Dr. Tigran Haas: A Proficient Architect-Urbanist with Extensive Work Experience

“Leadership is about PPP-III that is professionals, perseverance and passion, where you have to have the courage to follow your instincts, ideas and imagination to the fullest,” says Dr. Tigran Haas. He is the Director of the Center for the Future of Places (CFP) at KTH – Royal Institute of Technology and Associate Professor, Reader – Tenured (Docent, Lektor – Biträdande professor) of Urban Planning and Urban Design. For Tigran, ability to learn from the past and from mistakes; strong communication skills and building sustainable relationships on all levels are the vital traits that every entrepreneur or CEO should possess.

“Cities and planning may set limits to practice, but urbanism should not set limits to endless theory generation and design imagination”

Below are the highlights of the interview conducted between Insights Success and Dr. Tigran Haas:
Kindly take us through your journey on becoming a proficient leader.
I have studied architecture and urbanism in the USA, Former Yugoslavia and Croatia, as well as Sweden. I have also done Post-Doc Fellowships in urbanism, sustainable planning information technology and urban form at MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston, UC Berkeley and University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; a guest professor at the Zagreb School of Economics and Management (ZSEM). Tigran Haas holds advanced degrees in Architecture, Urban Planning and Urban Design, Environmental Science and Regional Planning. He has written over 70 scholarly articles, 40 Conference Papers, 8 books, 4 Research Anthologies, and has been involved in teaching in International educational programs such as: Real Estate Management, Environmental Engineering and Sustainable Infrastructure, Spatial Planning, Strategic Management, Urban Planning and Design and Sustainable Urban Planning & Design (SUPD) and the current One Year Advanced Master’s Program in Urbanism Studies (MUSE). From the path of masters supervisor, PhD Supervisor, Lab Director, Chair of Research Program, Graduate Education Director, PhD Director, Tenure Track from Post-Doc to Associate Professor and Finally Director of the Research Centre, gave me an insight to what it means to learn tricks of the trade, that is elements of becoming a proficient leader. Learning through mistakes, trials & tribulations and all hurdles professional life puts in front of you these issues emerged as key ones: if you want to be a proficient leader that u have t have the ability to motivate yourself and others, use effective oral and written communication all the time – let your message be loud & clear, real critical thinking skills need to be employed, sufficient and adaptable problem solving ability, and skills at working with teams and delegating tasks non-stop! One cannot just belief in herself/himself all the time; belief in others is a key element.
How do you diversify your organization’s services to entice the target audience?
As an international research Centre, focusing on the relation between urban form and human behavior with a focus on public spaces, the audience is very much academic but also practitioners, policy makers and the civil society or general public. The Centre works on a few levels where the research findings are geared for a pathfinding way into policy and also passing through practice. The most important things are the highest quality outputs in research, publications, media events and societal relevance as well as links to higher, graduate and post graduate education. The pillars that the host institution of KTH has, those of sustainability, equality and internationalization are deeply embedded into the fabric of the everyday ad strategic activities of the Centre. With a strong physical and virtual staff with highest competences in the area, we believe that through the four themes of sustainable urbanism, housing and urban spaces, urban form and human behavior and urban transformations projects and research findings of high quality can and are emerging, to which our annual report 2016/2017 and the 2018 but foremostly 2019 are testimonies and the 11 awards the Centre has already received from its four-year work.
What roadblocks or challenges were faced by you in a corporate business? And how did you overcome them?
What advice can you give t0 future business leaders, directors and CEO’s? One of the hurdles is surely the environment one is at, the micro, meso and macro. Micro being the immediate one with all the challenges of competences, staff, tasks, immediate decisions, administration and leadership as well as conflicts; the meso being the plane of projects and partnerships and cases on the ground and the cities where the work is being done but also the products, the media, networks etc. and finally the macro with all the challenges and competition and major issues on the regional national and global level that influence the work and strategy of the place where one works. Roadblocks will be many from personal choices, communication, decisions and project and program work that brings many knowables but also many unknowables. The key thing is a tight organization with good leadership and delegation of responsibilities where the chemistry functions and all are onboard towards a common goal and where mutual benefit must prevail, nit individual gain and vanity.
Is your company bringing a bigger change in various sectors? If yes, then how?
