Talmadge Smith On Failure

For Page Principal Talmadge Smith, professional conventions and symposia often feel like missed opportunities. The gatherings afford numerous moments to celebrate the great things the architectural profession accomplishes while leaving out the challenges associated with getting the work done and working in teams.

“We don’t talk about mistakes,” says Talmadge. “And our moments of failure are the exact experiences that make us better architects.” He also regrets that all too often people in the audience either passively listen to the speaker or spend the hour on their phones. “I want people to say hello to the person next to them,” he says. “I think everyone gets more out of a presentation if it is interactive.”

So this year, Talmadge is bringing his talk, Failure, to the TxA convention. It will be presented in a discussion format he has led numerous times with the goal of getting architects in the audience to talk about pivotal mistakes that have shaped how they practice. “The last time I led a discussion like this, the convention organizers had to close the doors,” he notes. “It was a lively chat among 150 plus people.”

Talmadge emphasizes that firm leaders need to be more transparent about their own failures. “Millennials are terrified of not succeeding,” he says. “Avoiding the subject is hurting how our teams learn and evolve.” How can we get younger architects to improve if they are too scared to make the wrong move? This profession has numerous challenges associated with it and success doesn’t come without growing pains.

For Talmadge, humor and honesty go a long way in getting others to share past blunders and admit things are not always perfect. “I like people; I like to learn about what others are doing and how they are practicing,” says Talmadge. With that in mind, he jumps into this discussion on failure and takes the audience with him.

Check out information on Talmadge’s talk at the TxA 2017 Convention on November 11, 1:00PM - 2:30PM.