Cultural changes always come unannounced and uninvited. They sneak in with some shiny new technology or protocol that we embrace to make our work easier and our lives better. They come in bits and pieces so it takes a while to recognize them for what they are. 

As we begin working with these new technologies and protocols, we slowly realize that the traditional ways we relate to each other don’t quite work anymore.  Tension follows. So we invent new ways.

As healthcare designers, we see this with the healthcare clients that we serve. Electronic medical records are changing the flow of information, the flow of patients, and the configuration of work teams. The medical home model is a new protocol that requires different relationships, communication methods, and even social structure within the clinical team. In the fast-changing medical world, there are scores of other examples of change as well.

It’s also true with those that build the buildings we design. Integrated delivery systems dictate another way of doing business. We are compelled to integrate because we now have tools such as BIM that allow us to do so. We also have more sophisticated sub-contractors , suppliers, and building systems vendors. These new resources no longer quite fit with the old-style sequential processes of building. The market place demands better.

The change we are experiencing is one of degree rather than kind. It requires that we spend more time working together in teams and less time alone at our computer. It requires a higher degree of teaming. We are spending more time in meetings and on conference calls because the quality of information we create is usually of higher value when we conceive it together.

This higher degree of teaming emphasizes different skill sets. In addition to technical knowledge, people skills are becoming essential. The ability to listen and dialogue rises to the top. Emotional intelligence has greater value. Daniel Goleman in his best-selling book of the same name basically defines emotional intelligence as the ability to recognize one’s own feelings as well as the feelings of those they are dealing with. And in recognizing another’s feelings, being able to express empathy.

I’ve included this picture of drum circle. Work processes have a certain rhythm. When those involved together discover the rhythm, things go better. Suddenly,  the work creates energy rather than taking it. It unifies and pulls everyone along at the same beat. This is the magic of collaboration.