From the President's Desk, Relevance|

Big. Diverse. In Flux. These words come to mind as I begin 2016 as President of the AIA, California Council. Fortunate to have been preceded by a long line of outstanding leadership, I’m also keenly aware of the many challenges we face as the largest AIA component in the world. At the national level, the AIA has been moving forward on various fronts with “Repositioning” over the last four years, as a means to begin correcting the many disconnects that have become increasingly clear as our profession looks to the future. Across the component landscape, I have found that there is both an impatience with the pace of change; and at the same time trepidation at what the changes will really mean in nut and bolt terms.

At the AIACC, we are acutely aware of the gaps, disconnects, and need to realign for a prosperous future for our beloved profession: the pipeline for future architect leaders; diversity that spans gender, firm size, practice type, and even terminology; our varied prosperity in the new normal that is the aftermath of the recent recession; and more.


With enough leadership experience, impatient people—like me—come to realize that most dramatic change doesn’t, in fact, arise from dramatic events. Lasting and powerful change almost always happens in a much quieter, more nuanced manner.

Nudges—small steps, that together, over time, result in progress forward. Even the biggest movement imaginable—life itself bubbling up from water, dirt and sunlight—resulted from nudges.

But there is a key element required for nudges to work their magic. Movements, by themselves, don’t make progress. Science tells us that all particles in fact are in constant, frantic movement—they call it Brownian Motion—but from our human perspective this frantic continuous movement doesn’t amount to anything.

For lasting progress to arise from nudges, there needs to be a direction associated with movement. To make the magic of nudges work for the AIA, we have to have the movements we make through our many programs and efforts also be directional: heading, by and large, towards realization of our newly adopted strategic objectives:

Knowledge (the resources we need to shape great places).

Advocacy and Collaboration (influence the environment that supports our creation of great places)

The Future (creating the sustainable patterns that allow us to continue our work)

To connect our Strategic Plan with Progress, the “nudge theory” looks like this:

  1. Develop a Strategic plan: articulate a vision for the future.
  2. Develop Tactical concepts intended to help us realize that vision.
  3. Implement a set of tactics.
  4. Measure the outcome: are the tactics achieving the intended result?
  5. Adjust/prune/expand as appropriate.

It’s the measurement of outcome that I’d like to draw your attention to, ultimately resulting in a simple graphic dashboard that we can all use to help us harness the magic of nudges. I hope to enlist your support in this effort by learning how you already measure progress, and by gathering the best ideas to put into an AIACC dashboard that will give us a read-out: how are we doing?

Of course, there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of other areas, issues, and opportunities that will come up during 2016. I plan to be there, with you, ready to move forward on behalf of all our members toward a more efficient and effective means of realizing our shared visions and goals. In the meantime, thank you for entrusting me with this great responsibility and thanks in advance for all that you personally are doing—and will do—to make this journey we share possible!

Michael Malinowski, AIA
Michael Malinowski, AIA

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