My main task for today is to develop trend reports and aggregate some benchmark data. We had a client contact us over the last few days with a specific information request. They requested some workplace planning metrics for their industry. This is a client with whom we have worked on multiple projects over the last several years – designing several new spaces in multiple locations and supporting their long-term workplace strategy. This client was preparing an internal presentation to leadership about their work in recent years and how their new spaces compare to others in the industry. For the last several months, I have been leading an effort with other members on our team to organize data from past projects in a searchable database to be able to quickly respond to requests like the one that just came in from this client. So I sat down with one of our analysts to identify comparable projects from our database and determine which ones most closely matched the scale and scope of this particular client. After identifying an appropriate number of comparable projects (to be referenced anonymously), we generated a trend report that we shared with our client. It was exactly the kind of information they needed for their presentation, and they were grateful for our quick turnaround.
Working with project data and telling stories about bigger trends in workplace design is especially interesting to me. Just as it’s important to work with clients on current projects, it’s critical to keep a long-term perspective on what you’re learning as a team and to share this knowledge through a number of channels. Unlike academic publishing where results are subject to the peer review process – often resulting in major time gaps between data collection and publication – we are always writing about trends as they are unfolding. We disseminate our learnings through our firm’s blog, through the press (either business news or industry sources), through industry conferences, and through papers.
Compared to my experience as a doctoral student, I would say that I get to write just as much material – if not more – about what I’m learning. And there is a strategic purpose for this. There is an interesting paper written by Julia Coylar in the journal Qualitative Inquiry, which argues that writing is an important research tool and an important part of the research process because it is a way through which we make sense of our data to understand what we are learning. This translates perfectly into the work that I do now. As a consultant working on multiple projects with short timelines, losing long-term perspective can happen if you’re not careful to make time to take a step back and reflect. Clients value the perspective that experience can bring, so it’s important to ensure that you’re continuously learning from your projects. Writing is a great exercise that helps put your experience in perspective.
There is so much knowledge embedded within my firm. I get to work with many experienced professionals who have done some amazing work with fascinating organizations – who themselves are doing exceptional things. Our firm’s mission is that “our work tells your story.” So over time, we have helped tell many interesting stories through design.
Toward the end of the day, I have a meeting with an internal committee in which I am involved. We are working on our firm’s upcoming annual review to be published early next year. This is another great opportunity to take a step back as a team and reflect on what’s been happening over the last year and what we are learning through our work with clients. Again, I have been working with my team at organizing a lot of internal data and benchmarks, so today we’re discussing some of the big themes that we feel will shape our firm’s story for the year.