4D BIM for Construction

VDC/BIM: Disruptive Innovation, Creative Destruction

Posted by Leonardo Rischmoller on Mar 13, 2015 3:17:00 PM


While there is not yet a more or less agreed definition about what BIM and VDC are, BIM/VDC is still seen by many careful risk-takers concerned with maintaining the status quo as only an incremental innovation oriented to improve on an existing way of doing something.  BIM/VDC, however, is not only an incremental innovation but a new way to deal with the whole life cycle project development processes that will transform completely the AEC/EPC industries. Thinking about BIM/VDC as a form of “disruptive innovation” (Clay Christensen) or “creative destruction” (Joseph Schumpeter) could help us to understand the path of huge transformation that the AEC/EPC industries have just started to walk due to the impact of BIM/VDC adoption. 

I have prepared the following table where I have included some of the things that I believe will be either created or "destroyed" once BIM/VDC becomes industry practice. Some companies have already started the process of creative-destruction included on some of the ideas on the table, others could use the table to realize what is needed, while others will probably follow an approach similar to the weavers in rural England during the industrial revolution, they demonstrated, petitioned Parliament, and even burned down textile mills in an effort to fend off mechanization. Would we be better off now if they had succeeded and we still made all of our clothes by hand?
Table 1 BIM/VDC as a form of creative-destruction and disruptive-innovation 


An innovative ecosystem in which new mind-sets and behaviors lead to the ability to see a problem whole (i.e. the project lifecycle) and then effectively integrate a variety of perspectives and ideas as a crucial part of the innovation process. The current AEC/EPC industries ecosystem formed by a collection of players who try to cooperate and coordinate, which is not necessarily a community capable of the breakthrough work needed by the BIM/VDC innovation process.
Innovative disruptive patterns of communication among AEC/EPC actors working collocated in integrated, collaboratively and rich technological environments from the early stages of the project development process. AEC/EPC actors working most of the time mainly alone or in small tribes to protect and advance their own interests. Silos, politics entrenchment, mistakes covered up instead of exposed, slow and unease spread of information replacing any sense of cooperation and security.
Methods to prevent design, construction and project life cycle problems by identifying and solving them in digital environments before going to the jobsite or starting the project operation. Design and construction problems identified too late (e.g. at the jobsite or during project operation) when solving them demands incurring in additional effort, cost and time.
Organizational structures and systems redesigned in ways that will support greater collaboration and innovation oriented to facilitate pursuing new ideas quickly and effectively without going through and arduous corporate development process.

Corporate strategies that don’t have to wait until getting on the ground to realize that the strategy needs to be adapted due to the lots of unforeseen BIM/VDC implementation challenges.
Structure converted in and end rather than a means to simplify focus and effort. Structure assuming a life and rationale of its own, with plans and rules that persist even after the conditions that spawned them have disappeared.
Leaders catalysts of innovation whose most important role is to create a context in which others can collectively do the work of innovation recognizing the value on creating paths for innovation. Leaders whose main role is being the one guiding or directing the action of an innovation bureaucracy desperate for finding the one-size-fits-all recommendations.
Organization’s success or failure based mainly on leadership excellence. Organization’s success or failure based mainly on managerial acumen.
Tolerance to making mistakes in the digital world. Brainstorming. Out of the box thinking. Trial and error of courses of action when not sure if they are right, resulting in environments that promote innovation. Operating processes biased toward lowering risk and avoiding mistakes. These processes, and the overall management approach from which they were derived, result in environments that stifle innovation.
New processes by which decisions are reached, the timing when decisions are reached, and the way in which decisions are implemented. Current processes by which decisions are reached, the timing when decisions are reached, and the way in which decisions are implemented.
Shorter latency-the time between action and reaction. Long latency-the time between action and reaction.
Improved predictability due to the ability to begin thinking and acting in a newly technology based circumstance-contingent way. The traditional, “doomed-for obsolescence-before-the-ink-dries” type of procedures, plans and schedules.
Willingness and ability to learn new things rather than clinging hopefully to the sources of past glory.  
Implementation of processes through which viable strategies can emerge. Openness to emergent strategies that enables management to act before everything is fully understood-to respond to an evolving reality rather than having to focus on a stable fantasy. An emergent strategy itself implies learning what works-taking one action at a time in a search for viable patterns or consistency.

Leading innovation requires leaders to rethink their roles and responsibilities. Many leaders like structure because it provides the comfort of control. They neither understand nor feel comfortable with the improvisation and autonomy that innovation requires. BIM/VDC is seen by many as a disruptive threat for established roles, status, reputation, or rights and prerogatives. However, when innovation is the goal, a conventional approach to leadership makes little sense. BIM/VDC demands not only the development of new technological skills but also learning new management approaches instead of clinging tenaciously to the skills that made the AEC/EPC industries successful in the past.

BIM/VDC might seem to be a non-core activity today that might become an absolutely critical competence to have mastered in the future. I am convinced that introducing learning goals in addition to performance goals, and making a pause to reflect on the “creative destruction” and “disruptive innovation” nature of BIM/VDC will help to realize where each of us fit on the trip of BIM/VDC towards becoming integrated into the fabric of the AEC/EPC industries, across every function and region.

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