Companies are in quite a “catch 22” these days. Competition for jobs is stiff, and technology solutions can often make the difference between profiting on a job or losing money. In addition, they need to stay current with the industry or risk losing talent because of stagnation.
The company’s construction technologist (ConTech) has the job of finding the right technology to not only solve problems but keep the company competitive, save time and mitigate risk. It’s a big job to fill. By researching the latest trends, the ConTech champions innovation that can solve the company’s construction issues. By solving problems and improving productivity, a good ConTech could potentially work themselves out of a job. But often, just the opposite is the case.
A good ConTech is expected to become a better ConTech. Once you solve a problem with technology, management wants more of that success, which is their job. The cure, in effect, becomes a curse to the ConTech.
ConTechs know their job comes with a unique set of difficulties and benefits. The variety of technology available to the construction industry is growing exponentially. So, initiatives to find the right technology solutions must be intentional and focused. There’s just too much out there to “taste test” applications, leaving the company with a shopping cart full of innovations that don’t really mesh with each other.
There’s a distinction between innovating and inventing. With inventing, staff uses inhouse resources for creative problem solving. It may end up being a simple workaround, or it could become a cumbersome process that takes a whole lot of time to maintain, support and teach others to use. Sometimes, the up-front cost of technology can distract management from the fact that time costs money, too. There is a tendency to forget that using the invention must be supported and maintained by the inventor – and sometimes only that person because of the solution’s complexity. Inventions end up being small scale technology. And if the inventor leaves the company, the invention may need to be abandoned.
Innovation, on the other hand, is something that benefits the construction industry at large. Walker Lockard of Dado wrote in a recent blog that the true test of whether a solution will be innovative is whether it is repeatable, teachable, compatible, and supportable. Technologies are being tested daily by companies around the globe to determine if they have these four characteristics. The best technologies are the ones that can be used by companies in the industry on a large scale.
The best innovations are those that democratize support and maintenance as much as possible. These are the solutions that help the ConTech deal with the curse of doing their job well. Walker does a great job in his blog unpacking how to avoid the curse.
Bridging the Gap Podcast, episode 37 with guest Walker Lockard of Dado.
In episode 37 of the Bridging the Gap podcast, I got to circle up with Walker and take a deeper dive into this whole topic. Listen today to “The Drumbeat of Construction: Intentionality and Intelligent Tools”.