In today’s AEC and manufacturing industries, there are potentially members of four generations involved at some level:

  • Baby Boomers
  • Millennials
  • Generation Y

We’ve heard this referred to as a generational divide, but what it really amounts to is a generational language barrier. Different generations have a different way of communicating because they’ve had different influences while growing up. Whereas some of these people have never worked remotely until this point in history, others take to it naturally. And we’re all learning about things that can’t be done while working remotely by anyone. You could call those “pinch points,” or you could call them hiccups, but whatever you call them, some people handle them better than others. That doesn’t make them wrong, it just means they have a different perspective about disruption.

Disruption may sound like a bad thing to a baby boomer, but it’s just another day in the tech industry to a millennial. I have spent most of my life witnessing firsthand what a technology transformation looks like from getting my first AOL screenname to Facebook getting introduced when I was a freshman in college (back when you had to have an email with a .edu – aka the glory days) to the introduction of the iPhone to countless others.

However, disruption has been a constant throughout history. Nothing changes without disruption. You can’t change the way books are produced unless someone’s job at copying them with a quill pen is disrupted. That reality shouldn’t be scary but a challenge to improve. The truth is though, different perspectives on disruption come from different personality types – at its very simplest characterization, we are all on a sliding scale of having a growth mindset vs. a fixed mindset. Respecting others’ perspectives, whether you agree or not, is a key to weathering the ups and downs of the industry, and frankly just relationships. You see, everyone is an expert at something, but no one is an expert at everything.

When we set out to communicate and collaborate using the digital transformation affecting the industry, we need to learn the language of the other people we’re communicating with, as well as the language of digital interoperability. Collaboration on shared drawings is one of those needs. People can “get in their own way” when adapting to progress, but everyone fits somewhere on the technology adoption curve. You will have the most success promoting change and innovation – i.e. collaboration – if you can tell those involved in their language, “why.” When they grasp it, they can move forward even if they don’t agree. If you’re a change leader, always set priorities for challenges and opportunities. What are the really important things you should focus on? Urgent is not necessarily important.

For a company navigating through disruption, education and training – two different things – are essential. Education involves understanding and consensus building. Why are we using this product? Training is learning how to actually use it. It’s important for companies to take time for both.

To ride the wave of change and innovation, you’ve got to embrace it. If you’re a leader who’s not comfortable with change, then you can’t expect others to embrace it. Are the limitations of technology in the AEC and manufacturing industries real, or are they just walls that we erect when we believe that’s the case?

Image from recording the Bridging the Gap podcast episode with guest Nathan C. Wood.

To me, the challenge of conquering disruption with winning innovation is very exciting. Maybe it is the competitor in me, maybe it is my optimistic bent or personality or maybe it is just my millennial nature coming to the forefront. Whatever it is, talking about this change and how to adapt is interesting. I recently sat down on the Bridging the Gap Podcast with Nathan C. Wood of SpectrumAEC and the Construction Progress Coalition to unpack this very topic. Only by understanding the #SharedPains we all have in the AEC industry, the power of words and the digital transformation will we all be able to unlock the transforming power of disruption. Listen to the episode today here


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