A great deal of column inches are devoted to the subject of innovation and its evil twin, disruption.
We’ve become enamoured with news about how companies like Tesla and Netflix are disrupting their sectors, making developments in the architecture profession seem rather timeworn and slow.
But creating the next big thing is not the only innovation that matters.
There are two other types of innovation that are arguably more important for architecture’s long-term future.
The first is making changes to existing products and services - often referred to as 'incremental innovation' although I don't think applying labels is particularly useful.
Architects are reluctant disrupters but applying disruptive thinking to the practice business model is on the rise. As a result of practices having to use new technologies to work remotely during covid, many of them are rethinking their business models.
The second type of innovation is about getting into new markets or sectors that architects don’t traditionally work in.
The opportunity to do this comes about when a particular sector has a problem because the world around them is changing - the impact of e-commerce on retail is an obvious example as is office design, which had to adapt to accommodate new kinds of technology. But rather than architecture or a building being the solution, the innovation is thinking how the building or space could be used in different way.
Another is property development - something we've been advocating on Developer Collective. This is not for the faint-hearted, but it forces the architect developer to rethink how to create and capture value where others often can't, for example on small sites.
Anything that breaks the mould a bit is worth doing.
And for practices prepared to invest some time and research into tackling some of today's big knotty issues - how and if electric vehicles will reshape cities comes to mind - the payback is huge. In a crowded market it helps a practice differentiate itself and grow. This is particularly important when times are uncertain.
But innovation is not a tap that can be turned on and off - it needs to be 'on' all the time which means nurturing a culture that supports asking how things can be done differently and how to create a vision for the future based on the one thing that you are really good at, that nobody else can do.
The risk is if, you don't innovate, another practice will and you'll have to scramble to keep up.
Aside from being good for business, innovation is also about improving the world for everyone which is what architecture should be about too.
The Innovation Award is now open for entries and is part of this year’s Archiboo Awards.