I really wish I could have more time to write and post here, I really miss it. We all get these moments where you realize perspective and get those good ol’ ideas in place we really can’t say. Mine came to me tonight in the grocery store…who knew.
This year’s Autodesk University was one of the best I’ve ever attended. There were some really great classes that focused on more than just product features. Digital Delivery, AI, generative design and more were in the full spotlight. Reuniting with old friends and having that in-person experience without having to worry (not much anyway) about what was going on outside of the building made it more like a family reunion.
Getting back with my Expert Elite crew is awesome - this great group of people are who really contribute to the community, through forums and other engagements to help improve the product and the user experience. I'm honored to still be a part of this group, and hope to continue for many more years...but man, we have to get together more often.
I had way too much on my plate, and the pre-class jitters kept me out of some of the social events this year. I also had 8 new/returning speakers I was mentoring this year, that all had great topics and delivery. I wish I had been able to attend every class but had some of my own I had to attend. One of my colleagues, Daniel Breul, gave an outstanding session on Fractal Design for his first ever presentation, and blew it out of the park. Congrats to help for stepping up with a unique presentation!
And my partner in crime and Engineering Technology management, Nauman Mysorewala, was back again for two more great sessions on Dynamo, Grasshopper. He was also presenting with marvelous Rina Sahay for the Superb Guides to Easy Revit that keeps killing it over and over again. BOTH of them are making winning a top speaker slot a lot harder nowadays...but I couldn't be happier for him and Rina to be on the stage again.
This year I did two courses - Charging Ahead with Revit MEP Systems Engineering on Tuesday morning, that was a full house, and Becoming Digital Twin Enabled: An Operational Strategy that competed with the happy hour events late in the afternoon but still had a great turnout and group. There were several great takeaways I got from both sessions that bear sharing.
The Revit MEP Thing!
The Revit MEP course was the first I’ve had since I started teaching these in the 2007 event where the overwhelming majority of attendees were regular Revit users. We’re talking 75-80% of the class raised their hands…and I got a little worried about the content and whether it was advanced enough. But in the middle I realized we had 176 like minds, and it became more of a discussion about sharing ideas and tips to help make the regular tasks easier and more productive. I did have a couple of people disappointed that I could not share some specifics about some very cool development we had been working on, but let’s face it – spilling my candy in the lobby and giving away everything that gives us a competitive advantage…yea, I love you guys, but not like that…
And that’s OK. We gave away project templates, loaded with custom settings, families, a handout that goes for days and more. We stayed in the room waaayy too long but had a great meetup later in one of the meetup rooms that was a blast. Hopefully all of those takeaways from all we’ve learned will help out a bit.
The Council Reunites
After lunch, I had the opportunity to rejoin some colleagues on the Autodesk Water Executive Council I joined back in 2014 to help shape how Autodesk approaches that segment of the industry. Beyond humbling to have the chance to interact with some of the people I respect the most in the industry, it was great chance to discuss digital transformation and how we viewed. My response focused on how the evolution of our tools to help shape and create the 3D model/data centric designs resonated with a few of the members, and we shared the same idea that digital transformation is really more of digital evolution. Identifying it this way helps soften the edge of what we are trying to accomplish as an industry.
I had to look these up, and boy, Webster never disappoints:
trans·for·ma·tion ˌtran(t)s-fər-ˈmā-shən -fȯr-
- an act, process, or instance of transforming or being transformed
- false hair worn especially by a woman to replace or supplement natural hair
- the operation of changing (as by rotation or mapping) one configuration or expression into another in accordance with a mathematical rule
- especially : a change of variables or coordinates in which a function of new variables or coordinates is substituted for each original variable or coordinate
- the formula that effects a transformation
- an operation that converts (as by insertion, deletion, or permutation) one grammatical string (such as a sentence) into another
- formal statement of such an operation
- genetic modification of a bacterium by incorporation of free DNA from another bacterial cell
evo·lu·tion ˌe-və-ˈlü-shən ˌē-və-
A. descent with modification from preexisting species : cumulative inherited change in a population of organisms through time leading to the appearance of new forms : the process by which new species or populations of living things develop from preexisting forms through successive generations
- Evolution is a process of continuous branching and diversification from common trunks. This pattern of irreversible separation gives life's history its basic directionality. —Stephen Jay Gould
- also : the scientific theory explaining the appearance of new species and varieties through the action of various biological mechanisms (such as natural selection, genetic mutation or drift, and hybridization)
- Since 1950, developments in molecular biology have had a growing influence on the theory of evolution —Nature
- In Darwinian evolution, the basic mechanism is genetic mutation, followed by selection of the organisms most likely to survive —Pamela Weintraub
- the historical development of a biological group (such as a species) : PHYLOGENY
- a process of change in a certain direction : UNFOLDING
- the action or an instance of forming and giving something off : EMISSION
- a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state : GROWTH
- a process of gradual and relatively peaceful social, political, and economic advance
- something evolved
- the process of working out or developing
- the extraction of a mathematical root
- a process in which the whole universe is a progression of interrelated phenomena
- one of a set of prescribed movements
Getting back home and putting these thoughts out, and reading what these terms really mean, helped me clarify how I would explain the growth of a firm, industry and individual to meet these goals. Digital evolution is definitely a process of continuous change from a lower, simpler, or worse to a higher, more complex, or better state : GROWTH.
