DTS 2018!

Greetings! As we near the opening of registration for DTS 2018, I’m happy to announce that we will be releasing our position statements as an outcome of DTS 2017. It’s taken a bit longer than we had hoped to get there, but the statements have helped to form the basis of how we will be running DTS 2018.


The document we will be making public is intended to be a starting point for further development and comes from last year’s extensive list of, topics, ideas, areas of concerns, challenges and opportunities, which left the committee with our own challenge of “what do we do with this”, “how do we make it presentable or useful”. In the end we decided the best thing to do was to attempt to aggregate the details into several general ideas or themes. The five high-level topics we developed are:


  • Adoption of Model Based Workflows
  • Knowledge Capture, Management & Dissemination
  • Improving the Quality of Life of Our Staff, End Users, Designers
  • Lightweight Interfaces
  • Application Behavior & Performance


In attempting to decide what our topics for 2018 would be, we realized that we had a readymade list to pick from! DTS 2018’s primary areas of discussion will be the first three topics and we plan to use the more detailed list of sub-topics as a means to moderate and lead the discussion. We believe the last two topics are better suited to be addressed more directly by the software and technology industry with input from DTS and other groups. To that end we also welcome technology vendors and technology consultancies who think they might have something to say on any of the topics to register their interest in participating in DTS.


Please look for the official release of our full position statement document on our Design Technology Leaders website later this week (monitor the hashtag #RTCDTS).


We hope that you will strongly consider joining us in 2018 to continue the conversation and help us further refine our ideas to be shared with the community at large. Registration is scheduled to open next week, and in the meantime you can email us to register your interest in the event.

Keep those Pencils Sharp!

Why do we continue to look for innovative technology?  The search is a daunting, never-ending battle.  In my (not so sound) opinion, Design Technology is like a lead pencil.  You use it and use it and it dulls.  You need to constantly sharpen it.  Why do you sharpen it?  Because a pencil is an integral part of describing our design ideas. Only with a sharp pencil can our ideas be crisp and clear.  Who sharpens it?  Pencil Sharpeners, of course.  We, the Design Technology Leaders, are the Pencil Sharpeners.  How do we sharpen pencils?  By constantly looking out for newer, better, and sharper technology. 

This metaphor was once the actual method for taking a design from our minds to reality.  We have come a long way in a relatively short amount of time.  Here are some sharpening blades 

we have adapted from other industries. 

  • CAD/CAM – Where it all started.  The Manufacturing Industry in the late 50’s. 
  • Parametrics/Collaboration – The Transportation Industry 
  • Simulation – Our friends at NASA 
  • Virtual Reality – The Gaming Industry 
  • Internet/GPS – The Defense Industry 
  • Handheld Mobile Devices – The Telecommunications Industry 
  • Augmented Reality – The Entertainment / Multimedia Industry 

All of us have sharpened our pencils with each blade in the list above.  However, we need to be more proactive in our search for Pencil Sharpeners from other industries.  We have collected our box of pencils and now we must focus on the finer points.  This year’s DTS will be a step in that direction. 

During last year’s DTS, we began to discuss several sharpening tools.  This year’s DTS will continue that discussion with a sharper focus on several distilled topics.  Check out Robert Manna’s blog post here to find out more. 

I am so looking forward to sharpening my skills at the next DTS in St. Louis.  I hope to see you there! 

Selling it

Introducing an innovation in one’s firm is a little bit like the role of a salesperson(vendor/Rep/etc.) I would argue a very important role if you intend to be successful. Innovations seldomly sell themselves. There’s always someone in the line of approvals who doesn’t see the value. In a past life I was a salesman for a short period.

In the mid-90’s I was an account executive at a routing logistics software company, and I was responsible for the Northeast USA. I made “sales calls” and introduced value justifications for purchasing the innovative system of ours to trucking and delivery companies. The technology was so new that few people had even heard of computer routing, let alone had a computer doing anything for them in this regard. I wasn’t very good at selling the system but I learned a lot about sales and the drivers that lead to them. Now that the tables are turned, and I am typically on the purchasing side of things, I feel I have some very useful insight to help negotiate and get the best deals for my firm. On the other hand I am also in “sales” to some degree. I’m selling the partners on why we should spend gobs of money on something that they’ve never hear of or understand fully. I do this because I take ownership of the technological path of the company and see the “big picture” as it were.

