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Connecting the Unconnected (the birth of an idea)

By Randall R. Bacidore, AIA

I used to have a free app on my iPhone called WordDot (no longer available) which I attempted to visit at least once a day.  It was a very simple app compared to the technological savvy behind most, but it yields very robust results.  It was a random word generator that supplied the user with two unrelated words. Thats it, simple. The idea was that you were supposed to somehow connect the words throughout your day, using them in writing, conversation, thought, etc., and create a meaningful bias connection between the two; connect the unconnected. The app was direct way to stimulate creativity, clear preconceived notions and motivate an unencumbered mind.  Sort of a revolution of consciousness.  As a right brained individual, focused creative energy but also helped kick-start the design-thinking process.

 

If we were to look back at pioneer successes throughout history and design, the people behind the ground-breaking, game-changing, round-peg-in-a-square-hole ideas somehow managed to connect the unconnected.  I once read that an idea is a novel combination of previously unconnected elements, connected in a way that adds value.  The elements are all around us, but chasing the connection is the most daunting and difficult task of the design process. One must focus a vast amount of creative energy to chasing the illusive connection and have the ability to see things differently.  Just to say ideas “come to you” is to overlook everything you have done beforehand that allows you to reach that connection.  Some ideas can come quickly but others can be agonizing to generate and seemingly contrived to expedite.  We, as architects, are facilitators for these ideas and need to focus the enthusiasm of the team and ultimately guide the solution.

The design process is strengthened by curiously listening to tangent conversations during meetings, informal discussions while walking between meetings or just chatting with the group in a relaxed environment.  There is a tremendous amount of valuable information passed on during this time which may never make it to the table in a design meeting or appear in meeting minutes.  The participants are genuinely more relaxed during these moments and more willing to make helpful off-the-cuff suggestions, or quite honestly, tell you what they really want.  It is up to us to put together all the conversations, interpret the vision and put forth the best solution.  When questioned, most individuals never recall sharing the information and are astonished by the interpretation in the final design solution.  I see this “tangent talk” process as invaluable to connecting the unconnected. It helps put all the elements together in a unique way never thought possible, just by listening.  Simple, like the WordDot app…

When we talk about each design element as a singular entity, they represent just what they are, in and of themselves; no connection whatsoever.  The connection is a way of weaving together the thoughts and ideas of the design team in a way they can then claim ownership and become believers as the solution develops.  Ownership is critical to a successful design because everyone must be heard, good or bad, right, wrong or indifferent.  The connection is largely the ownership and belief in the vision and the design.  Our approach to healthcare planning and design may appear mysterious but the reality ultimately lies in the satisfaction of the patients and staff.  Did we make a difference?  This is the question we always ask ourselves at the end of every project.

Sometimes the two words generated by WordDot seem as though a connection is nearly impossible to create.  Think back to your childhood when you would make statements out of pure innocence or naivety and adults just laughed it off.  Don’t laugh, that same freedom of innocence could be used in connecting the unconnected.  Challenge yourself to make the connection, no matter how absurd, silly or contrived it may sound.  Remember, the birth of an idea is just a connection a way.

 

Randall R. Bacidore, AIA is the Design Principal at (M&CA) Matthei & Colin Associates, LLC, Chicago, Illinois.  He has over 30 years of experience in healthcare architecture and oversees programming, planning and design for all of the firms’ projects.  M&CA is one of the few firms exclusively committed to healthcare architecture and brings an unparalleled depth of planning and design experience to every project. The M&CA mission is to deliver imaginative solutions, which create a unique environment specific to the healthcare community.  Randall can be reached at (312) 939-4002 or randallb@mca-architecture.com.  

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