Anything we do in our day to day lives has a context. Although it is almost trite to say it, what we do has to be done somewhere, where we do it will have an environment, there is always an economic context and almost inevitably we will interact with people. As with life, so too with all our projects, they sit somewhere, there is an environmental setting, they emerge from an economy and serve a community.
At one extreme in our historic settings, there is a plethora of information that describes these special settings, in the form of maps, documentation, anecdote and recorded experience. The background material can be an immensely rich source of information. Here the challenge is how to manage that information and not be overwhelmed by it. Critical is the advantage understanding gives you, it should not be seen as an obstacle but as a launch pad for creative interaction with that legacy setting.
Most settings however are less well appreciated and documented. Whilst the natural inclination is to focus on the job at hand, to operate in isolation, it is important to look beyond the specific demands of the project, to backfill that absent context knowledge. Understanding how an environment has evolved irrespective of our intuitive feelings about it, ensures we do not unknowingly simply continue marginal change. By taking the time to assess the evolution of any setting we have the best chance of realigning the direction of travel of a place.
Whether rich in information or seemingly light in content we need to apply ourselves with equal intensity to make each place or opportunity as good as it can be. Parachuting in solutions has a hit and miss chance of success, better is the search for genuine rooting of ideas in the evolution of each setting and then their exploitation to optimise that potential. Our mantra – do your background homework whatever the project.