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William L. Shannon, Editor

William L. Shannon, Editor of CISCA

The AIA Lunch & Learn Conundrum

for the August 2008 Issue, CISCA's Interior Construction Magazine

AIA Approved "Lunch & Learns". What a great idea, an opportunity to meet with real architectural decision makers and discuss what's new and exciting with your manufacturing company. The opportunity for those architectural decision makers to gain information valuable to their practice. If you think that's how it actually works, think again!

Imagine, in a world full of competition, high costs and potentially slow construction markets, Manufacturers are expected to:

  • Become familiar with the intricacies of The AIA Approved "Lunch & Learn" Program.
  • Create an intricate Power Point Presentation in a GENERIC FORMAT about materials or systems similar and / or equal to their company products. Generic!
  • Train Company employed sales force and / or Independent Manufacturers' Representatives in giving these presentations, all of which must be carefully documented and approved to adhere to The AIA Paper Trail.
  • Pay for the personnel time and travel, food, beverages, and equipment required to complete the presentations.
  • Provide all required AIA Paperwork requiring time and effort by not only the sales force but company office personnel.

All in an effort to have "face time" with the important decision makers in The Architectural Firm and hopefully have the opportunity to work on their current or upcoming projects. Insuring that AIA Decision Makers are current in pertinent industry means and practices.

Well, there are more than a few problems with the entire concept as an effective tool for the manufacturer and the AIA!

Let's start with a few "common sense" Questions:

  • Is it reasonable to expect a leading manufacturer, one of the creative companies, offering unique, exciting and industry changing products or systems to be the educational resource for an entire segment of the construction product industry, including all of their competition?
  • Is it reasonable to expect a company to offer an open invitation, to any interested individual in the architectural firm to attend the lunch and learn, with some actually entering late, taking lunch and leaving early?
  • Is it reasonable to have absolutely no expectations of the architectural firm participating in the lunch and learn? Not even a list of projects currently in design with the project architects name?
  • Is it worthwhile for the architectural firm to be limited to generic information, while much exciting and useful proprietary information is what differentiate the particular manufacturers' from the competition? Not simply ten minutes at the end of the presentation.

It is understandable that The AIA is concerned with the continuing education of its members. A very important and laudable goal. It is time, however, to re-think the lunch and learn concept, to address the needs of both the architect and the manufacturers who work with designers to create the products and systems important in fulfilling the architects vision.

It would be very beneficial for manufacturers and architects to revisit the parameters of this program. Develop new ground rules that will be beneficial to all involved in the process. A good starting point would include but not limited to

  • Encourage lunch and learns to be based upon the manufacturers current products and products currently in development. Include general industry information highlighting the similarities and differences between various products and systems.
  • Respect the company providing the lunch and learn and the audience. Senior decision makers should recognize the value of the presentation, and attend. Those presenting should be aware that they have an important audience and be certain the lunch and learn is worthwhile, informative and interesting. The purpose of the entire program, developed by The AIA, is to educate AIA Members.
  • The architectural firm should be expected to provide full contact information for all in attendance with the understanding that they will be contacted for a brief follow-up. The Manufacturer should avoid overwhelming those in attendance with literature and samples.

Our industry is really a team effort. Exceptional design and execution of the design requires successful collaboration between all team members:

  • The Architect
  • The Manufacturer
  • The Contractor
  • The distributor
  • The Independent Manufacturers' Representative

We are all part of the team! It is obvious when one enters a building that included the "Team Effort" Those are the buildings with exciting design, new and innovative products and systems, and a vision that is obvious but difficult to describe.

Let's continue with The Lunch and Learns, but, let's change the rules to assure that all involved capture the benefits envisioned by those who developed the program!

William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award

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