Generating Great Ideas – What We Can Learn from Architecture
What does generating great ideas have to do with architecture? Apparently a lot! When I was working on my BComm and MBA, I didn’t have a lot of flexibility, even though I had electives that I could take, there were many core subjects. Now that I am working on my non-degreed classic education, I can do pretty much what I want, choosing subjects that interest me. I am completing my courses a lot faster because I am “attending” classes Mondays through Fridays instead of two days a week. And I do so first thing in the morning so that it gets done – I am enjoying the adventure. When I chose the courses that I wanted to take, I selected the courses based on topics that I was genuinely interested in.
When I thought of taking an architecture course, I was thinking that architecture is about constructing a building, and I wanted to transport that information and apply it to building a product or a service. But I forgot the design piece in architecture, which is even more important than the constructing piece. I have just started the History of Architecture course and have only listened to six lectures so far. I was becoming overwhelmed because of all the information, so I stepped back, and thought about why I was taking the course in the first place. I decided not to focus too much on the minutia, but on the bigger things, and the course is now a lot more manageable. When I reframed the situation, I immediately saw the relationship between generating great ideas and architecture.
It’s often been said that imitation is the greatest form of flattery. In my History of Architecture course, the professor, Jacqueline Gargus, from the Knowlton School of Architecture at Ohio State University, emphasized the distinction between copying and imitating. My interpretation is that copying is stealing, and imitating is taking something, understanding its driving principle then making it your own by adding and/or subtracting from it.
The greatest architects understand the history of their profession, and have diligently studied the works of other greats that have gone before them. They blend the styles of other architects and evolve them into something new. In addition, art and architecture are like two peas in a pod. As the techniques used to create art, for instance, ceramics and sculpture evolve and change, so does the techniques used in architecture, and oftentimes the changes are similar – they mirror each other.
Professor Jacqueline Gargus also compared an architect to an engineer, and the example she used is the building of a car. The first car that was assembled, is very different from the cars that are assembled today. Years ago, engineers were not as concerned as much as they are today about the placement of the elements that make up a car. Yes, some elements have to be in certain positions for the car to function. But overall, today, a lot of time is spent on what elements are included when assembling a car and where those elements are placed. That has been the same progression when constructing a building.
What does all of this have to do with generating great ideas?
When you understand the history of your profession, and have studied the masters, you have built a body of ideas and knowledge. You know what ideas were tried and which ones worked and did not work. You also know which ideas were ahead of their time, and may work now. When you have this kind of information, you have a competitive edge when you manipulate those ideas. When great architects are studying the works of other great architects, they are not looking only in their country, but they are also looking across the globe.
Architectural Techniques for Generating Great Ideas
- Study the works of other great architects all over the world. They look to many sources for ideas.
- Take an idea, look at the opposite of that idea then synthesize them to form something new.
- Take an idea, unpack it, that is break it apart then reformat it into a different way, maybe leaving out some elements or even adding in other elements to create something new and amazing.
- Do the opposite of what is popular.
- Take two or more ideas, remaking history based on new terms. This could mean taking two or more old ideas and remaking them based on access to new technology.
- Gather several great ideas then systematize them the ideas into an overarching idea.
The History of Architecture course has me thinking in new and interesting ways, pushing me beyond my comfort zone. Information or knowledge is not power, but how you use them can be powerful. That means that you have to understand what the information and knowledge really mean. To get ahead of your peers, take one or two of the architectural technique for generating ideas and work with them. To write this post, I had to dissect what I am learning so that it works for me. And in so doing, I hope that I have added value for you. I have written several posts on generating great ideas, but this time I have approached the topic from a new angle.
Several classic literature books – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, The Iliad of Homer, The Odyssey, The Birth of Tragedy: Out of the Spirit of Music - have been mentioned in the course so far, but I am not sure how to work them into this post. Perhaps it’s is enough to simply read them. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below. Liked this post? Share it and subscribe to my RSS feed and get loads more!
Author Bio: Avil Beckford, an expert interviewer, entrepreneur and published author is passionate about books and professional development, and that’s why she founded The Invisible Mentor and the Virtual Literary World Tour to give you your ideal mentors virtually in the palm of your hands by offering book reviews and book summaries, biographies of wise people and interviews of successful people.
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