4D BIM for Construction

Breaking Limitations and Reconstructing Failure

Posted by Tom Dempsey on Sep 21, 2015 6:00:42 PM

Over the weekend, I purchased a new book by Matthew Syed – Black Box Thinking: The Surprising Truth About Success (Copyright 2015 by John Murray (Publishers)). Having enjoyed many of his sports writing in the past, I was keen to read it so I actually purchased it from a bricks and mortar book store - so that I could read it then and there. With the help of four coffees, I managed to read it in one afternoon - which was actually easy to do as I found the subject matter completely immersive.

Broadly speaking, it is a fascinating book and its relevance can be seen in sport, business, education, coaching and across facets of personal life. He discusses the impact of culture in the workplace, marginal gains, growth mindset and the ability to adapt to failure in a positive way. This is the most interesting and relevant topic that I took from the book, which forms the basis for this post.

Syed talks about the way that, gradually over time, we now generally think about ‘failure’ as embarrassing, reprehensible and even ‘dirty’ in society. However, Syed also mentions how the key revolutions in humanity that have advanced us to where we are today have all been borne out of challenging the previously accepted way of doing things. From school children who won't raise their hand in class through fear of ridicule through to not speaking up at a team meeting in case you are dismissed, even though you have a valid point.

It is no coincidence that creativity thrives within environments that have no fear of doing wrong or being scolded by an authoritative command.

Redefining the notion of failure

Syed talks about how the true path to change is to transform the notion of failure. Instead of it being embarrassing or reprehensible, it should be seen as knowledgeable and informative. Would anything meaningful be created - or improved - if the only desire when planning to do something is simply to avoid failure?

This led me to thinking about the way that we do things at Synchro. We are constantly looking to challenge that status quo and to break down barriers to adopting change within the construction industry. We understand why people don’t want to make mistakes at a delivery level, but also see how it happens every single day resulting in time delay, expensive temporary works elements or – inconceivably - accident and injury. This doesn’t happen because people want to do things wrong.

The real failure here is that this process will invariably happen again on the next project, because people are too focused on avoiding their personal notion of failure to really change their way of thinking and create success. People soon slip back into old mindsets and rely on tried and tested techniques through fear of trying a new way (even if these techniques have often brought them failure(s) in the past).

Whenever we fail at doing something, we learn. We can then practice it again in a less-pressurised environment and make the process better. This is why sports teams have regular practice sessions using different types of training in different enviroments, focusing on metacognition to achieve marginal gains.  Similarly, if we really think about redefining the playing arena within construction project delivery, we can expect to achieve different results.

If a construction team can build their project virtually, going through a digital rehearsal of their project and allowing key stakeholders the opportunity to test and interrogate different scenarios - all within a creative and cooperative enviroment - the end result will be better suited to ‘successful’ delivery once the ground is broken for the first time.

True change can only come from an honest acceptance and engagement with problems and failures.

This is where the true value of reconstructing failures really exists.

With the ever-increasing demands on construction project delivery – from intricate design, demands on logistics, environmental issues, important health and safety measures and overall commercial viability – it is time to change the way that these projects are created, planned and delivered.  It is time to embrace error and push the boundaries of our current knowledge to find new ways of solving the construction project conundrum.  

Einstein once said that ideas are more important than knowledge; that we are more creative when our emotions and imagination are involved in what we are doing. Trial and error or ‘play time’ can be hugely effective in controlled trials, allowing us to rehearse ourselves to success through early cooperation; absolving blame and openly sharing information.

Challenge the status quo and dare to be different

Only by challenging the idea of ‘what worked once will always work’ will we move the delivery of construction projects into the digital age. Organisations and individuals have the ability and strength to learn and grow from previous mistakes.

Instead of an issue or problem being someone else’s responsibility, break down the information silos and inspire creativity within your team to find the right answer for all.

Challenge so-called truths about successful project delivery and experiment with new ideas.

Improve the flow of information through the project life cycle and understand that the concept of failure is avoidable by trying to do things differently.

Take the onus away from one person who is planning a project and get creative input from all members of the project team in an environment that is built on trust.

At Synchro, this is what we love to do and we want to help you to deliver projects that are well planned, well managed and well delivered. 

We challenge the status quo. We embrace creativity and reconstruct failure. We want to help you change the game.

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