What I’ve Learnt: Nicky Watson

March 3, 2017

Nicky Watson joined JDDK in 1993 and was appointed as a director in 2000. She works as a hands-on architect while managing the 23-strong practice alongside her three co-directors. Nicky also sits on the national RIBA council, representing the North East region, and is a Visiting Fellow at Northumbria University

Value and invest in your staff. Your people are your most important asset. At JDDK we’re fortunate to have extraordinarily talented designers and technical staff who have developed their skills with us over many years, and a very low staff turnover which means we can serve our clients with established teams who work well together and share their expert knowledge. Organisations need to value their staff’s different skill sets and provide an environment that encourages and supports learning, development and debate.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Whatever sector you work in, it’s vital to consider your own business within the context of its wider industry. Collaboration with a wide variety of people and disciplines is key to our success and so we need to be good team players and not simply fixated with our own processes and outcomes.

Creativity will differentiate your products and services. Companies need to look for innovation in both their products and services – and the delivery of these. In JDDK’s case, we place equal emphasis on the delivery of projects, increasingly now through BIM (Building Information Modelling) as we do to their design but this is equally applicable in business generally. Our strap line of Discover, Design and Deliver reflects this equal emphasis.

Never take customers’ patronage for granted. All business relationships have to be nurtured and while awards for our designs are very nice to receive, it is the ongoing trust that our clients put in our services that we most value.

Respect and learn from the past but look to the future. JDDK celebrates its 30th anniversary later this year and in the intervening period both the external market and our internal focus has changed. This was reflected in the rebrand last year [from Jane Darbyshire & David Kendall Ltd to JDDK] which in itself was fantastically instructive as the design process we undertook included analysis of what we value about our heritage and our current strengths and weaknesses, as well as forward-looking independent market research.

Your gut feelings may not always be right. Learn to pause and adjust to the evidence before you act – evidence-based design is at the heart of our work on health and hospice projects, ensuring patient and staff wellbeing is a key driver.

Listening is usually more rewarding than talking – as architects we must be good listeners, and we must be humble enough to not only listen at the start of any project, when we are discovering what our clients need and want (there’s sometimes a difference), but also after its completion when we can hear their feedback.

There’s more to life than business. Everyone needs other interests and the happiness and fulfilment that brings will ultimately make you a better business person. I’m fortunate to have a wonderful family life with my husband and our two daughters and enjoy choral singing – everyone needs something outside business.


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