When I was in London recently I had the great good fortune
to have breakfast with Eric Kuhne of CivicArts.com.
Eric is an architect originally from San Antonio
relocated to London
for the last couple of decades. His firm has done fabulous projects including
the new Titanic Museum
in Belfast, Darling
Park in Sydney,
in Toronto, Mohammed
Gardens in Dubai and many others.
is Eric’s secret? It’s two things really– 1. his business model and 2. he’s a
genius. The latter I can’t help you with but the former, well that’s different.
of all, Eric says his firm is not an architecture one; rather, it is a design
research firm. He drew for me (on a napkin) what this means. I reproduce it for
says most firms spend nearly all their time imitating the work of others or
adapting it. His model called from its earliest days for more emphasis on
invention and innovation based on market research so they could push World Best
Practices to a whole other level. He drew that for me as well–
it all boils down to is that for a small additional investment (C2 – C1) in
innovative design and development, you can get an amazing increase in value (V2
– V1) and secularly push its asymptote to a whole new level through market
research and invention.
my experience, creating differentiated value (DV) is essential, otherwise your
career and opportunities will be highly circumscribed and you can be outsourced
in a flash. Eric certainly knows how to do this.
says things like, “Leisure is the new infrastructure.” He’s like Marshall
McLuhan. You have to listen to every word he says and parse each one.
he means by this is that when cities, towns and villages in the past wanted to
spur economic development, they invested in infrastructure. Things like roads,
water mains, sewers, bridges and later telecom, cellular towers and wi-fi.
Eric observes, they are better off investing in leisure, art, design,
entertainment, event, museum, learning and meeting space. He notes that every
visitor to Ottawa,
say, will spend $100 per person per day. In a place like Miami, it’s $249. Try to get that type of
knock-on spending via a one-time investment in a sewer pipe. Most projects Eric
works on, even the most prosaic office building, will include some type of
‘leisure’ space and activity.
I was in Crete recently, I saw hundreds of
street vendors pushing products that were indescribably barren of all interest.
Each of them had exactly the same dull stuff.
I was waiting for my wife and friends to finish their guided tour of the Palace of Knossos, I watched one of them. He sat
on the sidewalk with a 15 inch square piece of plywood in his lap. He would
from time take one of his three miserable (plastic) splat balls and throw it
down on his board to demo it for any passersby. They splat and then through
some kind of modern alchemy, they miraculously retake their former round shape
(after first flattening out). He made zero sales in the 45 minutes I was there.
No Turning this Frog Into a Prince
I thought, how would I change his (and 100s like his) biz model?
I suppose he could offer to apply an image of your boss [or your ex-boyfriend
or ex-girlfriend] to a splat ball. Now that would be a lot more fun! Splatting
your boss or ex, hmm. Winner!
would certainly add some DV.
I think I would go for more value added. Here he is in front of Knossos, one of the most
famous properties of antiquity, the one where they (falsely) reported the
Minotaur’s assault on seven young boys and girls every year. Surely, there must
be something better to do?
bought (not there but in Hania), three necklaces each of them with the Disc of
Phaistos. (Phaistos is another palace but for a Prince or Noble not the King.
The King was at Knossos.
I actually liked both the location and design of Phaistos a lot more than Knossos so I included Phaistos, not Knossos, in Book 2 of my Quantum Entity
Disc of Phaistos
Disc of Phaistos has 45 symbols on two sides and the meaning of the disc has
never been deciphered. So if I was sitting outside one of the palaces through
which hundreds of thousands of tourists pass each year (all of them with Euros,
a currency I actually like a lot despite its recent troubles), I would be more
inclined to have trinkets that relate to the great history of Crete and Greece. I would
know everything about each of the products I sell and would mix in lots of
Minoan, Venetian, Turkish and Cretan history and lore. So I would teach
tourists stuff and then sell them trash and trinkets.
would move up the value chain just like Eric did in the profession of
architecture. I’ll bet I would outsell the guy with splat balls too.
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