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Monday, September 13, 2010

To Infinity and Beyond

My first project in architectural school was to transport an object from one level to the next without destroying the object in the transition. The object had to travel three floors. It was my introduction to problem solving as it relates to architecture.

The project exposed me to a wide range of thoughts. At the core of the issue was boundaries and limitations. We were limited to the materials we could use. We were bound to the rules of the project. We were also bound and limited by time.

From birth, limitations and boundaries have the potential to guide our actions. As a child, boundaries give us structure and help identify direction. Limits provide parameters that do just enough to engage us in a steady pursuit of a desired outcome without going overboard.

As we grow older, our limits tend to be marked by our fears and our failures. It is at this point that we establish life routines that lessen our potential to achieve innovative solutions to problems that seek out our abilities to solve them.

Fear marks failure. I consider it the single most debilitating force that keeps us from achieving our goals. How many times have you heard, "We've never done it that way before?" or " I am afraid that might not work."

In local government, in our churches, with our school system, and on the job, fear imposes boundaries that may not be healthy for advancing anything progressive. In most cases outstanding solutions are met with impediments that either block our vision of constructive solution or surround us with walls that keep us focused on the problem and alleviate any opportunity to creatively problem solve.

As a business owner or employer, the daily challenges presented always boil down to some level of problem solving. How do we increase sales? What is our niche market? How do we provide a superior service over our competition? How do we achieve our market strategy in a down economy? As an employee, some of the same questions exist but on a different level.

How do we arrive at solutions to our problems related to our companies as minority owned and operated businesses beyond our preconceived boundaries/limitations?

I don't just want to be the top minority architect in my city. I want to do something in such a way that my contribution to my career field transcends my title as "young black architect" and reaches the point of "world class designer."

There are several dynamics that play into this accomplishment, but instinctively there is a philosophical approach that I believe positions minority companies to achieve overwhelming success.

Think bigger!

If you had the ability to operate your company as a fortune 500 company how would it differ from the way you are running your company today? If the same obstacles that present themselves to you today as boundaries/limits didn't exist what would you do differently and where would you be today?

Think bigger!

What if you thought like your boss instead of like his/ her employee? How far ahead would you be in assisting in advancing the company? Big thinking has an association policy attached to it. Generally the bigger you think the more apt you are to be surrounded with people just like you. Try to find the value in what you have to offer instead of what you would like to receive. I have a family member who has offered me the constant reminder that experience is what you get when you don't get what you want.

The architecture project of transporting an object from one floor downward to the ground floor without destroying it introduced me to a new way of thinking even back in college. Nearly everyone was planning to solve the problem the same way. Wrap the object with the given materials and drop the object three stories and hope it stays in tact.
While others of us launched our objects and use the material to create parachutes or landing pads to receive the objects below.

The best solutions evolved around viewing the problem from different perspectives and responding accordingly. It meant that for a moment in the design process we removed our fears, our limits, and our boundaries to work from the outside in.

For us to capture the essence of success as minority businesses, I believe we have to think broader than we ever have with the hope that what we dream will take us to infinity and beyond!

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