Researching

My research is on the collaborative advantage of architecture teams. I also research on architectural services, entrepreneurship and makerspaces.

Collaborative Advantage

This research examines the roles of team learning and reflective practice in architecture teams. I designed and completed three research studies using case study, survey, interviews, and workshops to investigate how team-oriented strategies improve the performance of architecture teams.

Collaborative cultures of architecture teams: Team learning and reflective practice

Tan, L., 2021, The Design Journal
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This project explores learning and reflection practices in architecture teams. When architects use reflection-on-action, they learn from experience. When they use reflection-in-action, they learn from experiencing. Such reflective practices help architects build project knowledge and deliver their project. But most architects work in teams, alongside individuals with different ways of learning and knowledge perspectives. This begs the question; how does learning and reflective practices affect architecture teams? This project addresses this question by 1) using reflective practice, team learning and design collaboration literature to frame how architects learn as a team, 2) exploring how team learning influence the competitive performance of architecture teams, 3) measuring how team learning affects architecture team performance, and 4) experimenting a reflective workshop to help architects improve their team learning skills and thus, team performance. The article concludes by discussing its theoretical contributions and practical implication in their field of architecture and design.

Behaviours in design collaborations: Insights from a team learning perspective

Tan, L., 2020, In Proceedings of the Design Research Society 2020 Conference: Synergy, Vol 3, pp1045 – 1061
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This paper proposes that designers can improve their collaboration effectiveness by foster team learning behaviours. Most of the design collaboration literature is on how to effectively transmit information between members. Team learning literature, however, covers how to effectively transmit, understand, refine and retransmit information between members. Despite the extant literature on design collaboration, there has been little to no research that examines the model and effects of team learning behaviours on delivering collaborative designs. This paper provides a literature overview of design collaboration, which has predominantly studied design activities through a social lens. It then provides the growing body of team learning literature from organisational science, which focuses on the learning processes of teams collaborating on a project. The paper then synthesises both strands of research, before proposing that team learning behaviours are more explicit in indicating effective design collaborations than our existing research on communicating practices.

Team learning behaviours of architecture teams: An intervention study

Tan, L., 2020, Presentation for Building Bridges Conference, Melbourne, Australia.
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A popular stance in architecture research and practice is that effective collaboration often leads to a successful design outcome. Architects work with a range of consultants to produce and build a design. These consultants, such as urban planners, builders and structural engineers, bring crucial and different disciplinary knowledge to the design. Hence, collaboration is widely researched in the architecture and design literature. Arguably, this research has focused predominantly on communication behaviour. Team learning behaviour, which is a characteristic of effective collaboration, has been unexplored to date in the architecture and design literature. This research uses an intervention study to trial an online workshop aimed at improving team performance. First, Savelsbergh’s (2009) validated questionnaire is used to establish a baseline measurement of the team’s learning behaviour prior to the intervention. Next, the reflective workshop is run with a team of practicing architects. Finally, after three months, the questionnaire is used again to identify any changes in measurement from the initial questionnaire. The before-and-after comparison serves quantitative evidence to support the effectiveness of the intervention. The paper concludes by suggesting individual actions and team activities that architects can use in practice to foster team learning behaviours, which ultimately, improves their team performance.

Knowledge strategies for architects

Tan, L., 2020, Presentation at Design Research Society 2020 Conference: Synergy, Brisbane, Australia.
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Architects create knowledge when they explore and solve complex problems during their design process. This is partly attributed to reflection-in-action and -on-action concepts based on the Reflective Practice theory (Schön, 1983). Whether it is drawn from architectural training, cultural experiences or even personal perspectives, there is no doubt that the skilful creation and configuration of knowledge impacts the architects’ designs, work performance and project success. Even when an architect is highly knowledgeable, the inability to share and align their knowledge processes can result in conflicts with their team. Such conflicts affect team dynamics and performances negatively and ultimately, may become detrimental to the project. This is attributed to the concepts of Team Learning drawn from the Organisational Learning literature.

Reconsidering design reflections as an act of tacit knowledge production

2019, Presentation for Building Bridges Conference, Melborne, Australia.

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This research arose from an existing problem in design practice concerning how design activities are acknowledged as knowledge creation activities by design clients. In other words, clients do not realise designing also involves research, reflecting, learning and creating new knowledge. This research investigates how knowledge management theory can build a framework that captures and communicate design reflections as knowledge in the architecture discipline. The research offers architects a framework to capture their reflections from the design process as knowledge and communicate this knowledge to their clients. Additionally, this framework offers architecture practices a method to capture and retain knowledge from their employees before they exit the firm. The research is built on a foundation of Polanyi’s notion of tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1966) and reexamines the concept of the Reflective Practitioner (Schon, 1983) with the Socialise, Externalise, Combine & Internalise Model, commonly referred as the SECI model (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka, 2000). Schon elaborates on how reflections are used by designers to self-teach and self-learn design. However, the mechanisms remain abstract and the knowledge learnt from reflection are often non-transferable between designers. When these reflections are considered an act of tacit knowledge production, Nonaka’s SECI model becomes a potential framework that captures reflections as knowledge. Simply put, a model seeks to capture personal reflections as explicit and comprehensible information for others to learn from.

