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

February 19, 2015


“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.


Top Questions about Emotional Intelligence and the Construction Industry – Answered! Part 2

October 9, 2014

EQ IQIs there a correlation between emotional intelligence and performance?

I facilitated a program for a top 100 contractor based in the southern United States using emotional intelligence as a foundation for leadership development. After the managers were evaluated, I ranked their interpersonal scores (empathy, social responsibility, and interpersonal relationship skills) from the highest to the lowest. This company had their own ranking system in order to identify their star performers, the ones who contributed most to the success of the company. The astonishing fact was that the company’s overall ranking and the ranking of interpersonal skills correlated almost one-to-one. This told us that the managers who had the best interpersonal skills were also the company’s stars. They were the managers involved in the most profitable projects who contributed the most to the company’s bottom line.

Multi-Health Systems has a program called Star Performer where companies look at the EQ-i® profiles of their star performers for particular departments or positions and determine with statistical accuracy which emotional competencies are essential for high performance. Then it is just a matter of recruiting, hiring, and training for those competencies. The drawback to this approach is in the performance criteria, which must be objective. For sales, performance is objective and clear. For project managers, it is less clear. You may have a high performer that loses $100,000 on a project that would have lost $1 million. Or you may have a low performer that makes $500,000 on a project that was supposed to make $1 million.

But if you can decide on some fairly objective performance criteria, it soon becomes clear which emotional competencies are required for that level of performance.  And think about where the industry is going.  Project delivery methods are moving toward more collaborative environments:  IPD, LEAN, Design Build, Design Assist.  Disney now has a LIPD (Lean Integrated Project Delivery) method of project delivery.  With these more collaborative methods, it takes a different set up skills to be successful. According to a recent ENR article, the Construction Industry Institute recently did a study and found that “working relationships and team dynamics have emerged as the leading variables affecting the cost and schedule of industrial projects, according to a research report from the Construction Industry Institute.  If you want a high level of performance on your projects, perhaps it is time to start paying attention to your project teams’ emotional intelligence.

Top Questions about Emotional Intelligence and the Construction Industry – Answered! Part 1

October 2, 2014

EQ IQIsn’t this just another one of those personality profiles?

Invariably, program participants tell us they’ve already taken all of these kinds of tests and that this is nothing new. Many of them have taken the Myers-Briggs or the DISC test. There are literally thousands of these tests on the market today. Most are based on preferences – you know the types of questions – would you rather read a book or sail a boat? For people with low self-awareness, this can be very informative and fun, but most of these tests are rather limited for detailed, personal development.

For those who are somewhat self-aware, these tests are merely confirmations of what they already know. In fact, the common response is, “Yep, that’s me. So what?” It is my belief that personality tests, without some kind of context, are limited in their application to personal development. When you take a personality test, you put yourself in some general state of mind. But the choices that you make on those tests may change based on the circumstances. I may be more of an introvert in my personal life, but at work, I’m an extrovert. So how do I answer those questions? Sometimes I would rather be the center of attention, and sometimes, I would rather be alone. They very rarely capture the true nature of the person. These tests simply can’t capture the complexity of a human being.

This approach to development using personality types is very prevalent in the training industry. Participants take a test to find out their “type”. Usually there are three other “types”. You are either a color or a number or a quadrant or an animal. Then, they teach you about the other three “types” and how to get along with them. This approach is limited at best and can be dangerous. First of all, human beings are far more complex than a single “type”. Second, unless you carry the tests around for everyone to take, it takes empathy to determine what the other person’s “type” is. And empathy is not our best emotional competence. In fact, for most groups, it is the lowest score. Third, for some people, this is a real copout. They will stereotype people into whatever “type” they determine and treat them a certain way, which may or may not be correct.

Once you develop your emotional skills, you will be able to deal with any type of person in any situation. You will have the self-awareness to know how you are feeling and how you are being perceived and the empathy skills to know how they are feeling. These situations are dynamic. They can come up in an instant. Isn’t it better to have good fundamental emotional competence to work from rather than rely on a set of “rules” for certain “types”?

A construction company I worked for used the DISC profile for all of its employees. DISC is a test that indicates the following personality archetypes:

¥          Dominant tends to be direct and guarded

¥          Interactive tends to be direct and open

¥          Steady tends to be indirect and open

¥          Compliance tends to be indirect and guarded


As it turned out, 80% of the people in our construction company were “Dominants”. What does that tell you? Most people in the construction business have a dominant style. They tend to be direct and guarded. Didn’t we know that already?

