Surprises and Challenges

Having worked at a few professional services firms, I find the work at Strada entails a unique difference from all of the others—at Strada, surprises are good things.

And along with the changes of an evolving business world, where each client has a slightly different set of needs to resolve, I often find the best tools in the analysis and response to those needs is the diversity of Strada’s creative team.

While change and surprise can frequently throw people off of their game, the staff I work with bring a lot of energy to understanding the client story, then digging out the details, refining the solutions, and presenting the story back to the client for another level of feedback.

Listen. Rearrange. Tell the story. Repeat.

Strada’s staff come from many disciplines and experiences, and pursue many creative passions outside of office hours. This means we all have a different set of creative complexities, but we all agree that making the best spaces for people is the most exciting use of our talents.

Whether I’m working in a three-person team or a 10-person team, I’m likely to have eyes on the job that went to different schools, have a variety of degrees, span a range of ages, and have very distinctive ways of breaking down problems to find answers. My time in other firms has shown that expertise and solutions tend to get “siloed” into departments and specific disciplines. Without the mix of energy (and those diverse creative backgrounds), the design process runs faster and straighter—adhering to proven solutions that fit the described problems. While the communication time may be more efficient, the design solution may be less rich.

Often in business, when you bump into a surprise, the sudden challenge can mean extra work, a loss of momentum, and even some emotional turmoil. But surprise is also a chance to be fluid and flexible, to take advantage of cross-disciplinary pollination, or to take on new levels of responsibility and scope within the project. We might even invent an entirely new process to attack the challenge that just jumped into our lap.

And when your staff has versatility, like ours, these surprise problems benefit immediately from diverse analysis. Sure, Strada has landscape architects, interior designers, architects, and urban planners. But we also have historians, writers, fabric artists, graphic designers, illustrators, contractors, gourmets, cartoonists, exhibit designers, fabricators, and even a former green beret!

All of these different backgrounds see the “needs and comment” process in additive ways. That’s one reason Strada opens up ongoing work to office-wide “design labs,” allowing everyone to see what we are working on and how they might offer insight or an extra opportunity. My teammates often surprise me with how passionate they can be in making someone else’s workplace better.  I’m not sure if they realize how often they make my workplace better just by being a positive influence in seeking answers.

Accepting surprises as they come relies on versatility and a more nimble design process, and really, it makes the company a better place to work. Strada looks for that extra special creativity in every new staff member.

For me, I learn new things from clients and staff along the way, become more creative, and as a result, my clients get an even more positive response and increased energy from me.

If only I could convince my wife that finding out her car battery is dead on a winter morning has huge potential for a positive outcome!