Business strategies for architects

2020, Lecture for Master of Architecture, Professional Practice Management

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What is a business strategy? How do you use it? When is it time to change it? And how do you know if it is working? Many architects work without a business plan, and many more without a business strategy. But without a strategy, how do you know where the business is going? In this session, we will learn about devising a business strategy for architecture practice, by drawing on frameworks by Johnson & Scholes, Boston Consulting Group, and Kaplan & Norton.

Design knowledge as a competitive strategy for architects

2018, Presentation at Building Bridges Conference, Melbourne, Australia

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Architecture firms operate as both design and professional service firm. This dichotomy of creative and commercial goals often led the architect to pursue either design excellence or business profitability. Though existing research shows how architecture firms position themselves along this spectrum, there has been few research that investigates the feasibility of pursuing both goals. This research investigates how resource-advantage theory can serve to build a framework to capture design knowledge as a business competitive advantage in the architecture discipline. This research has arisen from a current industrial problem concerning how, and the extent to which, different design approaches, used by different architects within a firm, contribute to the uniqueness and help establish a competitive advantage for their practice. The research is built on a foundation of Barney’s “Firm Resources and Sustained Competitive Advantage” (1991) and challenges the most commonly used analytical and normative framework for architectural business, Coxe’s “SuperPositioning Matrix” (1987). Since SuperPositioning relies on a typological positioning approach, an alternative business framework is needed to address the knowledge-intensive activities in an architecture firm. By examining the architecture practice as a knowledge-intensive firm under the resource-advantage theory, knowledge produced and experience accumulated are intangible and heterogeneous resources. These resources enable the practice to build unique business strategies that exploits their differences.

Tacit knowledge as a strategic asset

Tan, L., 2019, Presentation at Swinburne Research Day, Melbourne, Australia.

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This research addresses the existing and long-lasting problem in industry concerning how, and the extent to which, the unique design approaches of architects are used to establish competitive advantages for architecture firms. The purpose is to highlight the value of tacit knowledge in architectural design and underline the significant contribution it has for establishing a competitive edge in architecture practices. The focus is to (1) reveal how architects create, apply and share their tacit knowledge dormant in their design proposals and (2) describe how tacit knowledge and the strategies to manage it influences the competitive edge of architecture firms. It uses a case study to analyse how architects use their tacit knowledge to procure projects and a survey to describe how practicing architects in Victoria manage and use tacit knowledge in their practices. The findings are used to build a practical framework for architects to capitalise on their tacit knowledge in their practices. Such a framework does not exist in the design or knowledge management literature. How does the tacit knowledge of architects percolate through their practice of design and ultimately, permeate the competitive strategies used in their design practices? Firstly, a case study is used to explore the phenomenology of project procurement in the context of a professional architecture design competition. It analyses how the architects’ tacit knowledge found in their design proposal is shared by the architects and acquired by the jury. Secondly, a survey is used to describe architects’ use of tacit knowledge management strategies in their design practice. It analyses how practicing architects in Victoria detect, organise, reuse and share their tacit knowledge with colleagues and with clients.

Research project management plan

2017, Presentation at Research Project Management, Melbourne, Australia.

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Description coming soon.

Revisioning architectural services

This research aims to explore alternative processes architecture practices can adopt to out-perform their competitors.

The paradox of delivering professional design services: The plurality of value

Tan, L., 2020, In Y. Akama, L. Fennessy, S. Harrington & A. Farrago (Eds.), ServDes.2020: Tensions, Paradoxes, Plurality, pp355 – 368. Melbourne, Australia: Linköping University Electronic Press
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Do professional design services offer a service or design a product? A traditional definition rooted in the service economy might point to the former, but the theory of Service-Dominant Logic from marketing might suggest the latter. While this may appear purely as a semantic difference, it has severe implications on 1) how designers articulate the value of their services, and 2) how clients perceive the value of a designer’s service. This paper provides four industry examples to show how professional design services may change how they deliver a service to address the evolving expectations of a design service. It ends by offering two ways service designers can help professional design services innovate how they render services to their clients.

Service delivery of architectural design services: An experience-centric analysis

Tan, L., 2020, In Y. Akama, L. Fennessy, S. Harrington & A. Farrago (Eds.), ServDes.2020: Tensions, Paradoxes, Plurality, pp594 – 595. Melbourne, Australia: Linköping University Electronic Press
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How architects provide their design service to clients have predominantly remained unchanged since the professionalisation of the architecture practice. Paradoxically, what the architects provide in each of these services are customised to each client. Since the architect’s unique designs are concealed by standardised service delivery, how will clients know which firm to engage? This begs the question; how can architects set their services apart from their competitors?
This study uses an experience-centric service framework to investigate how residential architecture design service in Australia is delivered to clients. It uses the Experience Design Board (Lim & Kim, 2018) as a tool to visualise the service delivery process. By examining the service delivery touchpoints and its effects on clients, the study shows the plurality of areas where architects can differentiate their service delivery from other architecture firms.

