In the AEC industry, we have seen innovation, from some companies more than others. But on the whole, it seems we haven’t embraced innovation to the level that we could or should. I am curious about the mindset behind what makes an innovator. It is one of my favorite parts of hosting the Bridging the Gap Podcast. Innovators are agents of change. They are professionals who understand how technology can benefit the industry and are willing to go the extra mile to encourage and facilitate its adoption. The mindset of an agent of change needs to be:
- Pleased. My high school swim coach was famous for always saying, “Be pleased but never satisfied.” It’s okay to be pleased with the progress we’ve made with technology while not being satisfied. When something works, when it saved money, ask yourself if it could have been even better. I often reflect back to my coach’s line as motivation to strive to improve. Innovation isn’t scary, it is a needed part of life.
- Pragmatic. It’s best to figure out how to adapt to situations. After all, no solution is a “silver bullet” in itself. Keep the goal in mind of doing something better. Keep investigating how to do it differently. Look outside the box for new ideas. Maybe even find someone with a new perspective to challenge you. Construction is about addressing the real needs of real people. When you stop and think about it, how cool is that?! Not only should this be gratifying, it’s a good way to entice new people into the industry.
- Curious. It’s good to test technology and find out what’s usable. Disruption should not be a negative word. It is those who are able to harness the power behind disruption that have built some of the most powerful life altering technology. Sometimes it’s challenging – and frustrating – to get others to see your vision of saving people time on the job and making the job better, but it’s worth the effort.
- Realistic. Some people aren’t ready for change. Others are on the threshold. Some are willing to try new things, while some are hesitant but open to suggestions. There are people who are just plain afraid of change. They may not want to change things because they are in a comfort zone. The reality is that you can’t change everyone. In order to adopt change, you first must know where people are on the spectrum of wanting change. You don’t have to bring everyone to the finish line at the same time. Maybe you can get someone to just take the next step. Focus on the small things first, and build upon small wins.
Jason Barber, trained civil engineer and construction innovation technologist at Manufacton, feels that BIM is perhaps the most exciting technology to come along in many years. Though it’s not new (it’s been in use for about 20 years), it still hasn’t been completely adopted even though the BIM process has enormous potential to save time and money on jobs.
Mobile is another exciting technology. There are many cool new apps for mobile technology. Because it’s so integrated into our personal lives, we tend to take mobile for granted. Yet it has many valuable uses in construction, and the current “work remote” movement may push more innovation in the mobile direction out of necessity.
Laser scanning combined with point cloud imagery is a game changer in construction. Laser scanning is 35-40 years old, but only relatively recently has it been used for modeling. High quality images from a camera will feed into BIM models and improve the overall accuracy and quality of the project.
Regarding the safety initiative in the industry, most people realize that workers don’t intentionally put themselves and others in risk. Rather it’s a lack of information that causes accidents. Providing knowledge and training is important and might include the technology of augmented reality. The only person who can keep you from getting hurt is yourself – made easier if you’re wearing AR glasses.
Prefab has gotten a boost from BIM. With its new and different ways of working, prefab might be one way to attract people back to construction who are losing their jobs right now. Interesting how history repeats itself.
The construction industry needs more agents of change. Are you ready to be one? Listen to the recent Bridging the Gap podcast with Jason Barber, and learn more about encouraging adoption of construction technology and one of the industry’s agents of change.