Return to site home page


Editorial: Opportunity Knocking

By Robert Nieminen

Robert Nieminen,

In our last issue, I mused about the subject of unity in the interior design profession (or lack thereof), and I'm not sure if it's just coincidence or if people have been paying attention, but in both ASID's and IIDA's association forum articles (see pages 94 and 97), the matter of conducting business in this difficult economy is addressed.

I did not suggest in any way that they tackle this subject; so when both presidents of the most prominent interior design associations address the very same idea—that business is anything but "usual" and that it's time to get on with the new norm—it suggests that an opportunity is knocking on the door of this industry.

"One must stop clinging to outdated business models that no longer serve clients well nor provide the firm with an appropriate return on the investment of staff, time and money. Take the opportunity during this down time to fix what isn't working," writes ASID president Michael Thomas. He goes on to say that design firms must be in the best position possible to capture the prospects that will come when the economy swings up again. "It is time to get back to the business of design. … This is the time to plan, plot and scheme—not to sit by and wait," he adds.

Similarly, IIDA president Viveca Bissonnette suggests that there is no "business as usual" in this economy and that when mistakes are made or a project isn't going as planned, "it feels like everyone wants to review where the wheels came off and analyze what should have been anticipated. We want to point fingers to assign blame and then draft a business plan or white paper about how to not 'do that' again." Instead, she reminds us that "within every failure, there's a bright spot. Find it. … Even in failure, there is success." The key, she says, is exploring and duplicating success, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

The commonality in their messages is clear, and despite the fact that economic forecasters indicate this economy may not fully recover until late 2011 or early 2012, both Thomas and Bissonnette are right—clinging to the past in hopes that things will return to normal as you remember it is counterproductive and perhaps even damaging to your career and business. Now is the time to shed ineffective ways of thinking, as Interface founder and chairman Ray Anderson so aptly puts it in his article, "Every Reason for Hope," in our Green Guide to Greenbuild special section (see p. 58). While Anderson's focus is on the environment rather than the economy, the paradigm shift he is calling for may very well be the answer to our financial crisis if we can change the current industrial model under which we work.

"I am convinced that having a sustainable society for the indefinite future—whether that means seven generations or a thousand or more—depends totally and absolutely on the vast, ethically driven redesign of the industrial system about which I have written, triggered by an equally vast mind-shift," he writes. The challenge, Anderson says, is that this shift must happen "one mind at a time, one organization at a time, one technology at a time, one building, one company, one university curriculum, one community, one region, one industry … one product at a time, until we look around one day and see that there is a new norm at work, and that the entire system has been transformed."

What that means to Anderson is to abandon the "old, flawed view of reality" that assumes the status quo must be satisfied; that the only way to succeed is to jump on the next big thing. Instead, he looked inward and found hundreds of millions of dollars by eliminating the concept of waste at Interface. "We found new products, new processes, new markets, new sources of profit in a changed mind-set," he writes. "So I think it's quite conservative to say that, on a national scale, many billions of dollars are waiting to be found by someone. Perhaps you are that someone, and unless you lead the charge to pick them up, perhaps no one will."

Opportunity is knocking. Is your door open, or will it remain closed?