What Lies Ahead: How Leaders Can Seize Opportunities by Focusing on the Future

December 6, 2012

Future Shock:

futureThink about the future of construction.  What if you could build a 6 story building in 24 hours and assemble it with a minimally skilled work force?  How about a 15 story hotel in six days?  How about a 30 story hotel in just six days?  What if there was a 3D copier that copied large architectural elements without any form-work for use on buildings?  What if a brick paving machine eliminated the need for paving masons? What if industrial robots built walls and eliminated the need for brick masons?  What if you could construct a building that had net zero energy usage?  What if I told you that all of these “what ifs” are realities today?

Imagine a future where contracting has changed so drastically, that you don’t even recognize it as contracting.  Imagine a future where there are no retail buildings, no education buildings, no banks, no bookstores, no music stores, no malls, and no commercial offices.  Imagine buildings that don’t even look like conventional buildings.  Imagine mega-structures, sustainable communities, mile high buildings, and construction methods that can only be dreamed about today.  Imagine a completely different process of procuring, executing, and delivering work.  Fasten your seat belts.  It will be like nothing you have ever seen.

Ch ch ch ch changes . . .

Our society is transforming itself.  Much of what happens during the day is virtual.  This trend will continue and accelerate.  There are fewer face to face meetings.  There will a declining need for office space, retail space, movie houses, warehouses, schools, prisons (due to a decline in inmate populations), and dormitories.  Our virtual world will affect construction like never before.  People will do most of their business online from shopping to banking.  They will work from home and go to school via the internet.

And as those project opportunities decline, others will be growing. Some areas to look for are data centers and other support for these virtual worlds, package delivery and pickup locations, hospitals and healthcare facilities for our aging population, senior living facilities for the baby boomer retirees, and more entertainment venues including sports arenas, casinos, leisure destinations, and hotels. There will be a focus on adapting the home for virtual work and play.  There will be a focus on smaller, customized manufacturing facilities.  You will also be repairing our crumbling infrastructure and transportation services that will include more roads and bridges, more airport and rail work, more port work, and water and waste water projects from treatment to distribution.

Look for more prefabrication, modular construction, 3D copiers that can replicate large, architectural elements, machines that can build projects, paperless projects, instant buildings, and innovative construction methods that cut the time of construction by up to 90%.  Virtual simulators will be able to build the entire project virtually and you will be able to literally “walk” through the project before it has begun.  You will see more dimensions added to BIM so that technology will be able to build the entire building and identify all issues before anything happens on a site.

The estimating process will become so automated that everyone will be pricing the exact same thing. There will be more focus on energy efficiency, sustainable buildings and communities, integrated design, minimizing waste, and net zero use buildings that use no outside utilities.  There will be more collaboration and alliances among all stakeholders in the industry from owners to architects to designers to contractors to subcontractors to vendors and suppliers.  Big companies are already swallowing up smaller companies, and projects are getting bigger and bigger.  More and more of these large projects will be bid with strategic teams utilizing different sets of expertise along with local presence.

There will be more creative ways to finance projects, more creative delivery methods, more innovative construction methods, and more creative ways to make buildings last longer and be more efficient.

How can you solve these future issues?

It is a fact.  Things are changing and changing fast.  Contractors are all looking toward the future.  There is a lot of talk about “the new normal”.  What do you need to know to prepare for the future of contracting?  What areas do you need to focus on now to be competitive in this brave new contracting world?  How will you lead your company into this future?

Currently, the industry focuses on how to improve traditional construction processes and methodologies to try and squeeze out a few more dollars to the bottom line from the traditional bid, build, and deliver method.  You look at productivity.  You look at the workforce and do our best to attract and train more skilled workers, lamenting the fact that there are no more skilled tradesmen.  You look at technology.  But you are looking at all of these problems through the lens of traditional construction processes.  Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Contractors have a ton of knowledge and expertise, but their focus is on that narrow window of bidding, building, and turning over a project. Think for a moment about the entire construction process from the idea in the owner’s head until the end of the life of that project. We are in the information and knowledge age, but most contractors fail to capitalize on that knowledge and information that they possess.

The contractor of the future will address the entire construction process.  He will be extremely adaptable, knowledgeable, and tech savvy.  He will focus on education and the latest methods of construction and building maintenance.  He will be able to work virtually literally from anywhere in the world. He will understand the global nature of construction and be able to see that big picture.  He will embrace diversity and find ways to bring more women and minorities into the workforce.

The contractor of the future will learn creative ways to finance and launch projects, going beyond traditional bank loans and Public Private Partnerships.  He will learn to monetize this vast knowledge that contributes value to the entire construction process.  He will be a true master builder that knows every aspect of a project from start to finish.  The contractor that comes out on top will be the one that can add the most value to this process.  Pricing will become irrelevant.

Are you ready for all of these changes?  It will take strong leadership and a willingness to change.  All stakeholders in the construction process must take a look at these trends and educate themselves and their workers on how to capitalize on them. They must work on the skills they will need for the future including being an expert on creative financing, cutting edge technology, the latest construction methodologies, effective and seamless facilities maintenance, world class education, and relationships, alliances and collaboration.