But to be successful it can’t be an ideology that is forced down people’s throats. Governments are notorious for taking this approach as we’ve let ourselves get separated by politics and the cultural differences between us. As an industry, we can support this evolution by taking a softer approach…which most of the definition describes. By helping our design teams, contractors and owners evolve into true model centric design in this manner will yield much greater acceptance and results.
You get this sense and feeling when you’re at AU – as you’re more with peers that competitors. More with friends that foes. More with the same positive energy that wipes out doubt and fear.
Becoming Enabled…and Overcoming the Challenges…
It was that same fear and objections that happen in the industry that led to my second session on Becoming Digital Twin Enabled. I had a feeling this one would strike some nerves, and boy, it did. I received two responses that were negative but fair, with the first comment reading partly like this:
“He had just presented from a design construction POV. I'm from turnover/operations/end of life. The owner/operator which he acted like they're stupid.”
Yep. That was definitely taken the wrong way but it was a valid point. It's hard for anyone to take criticism but it's definitely not an attempt to say whether someone or something is stupid. We all get stuck into the silo we live in so it's hard to see beyond those boundaries, whether it's the lack of support in a government agency to adopt new technology, or in a private sector firm where utilization and the bottom line blocks innovation. We did go to great lengths to point out the pitfalls and issues from the entire process. We gave all a hard time for staying with standards that were created in a vacuum to address one company, one municipality, one agency that in reality created far more issues than they resolved.
The session started by talking about how the sheet and CAD standards were actually inhibitors, and relegated users to dealing with tasks that had little real impact on the creation of a design. We talked about developing project information modeling standards, working on new platforms, and how to update and change our workflows to implement model centric designs.
This class was about addressing that Fear. The Pain. The Objections. Change. It terrifies people, especially ones that are closer to my age, as we’ve gotten comfortable with who we are and how we work, and become less likely to take constructive criticism. It pains us to have to generate the wherewithal and energy to learn, to improve our skills and get better at what we do. And one of the things that drives me crazy about our industry is we fail to engage and learn from the same older users that have been down the road many times, that we sometimes think it easier to “ignore” the elephant in the room that face it, engage it and embrace it.
And we talked about how to overcome it. We shared these pains, and had common ground. We took that look in the mirror and learned ways to fix both ourselves and our industry, that will help us reach this ultimate goal.
Digital evolution (not transformation) has always been present in my career, but what we are doing today is really more for the next generation than us. It’s about positioning the growth to help us create a better environment that we live, work and play in. It’s about working out the kinks in current tools and developing newer, faster and more efficient methods and tools. It’s about unfolding in a new direction and away from the things that are holding us back.
Digital evolution does require that we follow prescribed (and deliberate) movements towards a new goal, where the design is a true digital twin of the built environment. It’s a process of the whole universe we live in, that is a progression of interrelated phenomena (think about how much your mobile phone has changed society and lives).
I was told that I talked too much about myself in this class – another response that was fair enough. But to me, and what motivated me so much to keep pushing for this session for the last few years, helped me get it out of my system and in the open. This topic was as much about my individual journey, and the events that have occurred both professionally and personally since early 2020 that shaped what has happened, up to and continuing through today. Without context, the conversation lacks meaning. As we move forward, this response made me remember that I really want to hear your story…your experience…your fears and pain. Without knowing this, it become impossible for us to find that common ground we can relate to and build from.
And yet we all know this. We’ve been living it for 40 years along with Autodesk and others. As I sort through the cards, the notes, the photos, messages and media posts, I feel renewed…because I learned and was reminded again that we really all are in the same boat.
So how do we move forward from here? We play fifty two pick up (if you don’t know this card game, you really are young). We throw the deck up in the air, pick up a card and find that task or feature, and learn how it works. We share it with others. We challenge ourselves to adapt.
Digital evolution is really about…us. Are you in it?
Thanks again for playing along the last 19 years. And hopefully I’ll get to see you at least one more time…next year.