INTERACTIONS I

27-07-18

In our conversations we have discussed about what defines “self-employment” a lot. In your opinion, what is the difference between working on your own and entrepreneurship?

As we Know, they are two different concepts sometimes misunderstood thinking that they are similar…

“Working on your own” means working on what you decide to work on, alone or collaborating with other professionals, usually with projects. The project may end or generate new projects, but the control capacity the professional has to make this happen is usually very limited, since it focuses on doing a very good project without a more holistic business strategic vision. And it is that vision the key for the professional field to success or not. We could identify the self-employed worker as being autonomous or, freelance, usually being more reactive: he works with projects, reacting when he achieves them.

Being an entrepreneur means focusing on defining a strategic vision: detect a problem, design a solution, test and validate it, through an action plan. In this case, the entrepreneur has absolute control of the steps he/she has to take, is more proactive: he/she initiates actions that will provoke reactions. Being an entrepreneur means becoming resilient to uncertainty, innovating in unknown contexts, solving challenges at all levels, having a chameleon skill to adapt to new contexts.

We designed this scheme a long time ago, which I think expresses that difference very well, comparing entrepreneurship with a conventional architectural studio in Spain:

We have also discussed whether the architect should be an entrepreneur or not, what are the reasons for and against it?

Architects in Spain are not entrepreneurs, we usually practice as self-employed or we work for others.

Architectural education and practice are so rich and complex that architects have a humanistic and technical background at the same time, something appreciated in the high quality of our projects. However, what you and me have learned is that other skills are necessary to develop our professional practice, whereas the entrepreneur does develop them. Our generation set up its own architectural studio without knowing how to do a small business model.

That is paradoxical. In my experience, this was shown up during the crisis period, in which we did not know how to respond to that situation in an adaptive way, but rather a certain blockage was created, because of the fact that  we did not have tools to design new business and innovation scenarios.

The world is changing at an unprecedented speed. Architects do not have to be an entrepreneur, but do have to get those entrepreneurial skills to be able to deal with difficult contexts.

Both of us had different professional experiences sharing the enriching aspect of them. In particular, your career takes you fully to immerse in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. How do you get to it, what is the key point you draw on?  would you recommend an experience in entrepreneurship?

We both made the same consideration from our experience in the architectural studio co-founded together. Something was missing: a more strategic vision that would allow us to have an action plan to develop. At that time our source of incomes was focused on architectural competitions. We were lucky because being very young we won a competition of great dimension that allowed us to work for years, but, once finished, we did not know what to do except to continue with architectural competitions, suffering the physical, emotional and economic wear associated. You started getting into entrepreneurial fields and after having another professional experience similar to ours. I studied a master’s degree in innovation, leadership and teampreneurship traveling around the world (Masteryourself, TeamLabs) that introduced me to a completely unknown world: detect a need through analysis of tendencies and the understanding of the world from innovation methodologies, generate an idea that solves that need, prototype it, launch it and get invoiced for it. Thus the learning cycle was closed. And in the process, different skills were developed beyond those ones a good designer has.

From that experience, I acquired the ability to look at the professional world in a different way, to have a more strategic and innovative vision and to become a more competent professional.

Looking at the university education of the Schools of Architecture, we have talked about the need to communicate new professional statements, with a more comprehensive training and less focused on the architectural object. In what areas and what debates do you think should be created in the Schools of Architecture?

The technological and digital revolution is changing the world at breakneck speed. Social models are being transformed, and with them, the careers. I think that the model of conventional architecture in Spain, which is very traditional, must adapt to these changes, and that transformation must start from scratch in the Schools of Architecture. They must lead this transformation. We have to train professionals prepared for these social changes, and for that, I believe that new scenarios should be created within the Schools to allow innovation, experimentation, trend analysis, and creativity, far beyond what it means to do an architectural project.

There is a question we both ask ourselves: Why, in general terms, are not we in the current disruptive discussion groups? Why are not we pioneers in creative processes, when is our daily practice? The change of mentality begins with education. We cannot allow the University to react after the changes previously happened in the professional field. The gap between academia and practice must be reduced.

We have also discussed the complexity of the current world and the need to give new answers from creativity and humanities. Where do you miss the speeches of that architect-entrepreneur professional profile?

In general, I think that this issue has barely started in Spain, because the architectural practice is based on a traditional model, what makes it difficult to adapt to the current complexities.

In other countries the debate has already taken place, it is easy to find discussions about the need to include entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity in the Schools of Architecture. A clear example is the Confluence Institute, Institute for Innovation and Creative Strategies in Architecture, founded by Odile Decq, whose goal is to offer an alternative educational model in France. We are not talking about creating a startup, we are talking about having an attitude, skills and entrepreneurial mentality in order to be able to face the challenges of the future, now unimaginable.

Architecture covers very different professional areas; design and construction, city and public space, product design… in these areas discussion groups are showing up and in most cases are not led by architects, but other disciplines are those that are causing its innovation process. Training in architecture is very humanistic. I wish we would know how to make those skills bloom to put them at the service of society. That issue is preventing us from being the leaders of our own change.