Techniques with which to introduce and “sell” within our firms might be a good topic of discussion. DTS is a week away and we’ll be discussing Innovation and aspects surrounding it, among other things.  Bring your own questions, challenges, ideas, and conundrums!

Innovate or Die

It’s a statement that gets thrown around every once in-awhile and was perhaps more in vogue historically than in current memory. Interestingly enough it comes from the title of a book “Innovate or Die : A Personal Perspective on the Art of Innovation” by Dr. Jack Matson; almost ten years earlier there was another book “Grow or Die” by George Land. Was the second influenced by the first; perhaps Land was a C-level business consultant putting forward a hypothesis around the nature of all things, organic, humanity, commerce being linked intrinsically around basic rules related to growth. You either grow, or die. Whereas Matson’s thesis was fail quickly and fail often as a means to be successful. Most interesting, Matson is an engineer by training, how many engineers do you know that go around preaching to their employees “we should fail on figuring out how to make this building stand-up”.

I’m being a bit facetious of course, arguably we fail every day as part of the process of designing a building or at least architects do, and I think the most successful engineers take a similar iterative approach. It’s far better for us to fail “on paper” than in the real world and undoubtedly Matson knew that when he wrote his book. We even try our hardest to fail in the real world before full construction by way of mock-ups, physical and now more and more virtual, with virtual reality gear and everything.

Obviously (if you’ve been reading any of our blog posts) you know by now that DTS’ theme this year is innovation and I think we’ve put together some really great topics to anchor our discussions (see our site for a full agenda). If we are by our nature innovative in our profession, that is attempting to fail until we find the right solution, what does that mean to us, to technology? Are we guaranteed to evolve? Are there consequences if we do not? Are there consequences for not being broadly innovative, so for example being “innovative” in how a project is designed, but failing to be innovative about the process that results in the design. Must you have both to be successful long term or can the innovation only happen in the results of practice and not the practice itself?

Practice itself is an interesting term unto itself, we “practice architecture” (or engineering, or law, or medicine) does the etymology itself imply Matson’s title? If we are always practicing, then do we ever compete, do we ever finish the race and what does that imply or mean in the context of innovation?

Are you scratching your head yet? If you are, then you belong with us at DTS in Toronto! We have a few spots left and we’d love to fill them. Please consider applying to attend through our registration process, if you’re keen to think hard and talk about what all this means and more then you belong with our group!

Can You Be an Innovative Expert?

If you’re too fluent in a particular process, method, culture, or piece of software, can you really break out of it and innovate?

Eddie Van Halen didn’t think so.  He didn’t take guitar lessons growing up.  He experimented on his own and came up with his own signature sound through discovery.  Had he taken lessons, he once recounted, it would have limited his thinking.

Jack White doesn’t think so.  He deliberately chooses guitars that are a challenge to play, so he can’t get too comfortable with them.  When I used to play saxophone, I would put the hardest reed I could find on the horn, which makes controlling the sound difficult.  Why?  I liked to always be up for a challenge.

This Atlantic article I recently read describes some pretty serous shade being thrown at Apple when the iPhone was first introduced.  Notably, the head of RIM (now Blackberry) said it would never represent a “sort of sea change for BlackBerry”.

Do you think the CEO of the company that makes Blackberries might be a little biased?  I do.   How could he not?  RIM was on top of the world in 2007.  Times were good.  They had disrupted the phone industry by making a bulletproof device that had a dedicated fan base.  How does that saying go?  “If it ain’t broke…”

How frequently do you hear from other leaders in your firm that an innovative idea would never work?  Do you sometimes find it challenging to make progress?  Perhaps you yourself have found that you’ve been overly critical of an idea, and dismissed it a little too prematurely?  If so, you’re in good company.

Research into how the National Institutes of Health awards its research funding unearthed hostility toward new ideas, and a 2010 UPenn study concluded that people can dismiss new ideas because they introduce uncertainty.  In evaluating the new ideas, we have to think about them, which makes us uncomfortable.  In fact, we tend toward dismissiveness even when creativity is a stated goal!

How can we as innovators avoid these sort of biases – both in ourselves, and in our organizations?  What strategies do you use to break yourself away from our apprehensions?  Please come and share your thoughts at DTS!  We look forward to a great conversation!

Apply to attend DTS (you’ll receive a multi-event discount if you’re also attending BILT).  We’ll review the application and contact you about attendance.  Don’t wait until the last minute though, we only have a few spots left and we may reach capacity soon!