Ability v. Inability
My job is simple. It is also difficult. Insight is the foundation upon which we strive to build the houses our clients commission. Unearthing and assimilating it requires the right research and people. This innovation work around issues of bettering the world in meaningful ways is difficult because we are feeling our way in the dark. Frustration is part of the mix.
Insights, inspiration and opportunities to create a more vibrant and resilient future.
Ability v. Inability
Starbucks at Starbucks
Time is of the essence. I'm writing this on my phone while riding a bus. Time is always of the essence. Juggling multiple deadlines and evolving project demands this week has stressed my capacity for nimbleness. Sometimes we are more aware of the essence of time than others.
We avoid the word “solve.” Having reached the dead-end of a subterranean maze of creative, innovation-seeking inquiry, sometimes you just sit and stare. What do we do now? Root causes can’t always be addressed, as much as I know every other “solution” is woefully inadequate. I didn’t pursue this type of innovation work to add more incomplete conceits to what is often already a long list.
The Sustainable Embrace
Everyone knew Charlie. For many years, by the gentle force of his caring personality, my friend Charlie Hamlen was at the center of the classical music world, launching and managing the careers of some of the most gifted musicians on the planet. Through an introduction he made, I undertook a professional collaboration that resulted in one of the pinnacle achievements of my then young career. At the peak of his prominence, having lost a partner to AIDS, he didn’t so much as walk away from his vocation, as brazenly pivot, leveraging his extensive professional capital, and large circle of friends, into the potent fundraising organization Classical Action.
We hope. During occasional moments in my 10+ year yoga practice, I’ve contemplated quitting. The physical machinations don't seem worth the delayed, amorphous results. A client recently commented “I was hoping that the document you sent would have that one big, game changing idea. It didn’t.” The nature of innovation is misunderstood. I’m eager for substantial, meaningful breakthroughs, yet have learned how much hard, slogging work is required to create the conditions for them to occur.
I was a newbie. Founded in 1998, the Delta Institute has been a potent force in the regional sustainability scene since before I officially started in this field. Friends, colleagues and collaborators, their talented staff have addressed a wide-range of issues, including brownfield remediation, green infrastructure implementation, building deconstruction and materials reuse, carbon mitigation, green building consulting, an array of energy-related issues, nutrient runoff, and environmentally preferential purchasing practices, among others.
Colleagues matter. At its best, Foresight is a not a collection of staff members working together, but an ensemble of individuals each contributing their perspective and talents to a greater whole. As any chamber musician knows, playing together is relatively simple, but performing as a dynamic and vibrant unit is incredibly difficult. Trust is required; individuals must be fundamentally invested in one another’s growth and well being. Sometimes roles need to evolve, including beyond the team.
I’m lucky. My job involves constant learning, a dynamic that I find both fun and fulfilling. The structure of the fall-to-spring academic calendar is still ingrained in me like a circadian rhythm. The onset of autumn is about new teachers, subjects and books; let’s go! Here’s what’s on my class schedule:
Impact Enterprise for the Inevitable Entrepreneur: Designed specifically for those who can’t resist the allure of the start-up, this course explores the dynamics, challenges and opportunities of “doing well by doing good.” Through experience with hands-on, real-life enterprises, students will be challenged with inflecting the tenants of capitalism toward doing more than just making money.
Pre-req: Start-Up Magic 101
Organizational Development, Accelerated and Condensed: Need to evolve your organization but don’t have the time to learn everything you should know? This course is for you! With the assistance of a few fearless volunteers, we’ll explore how to evolve significant structures without your clients noticing.
Pre-req: The Well Designed Organization
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Action: For students that have talked the talk, this seminar seeks to explore methods for more deeply understanding values, and devising empowering ways for acting upon them in projects and the workplace.
Pre-req: Fundamentals of Cultural Awareness and Sensitivity
The new Chicago Architecture Center’s new location at 111 E. Wacker opens to the public on August 31. Housed in a building designed by famed Chicago architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the center celebrates the city’s architectural legacy and presents a vision of its future.
The Middle Road
Photography mediates my stride. Hiking on vacation last week, I struggled to strike a balance between my speed-demon daughter, and slower-but-steady mother. I remember being my kid’s age, discovering a capacity to clock miles at a steady, accelerated clip, riding a mild adrenaline high that was difficult to moderate. She doesn’t like to slow down either.
A New York City bill introduced on August 20 would create an ambitious mandate to reduce building energy use by up to 80% by 2050. This framework, the first of its kind in the nation, was made possible by the cross-sector 80x50 Buildings Partnership that represents environmental interests, affordable housing, unions, and the real estate industry.
On Tuesday, New York became the first city to place temporary restrictions on apps like Uber and Lyft, citing the need to further study their impacts on wages and traffic congestion and develop regulations accordingly. The rapid and transformative rise of these apps has raised broader questions about the costs and benefits of innovation, and the public sector’s role in managing them.