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Cha-Hyung Hunt

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Be Creative, Be Radical: Takeaways from the Emerging Leaders Program

Creativity is part of our job as an architect. Here are some thoughts on the discussion from a 2014 session of the AIA Dallas Emerging Leaders Program.

I gave myself a trip to Seattle as a graduation gift in year 2007. The weather was gloomy and temperature was cold; just the way I liked.

On one fantastically gloomy day, I met my Seattleite friend, Alex, for coffee. Alex was in his late 20s, and he was an expert coder working at one of the most recognizable software companies in the U.S.

I remember meeting him at Starbucks on Pike Street. He was hunched over his screen, like Gollum staring at his precious ring. His nose was almost touching the screen.

I looked over his shoulder to see what was so interesting. It looked like very small, black ants all over his screen. There were well over a hundred lines of code, in a tiny, tiny font; all made to fit the small 15” screen.
I told him “You geeky coder guys should at least style up with a larger screen.” Alex smiled with pride. “Yeah, I know”. He was pretty proud of being able to work on such a small screen with such a large amount of data.
He later told me that this laptop with the tiny, 15” screen was actually his work laptop. He was using it on a Saturday because he had traded his personal 22” screen with his work laptop. There were a lot of people at work whose seniority put them ahead of him to receive a wider screen. It would have taken months for him to get one of the new ones and he just couldn’t accept it. So he brought his personal monitor to work. As he walked down the corridor at work, carrying a 22”, he felt like he had to keep explaining that it was from home. He didn’t want anyone to think he had cheated his way up to the 22”.

He didn’t go by the rules. He made up his own rules. Nobody got hurt and he created a better work environment for himself and it helped him do better work.

“Be your own anthropologist, seek out radical thinkers, challenge your belief, and develop your perspective” were notes from the May Emerging Leaders Program guest speaker, Rich Farris.

Creativity requires working outside your comfort zone in order to find new ideas. If you choose only the familiar ones, you are working completely within the realm of the known, which means you are more likely to simply repeat old ideas.

Creativity is part of our job as an architect; whether we are “adaptors,” “bridgers,” or “innovators.” Innovators generate new ideas, adaptors incorporate new data into existing structures to make them more efficient, and bridgers play a range of roles—you need all three to create a great project.

As leaders, we need just a little more courage to break, and remake, the small rules that govern our technical lives.