What makes a construction company truly innovative?

Having dealt with deploying innovations into construction over the last 11 years it’s become increasingly clear as to which companies are truly innovative and which ones just pay lip service to innovations when prompted.

Admittedly, we don’t exist in an industry that encourages and rewards innovation, when contracts are awarded for lowest cost, profit margins are tight and those who are risk averse are in the driving seat. Nobody likes to be the first mouse, because the perception is that they will get smashed in the trap, whilst everyone else watches on and steals the cheese afterwards!

There are plenty of organisations out there that have amazing research and development teams, looking at incredible technologies, but these innovations are rarely talked about and only offered to the clients on a case by case basis, rather than an across the board, business as usual offering.

The problem with innovation, is that when it becomes ‘business as usual’ is it still by definition innovative? I won’t go down this theological discussion in this article however, I want to tell you about what makes a construction company truly innovative.

Throughout history we have seen that a strong leader, with a clear vision has been able to make people do what, in the clear light of day is against all their conscious thoughts. This hasn’t always been a good thing, but if we look at the leadership of those in construction, we see very few who have a clear vision of making their entire business do something that some will do perhaps unwillingly. A leadership that openly supports those who take innovations risks and actively funds initiatives that will potentially make a big difference even though there may not be an existing case study or any cold hard financial ROI facts.

This kind of leadership is rare but is to be openly applauded when used to make a real positive change within an organisation. However, a good leader is no use unless they have minions that are enthusiastic and can be directed!

The industry of 10 years ago is very different from the one we have now. Most of the people who work in it have access to technology that most only dreamed of in 2006. Now everyone has a smart phone, access to more information than they know what to do with and countless ways of processing it without the need to even place a call to someone “who knows how to work one of them damn electronic calculators”

We trust technology because it is familiar, but because it’s an everyday thing, it’s not innovative, new or ground-breaking. In too many projects, when the young graduate who has high hopes and low levels of cynicism suggests a new way of doing something the default setting from the project manager is no. This stand point whilst reducing potential risk, will, after a while stop your workforce from ever suggesting a better way of doing things ever again!

So as well as leading from the top, we must also encourage from the bottom, allow new ideas and innovative thoughts to be followed through on site level and them transmitted out to all other sites as required.

We always come back to the question of “What makes technology innovation fail?” and 90% of the time it is people. The only way we can change people is through strong enlightened leadership and active encouragement in the workforce. This of course needs to be backed up with funding to offset the risk, but the tiny amount of money this takes creates an ecosystem that makes that contractor the best at being truly innovative.

If you want to be a part of an already innovative community that will help you to make this leap, then join us here or at our annual conference.

#innovation #technology

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