Myers-Briggs, another personality test, indicates the following traits:

¥          Extraversion versus Introversion E or I

¥          Sensing versus iNtuition S or N

¥          Thinking versus Feeling T or F

¥          Judging versus Perceiving J or P


When you take the test, you are given a Myers-Briggs Personality Type. But what are you supposed to do with that information? There are some Myers-Briggs modules on team-building and how to deal with other Myers-Briggs types, but how do you know the personality type of everyone you encounter? One company made everyone put their Myers-Briggs profile on their coffee cups, but this concept was a miserable failure.

Let’s a look at another case study, a thirty-year-old financial consultant who could not keep a job. She was a top of her class MBA from an Ivy League school and her IQ was 138. Most of the time, she was hired on the spot. But she went through six jobs in four years. One of her clients actually brought a lawsuit against her.

Her EQ-i® (Emotional Quotient Inventory) showed “a very high independence score and a very low interpersonal relationship score suggests that she is a loner, perhaps due to a serious inability to relate to others. Moreover, her difficulty in empathizing with others contributes to this inability to relate to people and to feel part of the larger social context.”

When this woman took the Myers-Briggs, she was an ESFJ (Extraverted Feeling with Introverted Sensing). But the results of the Myers-Briggs gave her little information about why she could not hold a job. After taking the EQ-i®, she could target specific areas for development that helped in her pursuit of a career.

With personality tests, your results rarely change throughout your life, and if they do, it probably has more to do with the context in which you took it. You may shift slightly as you age. The other problem is that there is no clear path to development. If you are an ESFJ, do you want to become an INFT? And how do you do that exactly? What are the development strategies to get you there? There are none. Simply knowing yourself better does not create behavioral change that you need to be able to attain your goals. We say it over and over in our courses: Awareness alone will not change behavior!

The EQ-i® is a very different tool. It measures specific competencies such as empathy, assertiveness, and problem solving skills. It is very dynamic and reflects what is going on in your life and work at the time. If you are going through a difficult time, it will be reflected in the scores. This is much more valuable information. And when you look at that snapshot and where you want to be in the future, it becomes extremely practical. Then you choose areas to develop, and a detailed development plan is created utilizing specific development strategies. There is practical application, measurement, and improvement. This creates fundamental behavioral shifts. Personality tests simply do not do that.




Ancient Chinese Secrets and How to Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

March 26, 2013

change I have just completed the second edition of my book, The Tao of Emotional Intelligence.  After The People Profit Connection, it is my best selling book.  Why is it such a popular book?  I think it is because it helps people to create true and lasting change.  The I Ching, or book of changes, is an ancient Chinese book of wisdom that gives us many insights into living and how to deal with the constant change that life offers us.  These 82 sayings cover just about everything you need to know about how to deal with the change.  I have taken these 82 sayings and correlated them to the 16 emotional competencies that are measured by the EQi 2.0.  There is also a table in the back of the book that lists these 16 competencies and all of the sayings that are associated with each competence.  Each day, you choose a different saying to focus on throughout your day.  With this daily focus on different sayings from the I Ching, you start to cultivate the changes that you want in your life and work.

Here are the steps to create change as outlined in the book:

1. Take the emotional intelligence test in the book so that you can determine which emotional competencies you need to work on.

2.  Graph your results.

3.  Read the interpretive guidelines to determine which competencies you should focus on.

4.  Choose a different I Ching saying each day and make that your focus for the day.

We are also developing an app that does the same thing.

Stay tuned and be on the lookout for more blogs about sayings from the I Ching.  Also, be on the lookout for the app as well as the publication of this second edition.

Take care.  Brent

Revelations about my Smart Phone

September 16, 2011

I know I am not supposed to do it.  But I did.  I was checking emails while driving.  It’s not a very smart thing to do.  It is ridiculously stupid if you give it any thought.  After avoiding what would have been a horrible crash due to checking emails while driving, I had an epiphany.  I vowed to never use my phone while driving again.  It was extremely difficult at first.  I keep reaching for my phone, wanting to check it constantly.  But after a while, the impulse to reach for my phone died down.  Not only did driving become much more conscious and safe, but there was an amazing side benefit I had not counted on.  My stress levels actually went down for a number of reasons.  1.  I decided to turn off the radio as well and just be in the moment of driving.  As a result, many very cool ideas came floating into my brain.  Of course, I had to hold them there until I could safely make a voice note.  2.  I think the brain in multi-task mode burns a lot of energy.  Because I was not frantically trying to drive, text, talk, and be fully present, I was not as fatigued at the end of the day.  3.  When I needed to chill out without silence, I turned on the radio to some nice music, staying away from talk radio or any stations that fuel the fear of what’s going on in the world today.  As a result, stress levels were reduced.

