A generous architecture practice

Generosity creates goodwill and lifts everyone up. Thoughts on why Architects should prioritise generosity.

Last week’s post, “They’re not a very good architect” took off and I’m going to continue its thread. If you haven’t already read it, go back before reading this one, it’s worthwhile context.

Generosity is something shared, kind or a contributed. Whilst generosity and sharing are not interchangeable, sharing is a substantial subset of generosity. I also appreciate that generosity is the quality of being plentiful. Sharing is a generous practice that is in too short supply in the architecture profession and something that can be plentiful.

When it comes to ideas, insights and teaching, there’s more than enough to go around. There’s no scarcity here. By generously sharing everyone has the opportunity to receive the value of what someone else has. At the same time, they still retain that idea, insight or teaching, they haven’t lost it. It might even be that someone can improve upon that work and continue sharing, compounding the value of the generosity.

Sharing demonstrates expertise, knowledge and creates a feedback loop. Allow me to coin a phrase,

No sharing, no airing.

(I’m not expecting it to catch on, maybe the intent will.) The point is that an idea or insight shrouded from others has little value. A shared idea instead has power. Good ideas spread. Helping build something better or make change happen through the network effect.

Generosity won’t reduce your reputation, but instead enhance it. By giving something away you haven’t lost it, you’ve instead likely gained something. You might have gained feedback and insight from others, your value and expertise acknowledged, and importantly you would have built trust.

Generously sharing shows your knowledge, authority and expertise. By keeping your ideas and insights to yourself you miss out on acknowledgment. It’s not the reason for sharing but it is a side-effect.

As implied, if not stated, by the previous post, how architects talk about other architects needs to be more generous. Talking down other architects, talks down the profession, it undermines the value of the profession. Being generous in language, critique and explication is an opportunity to benefit the entire profession and the value they bring to all projects. Doing so instead of denigrating a single work or practice. Being generous in this way helps market the profession.

Most importantly of all, generosity is a communal act. Generosity builds community. By sharing you also build your network and your generosity is likely to be returned. Generosity begets generosity.

Side note by way of example: The Australian Institute of Architects’ online Forum presents an interesting case in point. Whilst I recognise that it’s been created as a resource for its members, by keeping it members only it reduces its reach and therefore value. Without access to all architects, the opportunities for generous sharing are being limited. There’s value in having more people on the Forum, contributing ideas and insights. It will bring the architectural zeitgeist more to light and what is of concern for the profession right now – all useful information for both architects and the Institute. My guess is that by generously opening the forum up to anyone, the value to members would be greatly increased, not to mention the goodwill towards the Institute. Furthermore, I would be willing to bet membership would be more likely increases than decreases, in doing so. The online Forum is an excellent platform for showcasing and discussing the Institute’s value and services – they would be well served by being more generous in how they manage it.

The architectural community is not big enough to ignore the value of generosity to assist in building community. Whilst I raise the role of gatekeepers in the profession in my last post, bringing greater generosity is not solely their responsibility. Generosity is a value and should be a core value held by all architects and all practices. The gatekeepers nevertheless have the opportunity to set the example and be a force for good. My challenge to all architects, whether in employment, in leadership of a practice, or in their roles in representative bodies or publications, is to consider how they might bring a more generous mindset to all that they do. We all should remember,

Generosity is an act of leadership.

How might you bring greater generosity to your architectural practice?

Picture by Secret Garden on Pexels [cropped & edited]

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach. I help architects rethink their practice and support them as they uncover better ways to work. I’ve worked in architecture for over 25 years, and I ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I believe improving practice takes asking hard questions and deep listening.

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