Design and entrepreneurship

Unknown futures: What design can teach us about navigating uncertainty

Tan, L., 2019, Presentation at Design Factory Melbourne Research Insights, Melbourne, Australia.

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It is undeniable that technologies are replacing our workforces. Labour-intensive roles are gradually being replaced by automated technologies whereas artificial intelligence is endangering roles once thought to be safe from the machines. Without a doubt, the future of work is yet to be set in stone. Perhaps, it will never be. With such uncertainties ahead of us, how can design make us future-ready?

Finding and using ambiguity to search for innovation opportunities

Tan, L., Kvan, T., 2018, Design Management Journal, Vol 13(1), pp17 – 29,
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This paper shows the importance and value of ambiguity to reveal opportunities hidden in problems and the manner in which ambiguity is removed from applications of design thinking. It describes the value of introducing, sustaining and using ambiguity and explains the different types of ambiguity. It follows up by describing the events when a designer encounters ambiguity. This paper proposes that an understanding of ambiguity is needed to harness its capabilities in finding innovative opportunities. To do so, design practitioners should consider 1) identifying the type of ambiguity needed to expand the scope of opportunity exploration and 2) becoming aware of and managing one’s ability to work with ambiguity. Finally, it identifies the lack of literature on the impact of independent and collective experience on using ambiguity in design.

New approaches to identify entrepreneurial opportunities

Tan, L., Kvan, T., 2018, Presentation at Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research Exchange, Brisbane, Australia.

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Some entrepreneurs use a design approach to discover opportunities and to develop products and services. Typically, they identify these business opportunities by defining the problem, ideating and validating their prototypes. Similarly, designers use the design process to discover opportunities and propose novel designs. While using a common term, there is a significant difference between the two approached. Unlike the method used by entrepreneurs, some designers keep the problem vague for as long as possible and use its ambiguity to explore and find opportunities in design. This paper identifies the difference and the value of ambiguity in entrepreneurial exploration.

Makerspaces as learning facilities

Making it work: Makerspaces, maker community and school partnership

Tan, L., Bessabava, R., Hebden, K., 2020, In Proceedings of the Schools as Community Hubs Conference, pp154 – 163
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This project explores learning and reflection practices in architecture teams. When architects use reflection-on-action, they learn from experience. When they use reflection-in-action, they learn from experiencing. Such reflective practices help architects build project knowledge and deliver their project. But most architects work in teams, alongside individuals with different ways of learning and knowledge perspectives. This begs the question; how does learning and reflective practices affect architecture teams? This project addresses this question by 1) using reflective practice, team learning and design collaboration literature to frame how architects learn as a team, 2) exploring how team learning influence the competitive performance of architecture teams, 3) measuring how team learning affects architecture team performance, and 4) experimenting a reflective workshop to help architects improve their team learning skills and thus, team performance. The article concludes by discussing its theoretical contributions and practical implication in their field of architecture and design.

Others

A Katana design experience

McGinley, T., Hoshi, K., Gruber, P., Haddy, S., Zavoleas, Y., Tan, L., Blaiklock, D., 2018, in Intersections in Simulation and Gaming, pp134 – 148, Springer, Cham.
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Increases in computation power have allowed design software to become more complex. At the same time, big data and artificial intelligence, question the traditional tools of the human designer. Morphogenetic (concerned with the beginning of the form of an object) prototyping provides a method for designers to control this complexity by separating the design into pseudo developmental stages to enable the manipulation of its development at different stages. This paper investigates the tools, processes, theory and systems that would be needed to simulate this design experience. Through this process a katana sword is selected as the metaphor for the design experience to relate the affordance of cutting to the simulation of a pseudo biological sub division. A sword prototype is used to identify appropriate gestures to map to biological behaviours in order to trigger the simulation of staged pseudo biological processes in the design model. Finally, the tangible user interface (TUI) tool based on the katana sword is refined and future work is outlined.

Pilbara: Country, colony and urbanism

de Nardi, B., Davis, M., Tan, L., Maginness, M., Raisbeck, P., Hogg, P., Kennedy, L., 2016, in ARCH+223 Planetary Urbanism, pp52 – 56
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“Country”, a term used by Aboriginal people of Australia to refer to their cultural connection with the land to which they belong and their place of Dreaming. This cultural connection is based on each community’s distinct traditions and lore, and is inclusive of all things in the landscape (landforms, water, air, trees, rocks, animals) and extends to the connection between the physical environment and cultural practices (knowledge, songs, stories, art) as well as all people (past, present and future), in both traditional and contemporary Aboriginal cultures.

Southbank by Beulah competition brief

I contributed to the research and writing of the architecture brief for the Southbank by Beulah competition, held in 2018 in Melbourne, Australia.

Ten Thousand Things

I contributed to the research analysis and presentation of Melbourne high streets and hinterlands, which were published in the X-Ray The City! 2016 publication.

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