing integrative process.

4. Ask questions, question assumptions, reconsider conventions

The role of questioning is critical in order to inspire answers beyond the conventional. By far, most successful green projects (i.e., projects that achieved the high environmental goals they originally set out to achieve) have done so because the teams had a willingness to ask many questions about the potential beneficial relationships between all the systems in the building, site and region, and to explore many different ways to reach toward better ecological integration. Environmental concerns were not secondary, but neither were they dominant: there were an integral part of the design. The usual “right” answers were never assumed; in fact, they were always questioned. Click here to learn more about one of our projects.

5. Take pleasure in change, and being changed

A mental model that is open and willing to change the way things are done drives the successful integration of green design. Change can be hard. But the process of changing is actually the most exciting aspect of reaching towards sustainability. It is the change of perspective, the change of heart, and the fundamental reawakening to, and awareness of, our deep integrative relationships with the systems of life that makes all this effort worthwhile.

About the author, Bill Reed:

Bill Reed is an Architect and leader in systems thinking. His work centers on managing and creating frameworks for integrative, whole-systems design processes. He is president of the Integrative Design Collaborative, and a Principal of the regenerative planning firm Regenesis.

Bill has been an advisor to iLiv since 2011. He served as co-chair of the LEED Technical Committee from its inception in 1994 through 2003, was a member of the LEED Advanced faculty and one of the first twelve United States Green Building Council trainers of the LEED Rating System, and was a founding Board Member of the USGBC.

Bill is the co-author of “The Integrative Design Guide to Green Building: Redefining the Practice of Sustainability“, and has written numerous articles on Regenerative Development and Design. He currently serves on the boards of Yestermorrow and AWE, and is an advisor to Environmental Building News.