What Architects Should Understand About Enrolling their Public

People are not swayed because you are right. They're going to be swayed because they are right.

Architects often talk about their value. That’s the value they deliver in their work and how they need to be better at communicating this to their public (the public they seek to serve). I question this approach and I’m curious as to whether talking about value is a form of hiding. Hiding from the hard work of leadership and the enrolment that’s required to bring their public along on the same journey that they’re on. It’s easier to hide behind – “The public need to understand the value we bring?” – rather than choosing the leadership of enrolling their public on a more ambitious journey. This is a journey not only about the value of good design, the value of a good built environment, the value that architects bring to delivering the aforementioned, but also what is missed by not having these conversations. It’s about opportunity cost. Ultimately it needs to be about what their public values.

People are not swayed because you are right. They’re going to be swayed because they are right.

Let’s be clear, facts do not change minds. This is evident everywhere we look.

Marketing legend Zig Zigler once observed, [paraphrasing] you’re more likely to get what you want by helping others get what they want. No one wants to invest themselves or their money in what you’re doing unless they can see what’s in it for them. It is up to the profession to show people what’s in it for them. When people start to see this, enrolment can begin.

It is much easier to enrol people when you’re taking them on a journey they’ve already started on. So architects need to be empathetic. Listen to their public. Find out what they value and where they want to go or where they might be heading already.

First and foremost enrolment starts with trust. It might even be worth asking if architects are trusted? (It’s likely more work can be done here and a conversation for another time.)

Trust is established by being open to others, listening and giving assistance. With this generous posture, the needs of those you seek to enrol must be incorporated into your work. Keeping your focus on their needs is important. Where’s the common ground and what’s in it for them? Confirm this position and build it through further engagement. Give more by sharing. Sharing allows you to either refine your understanding or further influence those you’re seeking to enrol. Identify this new shared vision that incorporates what has been learnt and connect with a shared purpose. This is how enrolment can work.

The part to get clearer on is what is this enrolment for? Is it to generate more work for the profession, or is it more altruistic? Enrolling the public in seeking to make positive change in the world for the benefit the built environment and the public? Keeping in mind Zig Zigler’s words, I suggest the latter.

The challenge here is who in the profession will assume responsibility?

Responsibility for leading the public to a better built environment. Starting by listening and engaging. Followed by enrolling the public in a vision, describing it and the direction to be taken.

Change begins with enrolment.


Picture by Ryutaro Tsukata on Pexels

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