Innovation, Part 2: Top 10 Outrageous Ideas for the Construction Industry


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“Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Albert Einstein

 

 

Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” quote is usually taken out of context.  By “fittest”, he didn’t mean the strongest.  He meant the one who could adapt.  Those are the ones who survive.

The movie, Moneyball, is a great reminder of this concept.  It is the tale of someone who truly thought about how to do things differently.  Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, wanted to “change the game” of baseball by abandoning the traditional scouting process and use statistical analyses and to find the “right” players to attain the correct number of runs to attain the correct number of wins to attain a playoff slot.  And it worked quite well.  The Athletics won 20 in a row, setting a new baseball record.  There is a downside to the story.  They never won any championships, but they consistently have good teams even though their budgets are 40% less than some other big league team’s budgets.  The ROI on this approach is undeniable.

So how do we think differently about the construction business?  I have a few ideas.  Many of these are not my concepts.  There are companies who do these things already.  But can we find a way to adapt these ideas to this industry and our business?

Here are my top 10 crazy ideas for the construction industry:

10.  Make every employee do anything other than work for one hour a day.  It can be anything from surfing the web to rollerblading.  This gives them some downtime and clears their head for thinking in innovative ways.  Your employees will be more creative, less stressed, and more satisfied.

9.  Put in nap/recharge rooms for employees so that they can restore themselves throughout the day.  There is study after study that shows that this improves the bottom line and the health of your employees.

8.  Let employees bring pets and/or children to work.

7.  Create a ROWE (Results Oriented Work Environment).  Let employees set their own work hours and also self direct as to what they want to work on.  You can set work goals, but not tell them how or when they need to be done.

6.  Collaborate with each other (throughout the industry, even competitors) on best practices for marketing, purchasing, procurement, delivery, etc.  Help each other and share the rewards.  Come from a place of abundance that there is enough work for everyone.

5.  Find as many ways as possible to create a positive emotional experience internally and externally.  Have fun.  Laugh.  Do office chair races, have games in the office.  Give people a sense of purpose.  Your employees should have a blast every single day!

4.  Take the risk.  We are all so risk averse in the industry, it stifles creativity and innovation.  Let it all hang out and innovate like nobody’s business.  Reward it, cultivate it, revel in it.  Don’t condemn ideas that didn’t work.  Go to the next one.  Edison found 999 ways that a light bulb didn’t work before he came up with one that did.

3.  Give employees as much time off as humanly possible during the workweek and for vacation.  Let it be one of your main incentives.

2.  Put some love in everything that you do.  It’s not that serious!  Spread love inside and outside of the company.

1.  Re-brand your company and fill it with spirit.  What does your brand say to your clients?  If you are like most contractors and engineers, it says, “trustworthy”, “reliable”, “stable”, “ethical” and probably a list of very nice words.  First of all, MOST contractor’s and engineer’s brands convey these things.  But these words are a bit stuffy.  Look at most commercials on television for a variety of products and services.  All of them are filled with positive emotions:  Coke:  Open Happiness.  Love:  It’s what makes a Suburu a Suburu.  Harley Davidson doesn’t sell motorcycles.  They sell freedom and independence.  We have really missed the boat in this industry.  The company who figures out how to brand themselves with fun, love, great times, humor, innovation, and creativity will slay the competition.

Owners are starved for this type of approach to building.  Owners will choose you because they like you, trust you, and respect you.  In that order.  You may be saying that it’s all about low price.  But there is a backlash of the low bid mentality.  The only ones making money are the lawyers.  And according to Herb Kelleher, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, those intangibles of spirit are not only a moral imperative, but they are much harder for your competition to replicate.

You may dismiss these ideas.  You may think they are ridiculous.  You may say that there is no way to do any of these in the construction business, especially on projects.  But I can tell you this:  The companies who figure these things out and actually implement these kinds of radical changes and find new ways of working  will dominate the industry.  It may not be the ideas listed above.  You will likely have to adapt and change them to fit company culture and industry standards.  But I can tell you that those who continue to limp along with ideas and concepts that are hundreds, perhaps thousands of years old, are doomed.

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