Intelligence and Resources



Client & Architect: developing the essential relationship (2015)

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Seminal report summarising the RIBA’s Client Liaison Group’s conclusions from many round-table meetings with client representatives in many different sectors.

Exposed the factors that matter to clients when they hire architects to be surprisingly generic across the board.

Essential reading for guiding your strategic marketing and business development.

Working with Architects Survey Results (2016)

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Insightful report of the RIBA’s Client Liaison Group’s follow-up to the Client & Architect report – a detailed satisfaction survey of close to 1,000 clients rating the performance of their architects.

Revealed that architects who follow-up in some way – seek feedback, in other words – are more highly rated than architects who do not.

Modernise or die: the Farmer Review of the UK construction labour model (2016)

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Commissioned by the Construction Leadership Council at the request of the government, the report unveils deep-rooted issues impacting the construction sector.

Urges better alignment of the requirements of construction firms and the businesses who hire them (among other things).

In response, government ministers David Prior, Alok Sharma and Anne Milton said in July 2017, “Government agrees that involvement of the construction industry’s clients in addressing under-investment in skills and innovation is crucial to improving the sector’s productivity.”

Experience Index (2017)

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The short, sharp, sweet Experience Index report is the result of research to identify and quantify the factors of design that impact the quality of our day-to-day experience.

4,000 people across the U.S surveyed to understand why people go where they do, how design impacts their behaviour, and ultimately, how to design spaces to deliver great experiences.

Thank you, Gensler’s, for making it freely available.

Building Knowledge: Pathways to Post Occupancy Evaluation (2017)

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Report from the RIBA and the University of Reading examining the evidence for the worth of architects revisiting and learning from the buildings they design once they are in use.

Fits into a wider RIBA agenda of supporting research in professional practice to encourage continuous learning and improvement in building design and performance, all about collecting evidence for the value of architects’ work.


Feedback is good for business  (2017)

Published in the RIBA Journal, it is my piece exploring what client feedback architects seek now – not a lot – and what the opportunity is. Sowed the seeds for Listenback.

Seven clients reveal what they really want from architects  (2017)

Architects Journal interviewed clients of different kinds to reveal what they look for in their architect.

A Blueprint For CX Success  (2017)

CX is business shorthand for the customer experience. For architects, this should read ‘Client experience’.

The article briefly tries to separate the wheat from the chaff: does CX really drive bottom-line growth, or is investing in it just the latest hype? Some recent evidence suggests that neglecting it could cost you a bigger slice of the market.


Here’s a hand-picked selection of books that help explain the context for Listenback. Clicking the links earns Listenback a commission, which helps to keep this site free to use.


Why Architects Matter by Flora Samuel

Working with architecture’s flakey evidence base, this majestic survey of all that is wrong with the practice of architecture today is absorbing and completely aligned to the Listenback agenda. Written by architect Flora Samuel, Professor of Architecture in the Built Environment at Reading University and the first ever RIBA Vice-President for Research, it ought to be compulsory reading for architects and students of architecture everywhere.


The Effortless Experience by Matthew Dixon, Nick Toman, Rick Delis

A whole book about customer loyalty, turning received wisdom on its head. What I like about it is that, unlike many of these business books which are just full of anecdotes, this one is based on research. Its central message is that you should forget trying to dazzle your client: just solve their problems effortlessly.


The Ten Principles Behind Great Customer Experiences by Matt Watkinson

This book cuts straight to the chase, giving you the benefit of the author’s experience in designing the client journey: what works, and why. Lessons can be applied to designing professional services. Direct and easy to read. Slightly skewed to products and retail, but the principles makes sense in professional services.


Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed

The black box in question is the one on aircraft that, when accidents happen, tell us what happened. This is a metaphor for approaches to improvement in all walks of life: if you don’t know what happened, how can you improve? Obvious straightforward implications for architects, but far from easy to implement for all kinds of reasons.


Architect Entrepreneur: A Field Guide: building, branding, and marketing your startup design business by Eric Reinholdt

Architect Entrepreneur: A How-to Guide: innovating practice tactics, models, and case studies in passive income by Eric Reinholdt

Companion volumes self-published by an architect who practices what he preaches.

Very definitely for the small practitioner. Nonetheless, the lessons are good. I like the detailed, up-to-date thinking with lots of how-to information instead of just the usual generalities that are no use to anyone.

Will open your eyes about the world of entrepreneurial possibility out there for professionals who tend to be quite stuck in their ways


The Future of the Professions by Richard Susskind and Daniel Susskind

Provocative analysis that predicts the decline of the professions and ponders what will replace them. Includes a lengthy riff on architects.

Central tenet is that, since professions are founded on serving the public good, and since the public good would be served if we no longer needed expensive professionals, then their obsolescence is desirable.

That this leaves professionals without a job is a tiny price to pay. Great architecture for free: that’s what we’re shooting for… so how are you going to respond?


Sapiens: A brief history of humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

Home Deus: a brief history of tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari








Wow! Brilliant pair of books. Will turn your world upside down. Essential reading for any self-respecting architect who claims to design for humans.

Sapiens is an intellectually riveting review of human history through the ages, linking technology to politics to philosophy in starburst clarity. The kind of knowledge that can deeply influence design and design thinking.

Picking up where Sapiens left off, Homo Deus is just as breathlessly mind-boggling:

“Silicon Valley is where hi-tech gurus are brewing for us brave new religions that have little to do with God, and everything to do with technology. They promise all the old prizes – happiness, peace, prosperity and even eternal life – but here on earth with the help of technology, rather than after death with the help of celestial beings. The new techno-religions can be divided into two main types: techno-humanism and data religion. Data religion argues that humans have completed their cosmic task, and they should now pass the torch on to entirely new kinds of entities. Techno humanism agrees that homo sapiens has run its historical course and will no longer be relevant in the future, and concludes we should therefore use technology to create Homo Deus.”


The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab

Primer that posits that we are now in new age – the digital age. It is providing unprecedented solutions to unprecedented global threats, but warns that with them comes unprecedented problems.

Absolutely central to understanding the bigger picture trends affecting the built environment.


Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Turns statistics into funtastatistics. A trawl through databases unveils counterintuitive connections and how easily manipulated humans are. Just because things look connected, it ain’t necessarily so.

You have to squint, maybe, but the thinking here is important for how one communicates with and understands in the construction sector.


Risk Savvy: how to make good decisions by Gerd Gigerenzer

Engaging, easy-to-read book about the difference between probability and risk: its lessons should be on the school curriculum.

Understanding what happens when human brains have to predict the future – which is what clients have to do when they set out to build a building – gives you invaluable insights in how to design your client journey.


Misbehaving: the making of behavioural economics by Richard Thaler

The Nobel Prize-winning economist’s gripping, illuminating investigation into the biases and intellectual frailties at the heart of human decision-making behaviour, and how they can be exploited to ‘nudge’ better outcomes. A framework for designing for intuitive responses from users.


Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Another Nobel Prize-winner, with good reason: Kahneman’s experiments into decision-making seem to uncover some deep mysteries about how humans operate.

Invaluable lessons for how to attract, communicate with, win and retain clients… with a bit of intelligent translation.

BELT AND BRACES: books from RIBA Publishing

RIBA Job Book

No-nonsense primer based on the 2013 RIBA Plan of Work about how to run architectural projects. Latest edition of the de facto bible for UK architects.


Small Projects Handbook

Recognizing that small projects have their own distinct footprint and demands, this comprehensive guide is a friendly companion through every step of the way.


RIBA Architect’s Handbook of Practice Management

The stuff you’re not taught at architecture school. Logically laid out, easy to dip in and out of, and with a long pedigree, this is a comprehensive guide to how to run your practice.


A Commercial Client’s Guide to Engaging an Architect

A Domestic Client’s Guide to Engaging an Architect

Companion volumes based on recent research into what clients want, these two small books explain what architects do with the client’s needs in mind.