In the next two years the focus will be on the critical issue of rising smart and new experimental cities and issue of autonomous mobility but still having the first 3-year theme of cities for all and who owns the city in the backdrop. The main issue is that cities are getting more complex and the challenges are rising on a daily basis with multiple converging crises that seek answers for new theories, tools and approaches. The Centre will try to answer these calls as it goes into the next period. As we look towards the near future, over the next 12-month period we will develop a new biennial research theme that will focus on Livable, Viable and Intelligent Smart Cities and Public Realm Futures. This will further expand our research program within the four thematic groups/tiers i.e. continue or complete all projects under our four core research strands but especially strengthen the international ties and upcoming work with UCL Bartlett in London and LCAU at MIT in Boston. We continue to develop the cooperation with UN Habitat and our other university partners such as TU Wien and ETH Zürich. Strengthening the ties between research and practice by supporting researchers to cooperate and to practically implement their research results is a central aspect of what we need to do in the coming two years.
How do you maintain a balance between your professional & personal life?
Maintaining a strong work-life balance is critical to a healthier work and home life for CEOs. Different studies show that ca 71 percent of CEOs get over six hours of sleep at night, and 60 percent exercise multiple times a week. Stress is a factor that needs to be eliminated or at least balanced. Networking, giving presentations, speaking at events and managing an incredibly busy work day are all part of this job and that is entangled in stress. Meditation, Ambient Music, Good Wine, Reading Books, Using the free-flowing imagination, enjoying good hobbies, mother earths nature and good companionship as building social capital outside work is crucial to combat loneliness and stress. Unfortunately, there is no cookie cut solution and this is a never-ending struggle to find work-life balance and one has to do the best she/he can.
How do you sustain your creative leadership spirit in this crucial time and trying time of COVID-19?
With extreme pressure on physical and mental health, leaders need to tap into their own emotional intelligence to make sure their teams come out of the pandemic stronger. University and college campuses such as KTH and MIT are places where students study, socialize and live in close proximity to each other. They are also the nexus for social and cultural hubs where students are brought together from all corners of the world and where social and human capital is produced. Due to the rapid spread of the coronavirus and the unprecedented impact it’s had on our society, they had to adapt to teaching, researching and networking online and most importantly, to do everything they can to protect the lives of their students and faculty. Maximizing online learning and teaching, developing robust but flexible systems, gathering information and applying the best practices have been some of the hallmarks of this difficult period, as well as great collegial and comradeship throughout. The higher education sector has withstood pandemics and turbulent economic times in the past and it will withstand them again, preparing to be adaptable, resilient and sustainable in the long run. In a network society, city of bits and the new digital age, universities are better placed, more than ever, to provide students with an easily accessible online version of their courses. We have to learn and adapt, and we also need to prepare for the tougher challenges ahead of us, as unfortunately there will be many more of these to come.
What are your future endeavors/objectives and where do you see yourself in the near future?
My motto in life is 5Ps: Passion, Perseverance, Professionalism, Persuasion and Playfulness. I see myself as a combination of different “city of bits”, persons of bits: Walter Mitty, Peter Pan, George Clooney, Richard Florida, Steve Jobs, Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa and Oprah Winfrey. I like to take on the challenges every now and then; likewise, I am currently handling four jobs at once: directing a Centre, directing a master’s program, working as a researcher and teacher and mentor and all the rest that goes into the tenure track at the university. I see this as continuing and growing more. Working with post doc colleagues is something I want to do more. However, it’s also true that I see forward and thrives in new multitasking challenges where u simply need to bring elements of improvisation, fast decisions and innovation into it. 8 years of teaching project and strategic management and leadership has helped me quite a lot. I see many more awesome projects and events happening, books being written and ideas developed in groups and individually. After the center I am looking forward to forming and leading perhaps a second research lab in my career, A City Research Lab. “Cities are an amazing place with limitless opportunities, problems, challenges and source of ideas. Also, as my friend George Clooney would say: What else? What else indeed: this is the best job in the world.”

“It is now possible to say and state just about anything under the guise that it maintains a certain “perspective” or challenges the established truths”