The world has changed. Further change is unfolding rapidly. Today’s practice leaders are developing fundamental yet agile viewpoints to achieve success in new ways. Designers and architects who can communicate value and who can help clients envision preferred outcomes and scenarios will have significantly higher success rates in the future.

The designer’s most powerful tools are communication skills. Each day, dozens of opportunities to negotiate for positive actions present themselves. The English language and a drawing pencil can be used throughout the day to make points, illustrate options, and convey or comprehend ideas graphically.

Just as photographers craft compelling images by strategically framing each scene with their lens, effective architects and designers must help others see what they see. This means that in day-to-day conversations and presentations designers can stay alert for opportunities to help others see what they envision. This requires refined listening skills, of course, but also exceptional vocabulary skills and the energy and enthusiasm to negotiate a better future.

Your vision cannot be achieved without good negotiating skills. While some in the profession maintain limiting beliefs about this subject, I find that truly successful designers can explain the whys and wherefores of client decisions, get necessary commitments, and reframe the negative views of those who resist change. Designing the future requires influence, and influence requires negotiation. The future we desire will not be achieved unless we negotiate our way around obstacles and dilemmas that prevent growth and healthy communities.

In your toolbox there should be a working knowledge of five methods for imagining and reframing the future. Each will help to establish a rapport which, in turn, makes negotiation more successful.

  1. Futures Invention: Creates a coherent picture, a vision of a preferred future.

  2. Delphi Method: Asks questions to a panel or group and then summarizes and recounts the responses. Repeat the process of questioning and feedback until the responses stabilize around a common idea(s) about how the future can positively unfold.

  3. Scenarios: Consider possible and alternative futures which identify major driving forces of change and reflect critical uncertainties.

  4. Environmental scanning: Collecting data from a variety of sources on issues and trends that can then be used to inform and support decision making.

  5. Action planning and back-casting: Provides for a system of agreement on action goals and provides for an advance “history” of how that future was created, which is then incorporated into the project plan.

Architects and designers can think clearly in a time of change. You can be the catalyst for both insight and foresight in a time when clients are struggling to make sense of decay, chaos, and uncertainty. Your techniques can reframe daily business decision-making. Taken together, a better tomorrow is possible and can unfold with your stewardship and your negotiating skills in professional practice.