Construction leaders who serve on AGC Georgia’s Board of Directors are working together to answer some of these questions, study new trends and contemplate a different future. Efforts to better understand the contractor of the future are critical to ensure AGC Georgia stays relevant to the changing needs of its membership and a changing construction landscape. Equally important are the implications of these changes for your company. Are you looking toward the future?

————————————————————————–

This article was written by Brent Darnell and published as a feature article in Georgia Construction Today, Fourth Quarter 2012. For more information about this publication or the Georgia AGC, please click here. For more information about Brent Darnell, owner of Brent Darnell International, visit: http://www.brentdarnell.com.


How to increase your oxytocin and boost the quality of your relationships

August 30, 2011


Oxytocin is an amazing hormone.  It is called the “cuddle” hormone and is secreted by mothers and babies when mothers are breastfeeding.  It is also released during orgasm and when we have basic human contact with others.  From handshakes to pats on the back to massage, that human touch starts the production of oxytocin.  It gives us that feeling of warmth and connection.  We naturally mirror the emotions of the person sitting across from us.  Mirror neurons in our brains fire without any conscious thought.  Emotions are, indeed, contagious from a  physiological point of view.  Try this experiment.  Get a partner and try not to show any emotion.  Then ask them to put a great big, genuine smile on their face.  What happens? Your mirror neurons kick in and you WANT to smile.  It’s involuntary and automatic.  Can you look at the following photo and not smile?

Think of the power of that connection and what you can do to affect it during your next encounter with another human being.

There was a study done where men sorted pictures of angry faces.  Normally this triggers a response in the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain.  These negative faces trigger a negative emotional response.  But they took half the men and had them inhale oxytocin.  The other half  inhaled a placebo.  The men who inhaled the oxytocin showed far less activity in the amygdala and far less negative emotions.

So, short of breastfeeding, how do we boost our own levels of oxytocin? There are no supplements or foods that naturally boost this amazing hormone.  But there are some things we can do.

1.  Smile.  Smiling not only releases lots of good hormones in your body, including oxytocin, it will excite the mirror neurons of the person sitting across from you.  They will be much more likely to “catch” your emotion that you are sending them.

2.  Make an emotional connection.  Ask the person how they are truly feeling.  Try to empathize with their situation.  Show real concern.  Remember, treat everyone kindly because we are all fighting epic battles.  This concern for another human being starts the oxytocin pumping.

3.  Reach out and touch someone.  What do they do every two hours to premature babies?  They hold them and feed them.  Humans need human touch.  One story from a Romanian orphanage tells of a child that survived in a room full of kids because he was near the door.  As the attendant turned out the light and shut the door, she touched the kid on her way out.  He was the only one that made it out alive and owes his life to human touch.  So look for appropriate ways to impart touch to someone else.  Ken Blanchard talks about the literal pat on the back.  Take every opportunity to give a good, warm, open, inviting handshake (and it won’t hurt to smile while you do it).  Hugs are also great things and I find myself hugging more, even in business settings.

4.  Send love.  I know this sounds a little esoteric, but emotions create energy and that energy will affect the outcome of any situation. So if you put yourself in a good emotional state of love or even a state of positive thinking, the people across from you will pick up on that energy and it will affect them and the outcome.  I have found that this works even with the most hard boiled people and the most contentious situations.

If you try these ways to increase oxytocin and improve your relationships, you will find that people will be much more receptive and open.  I would love to hear about your experiments with this approach.  Post here or let me know via email.

 


Forget About Your People And They Will Certainly Forget About You

August 29, 2011

I attended the SMPS (Society for Marketing Professional Services) National Conference this past week in Chicago and there was a common theme running throughout the conference:

It’s all about your people.

This goes for both internal and external customers.  This concept may seem trite and redundant and many of you will say, “Duh!”  But I think it bears repeating because during these stressful times, we tend to forget that.  Even if it is unintentional,  many companies neglect to truly take care of their people and their external clients.  They are in survival mode, and they buckle down.  The focus is internal, and we forget the people sitting across from us.  Keep in mind that, as a business owner, your people are scared, unsure, and likely approaching burning out with the amount of stress involved in trying to get new work.  This goes for clients as well.  Get up right now and go talk to someone near you.  Ask them how they are doing, and perhaps more importantly, how they are feeling.

During these stressful times, we crave connection with others, so do everything within your power to create those connections.  The golden rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We talk about the platinum rule which says,  “Treat others the way that they want to be treated.”  Remember, others may want to be treated differently than you would want to be treated. The platinum rule honors that difference.

Both individuals and companies can focus on ways to create more connections with others both internally and externally. Increase the social activities during work hours and after work hours. Involve the families. Let people know you care. Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the personal milestones of births, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, and graduations.  Mourn the losses personally and professionally with your people.  Let them know that you not only know about their life, but you care about what happens to them.  If you don’t take these steps, be prepared for a mass exodus when the economy turns.  People will go where they feel cared about and nurtured.  Period.  And if you have leaders in the company who don’t subscribe to this notion of taking care of your people, remember that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they don’t like their boss.