I know we lived in this fast paced world and feel that we need to be DOING something every second of the day.  But I want you to try something for one week.  When you are in your car, only do the following:  Be fully present and drive.  The only other things you can do is listen to the silence or listen to some nice music.  See how differently you feel after that week.  It is not only much safer, but it will contribute to your well being.  And for those of you who are worried about lost productivity due to not using your smart phone in your car, you will find that because you are less stressed and have more energy, you will actually get MORE done when you arrive at your destination.  In addition, I am trying to find other times to just turn my phone off and be fully engaged in other activities such as reading, writing, or just plain thinking.  It has been very beneficial.

If you try this, I would love to see how it worked for you.

The Future of Learning Part 2

September 13, 2011

I talked last time about self directed, self paced learning and how true learning that creates behavioral change takes place over long periods of time with much repetition.  But just knowing how people learn and apply information is not enough.  Why do people make the effort to learn something?  There may be several reasons.  They may find joy in learning.  They may like to be “in the know”.  They may want to impress people with their knowledge.  They may want to acquire skills that will enable them to be more successful.  They may want to get ahead in life.  But I think as teachers and trainers, it is imperative that we ask this vital question, “Why are you here?  Why do you want to learn?”  The answer will be different for different people, but they must understand why they are putting forth this effort.  In the Bible, before healing him, Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be healed?”

So, before starting anything new, before embarking on that road to learning and creating change, ask yourself that vital question, “Why?”  Once you know why you want to learn, the rest becomes easy.  You will have the intrinsic motivation to learn.  And intrinsic motivation is much better than any kind of extrinsic motivation.  You can make people go to classes.  You can offer learning credits.  You can offer incentives that encourage people to learn.  You can set a good example as a leader.  But if you don’t get at the individual motivation for learning and creating change, you are banging your head against the wall.

Our academic world has lost that sense of learning.  Most students ask the same question:  “What do I need to know for the test?”  When I told some professors that I wanted to our final session to include how to create lifelong learning, they declined to participate.  They said, “We’re giving them a test.”   Regurgitation of information without the “why” will not stay with students for very long.  They feel such pressure to perform, they have lost the joy of learning and the real reason they are in school.

So at the start of every class that you take or every class that you teach ask the participants, “Why are you here?  What do you hope to get out of this?  How will you apply it to your life and work?  What changes do you hope to create?”  Have them write these down as a way to solidify their motivation.  Then, when you start the learning process, you will have a room full of motivated folks who truly want to learn.

The Future of Learning-Part One (This is a series of blogs on how we learn)

August 31, 2011

In 2007, companies spent $127 BILLION dollars on training.  What is the purpose of training?  Either to impart a particular technical skill or to create a change in behavior. Technical training success is easy to gauge.  You either can perform the skill or not.  Unfortunately, most of the training designed to create behavioral change fails to accomplish this goal.

Did you know that up to 90% of learning and 100% of the application of that learning takes place outside of the classroom?  Think about that for a minute.  That explains the “three ring binder” syndrome.  We go to a training session and are excited about the many changes we will make.  Then, we get back to our work and our daily lives, and that enthusiasm falls by the wayside.  So we put the binder a shelf.  A year goes by until we need the binder.  So we take the contents and inserts out of the binder and throw them away.  Does this sound familiar? We’ve all done it.

The future of learning will be self paced with ample opportunities to access the learning whenever and whenever you want.  You will be able to create connections that will allow you to learn at your own pace and utilize the learning techniques that work for you.  We will have learning via social networks, via our phones, and via the internet.  Learning will take place in groups and everyone will help each other to learn.  Learners will have accountability built into the learning and mentors to help them to understand and apply all of that great information out there.  That is why all of our programs are a year in duration.  We have found that the changes in behavior due to the application of the learning BEGINS around the four to five month mark.  And this learning environment is filled with continual follow-up, daily application, daily reflection, ample accountability, and is reinforced continually by informal learning methods such as weekly emails, blogs, chat rooms, videos, and other media.

It comes as no surprise that we don’t ever create any behavioral changes in a weekend seminar!  With this continuous learning model, these behavioral changes are pretty solid by the seven to eight month mark, and we give it a few more months just to be sure and to let any slower paced folks catch up.  And it doesn’t end there.  We have reunions each year and check in with some evaluations followed by a 1/2 day session where we check in with what has changed, where are you going now, and what will you need to get there.  The participants then create new plans going forward for that next year.  It is vital to check in because people will revert back to old behaviors, especially during stressful times.  And can you think of any more stressful times than now?

Check out the following videos that illustrate these points.

TED Talk by Salman Kahn:


Also, take a look at our take on traditional learning and how we have changed that paradigm with the Total Leadership Program: