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The Evolution of Practice

Mountain View Cemetery Scattering Garden Rendering – Created by Gustavo Manzano

We’ve all heard the phrase: “Practice makes perfect”. As children, our parents and teachers would regularly remind us that as we gathered the knowledge and skills we would need to follow our passions as we grew. It is a mantra we repeated to ourselves as we became adults, and even repeat to our peers, colleagues and, for some, even our own children – a constant reminder that to achieve success, we have to put in the work.

But what if that ‘practice’ is never meant to be perfect? Practice is defined as a repeated exercise in or performance of an activity to maintain proficiency, and the key word there is ‘maintain’. In a global environment where things are always in flux, maintaining proficiency means constantly practicing because no matter what, you will not be perfect, and that is okay. Because in striving to achieve better, there will always be room to learn and grow, to adapt to changes, and even find ways to innovate.

For Urban Systems, this is an important distinction. When we first opened our doors in 1975 in Kamloops, our founders recognized a gap that needed filling: to provide service to communities both large and small, and create a positive, lasting impact. It meant foregoing with more traditional expectations of an engineering practice to help set us apart, and learning a new set of proficiencies to help make that happen. After over 40 years of practicing, those values still hold true as the needs of the communities we support adapt and change to new values, attitudes, technologies and behaviours.

It is a privilege we all recognize, being able to serve our communities and create a positive difference both in their lives, but also our own. The professional practices we have been able to develop over time has taught us the indispensability of cooperation, collaboration and trust, acknowledging that our success both individually and collectively depends on the total success of others. That is why now, as new markets start to materialize, it is imperative that we continue to practice, as well as recognize the potential that exist in the next generation of professionals.

Our Communities Are Not Locked In

Just as ideas and concepts change with innovation, so too do our communities. In truth, they always have. Over centuries, the places where people live have evolved from small villages and tribes to centres for agriculture and trading, trade posts to growing urban centres, early suburbs to sprawling residential centres, and everything in between. With each evolution came new demands on the people who service them – the need to adapt to new ideas, recognize unmet needs, and provide the skills and knowledge to improve life for the community.

These changes are happening faster than ever before as the availability of knowledge is so readily accessible. Citizens are now able to observe communities thousands of miles away and see the possibilities for their own, and the need to be aware of this ahead of the trend even greater. This means not only to be constantly practicing, but also to recognize when the knowledge and expertise exists in our peers. There is a vibrant generation of professionals coming into their own as they apply new ideas to challenges that didn’t exist in such prevalence decades before, and acknowledging this knowledge base is how we can not only support each other’s growth, but also strive to provide the best we can for those we serve.

The markets in communities are changing to meet the needs of its people – whether through the way they move, how they consume, where they gather and the places they want to live. Recognizing these changes, as well as the professionals within our networks who can best serve those changing dynamics, is how we continue to improve our level of service and keep building on that entrepreneurial spirit that first inspired this living company decades ago.

The Nature of Business

If, as an organization, we have succeeded in serving our clients well to this point, why change? Quite simply, that is the nature of a successful business – to increase and develop as the needs of our clients do, and offer greater goods and services by bringing supply to the demand. We are not changing how communities work; they are. If we cannot see that, then the ability to make positive change may be lost.

It is our responsibility to step up to the challenges, and lift up those individuals who can bring new ways of finding solutions and collaborate with them. And we need to remember that our success is not based on the work we do, but rather who we are. By being open, adaptable and willing to step out of our comfort zones, we will be better equipped to see potential in new opportunities, and when the odds for success are in our favour, to go for it with enthusiasm.

Watch this space: Our professionals have been actively working with communities to identify new needs and finding ways to address them, with new areas of practice growing within our teams. In the coming months, we will be sharing stories of the new practices we have been developing, and the people who are helping to build them.

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