This isn’t hard to do, but it takes effort and focus.  And the payback can be tremendous!  If you have any success stories with this people approach, please share them.  I would love to post it on the BDI Blog!


Thursday’s BDI Buzz: Primal Safety Coloring Book

August 18, 2011

This week’s “Buzz Book” is such a neat concept! There’s no trickery—it’s exactly what it sounds like, a coloring book. But read on, there is a connection between construction work and coloring books that makes a lot of sense.

Brent’s not implying that construction workers should be picking this up on their lunch hour with a box of crayons. Instead, this book is intended to facilitate the very important conversation about work safety with your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

There’s no arguing that technical careers hold a daily safety risk unparalleled to any other job. And just as much as it’s important for the workers to know and practice good safety habits, it’s equally as important that the youth in their life begin to understand these same habits from an early age. Whether they follow in their family’s footsteps and continue a career in the construction industry, or are simply in a car that drives by a construction site one day, the lessons learned in this book are important. These safety skills are applicable to any career and help to foster a mindset of safety and caution. Furthermore, when a worker shares this with someone close to them, they’re going to remember these same principles the next day on the job and the importance they carry in keeping them safe and bringing them back home to their family.

The best part about this book isn’t just the great graphics, fun captions or that it’s written in both English and Spanish—it’s that all proceeds of this coloring book goes to help the families of those who have been injured on construction projects in the memory of Brent’s father, Bob A. Darnell.

Buy it here!


Thursday’s BDI Buzz: Big Mama’s Country Cookbook

August 11, 2011

We’re buzzing over this week’s book for a whole new reason—it’s delicious!

This book is so much more than a collection of recipes. It’s a collection of memories, the snapshot of a lifestyle and the history of an entire family portrayed through the love and enjoyment of “down-home” Southern cooking. Brent was born and raised in the Deep South—Mobile, Alabama to be exact. Understanding the culture of this Southern community is key to appreciating the pages and pages of recipes that follow. In Brent’s words, “Mobile is a place where people have names like Bubba, Shirley Boy, Booger Red, Cotton, Snort, Bubby and Aunt Vila (pronounced Aint Vila). People live in shotgun houses and “set” on front porches.”

The only thing more vivid than this colorful description of Brent’s childhood is the irresistible aroma your mind creates while reading through the recipes. This cookbook offers everything from simple and practical recipes like “Clean Out the Cupboard Vegetable Soup” to more adventurous ones like “Ben’s Gumbo.”  There are recipes you’ll be dying to try like “Nanny’s Fried Sweet Potatoes” and things you may never have heard of like “Esther’s Mayonnaise Cake.” But one thing is pretty certain– every recipe in here is as delicious as it is Southern.

While the recipes may make up the content of the book, it’s the memories and history you can sense behind each dish that make up the heart of the book. Readers may not have the same Southern upbringing as did Brent, but this is a book everyone, whether brought up in the East, South, North or West, needs to add to their personal library!

Buy Big Mama’s Country Cookbook here!


Thursday’s BDI Buzz: Stress Management, Time Management & Life Balance for Tough Guys

August 4, 2011

We’re still buzzing over the Tough Guy series! This week looks at a book that addresses three of the industry’s most common obstacles that lead to burnout and weigh on an employee’s health and happiness.

Continuing with the Tough Guys series, this particular book offers some of the most immediately applicable advice. Construction workers endure physically and mentally strenuous work environments. In addition, they’re often working on a tight deadline that keeps getting tighter regardless of project set-backs. Throw in finding time for family, eating healthy and getting enough sleeping and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So you can see how easily stress and poor habits can easily get out of control…

What this book successfully provides is a no nonsense guide to exactly what’s in its title: stress management, time management and life balance. The book really gets through to even the “toughest” of readers by first examining what your stress is doing to your mental and physical well-being. There are some great testimonials from people who didn’t know their sluggishness, headaches and other health issues were actually related to a completely non-physical cause, stress (all testimonials can be found at http://www.brentdarnell.com). By heeding to Brent’s advice in this book, we can all learn to better identify and manage stress, make better use of our time and find a balance between work, family and what we are most passionate about.

Buy it here!


The New BDI Blog

August 1, 2011

Welcome to the NEW home of the Brent Darnell International (BDI) Blog. Formerly found HERE, you can now follow and stay up to date with all the BDI Blog’s postings on Word Press. Comments & ideas are always welcome additions to the discussion and we hope to hear from you soon!

COMING SOON….each Thursday will feature a review and sneak peak of one of Brent’s newest books. Be sure to check back this Thursday for the review of Stress Management, Time Management & Life Balance for Tough Guys!”

And as always, you can browse Brent’s entire book collection, including the best-selling People-Profit Connection, right here.