Working within any industry that has tried and true roots, the need for a change of ways only seems to be pushed by the atmosphere around you. In our ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mentality, we seem to remain firmly implanted in the footsteps of those before us and content to not waiver off course. Nowhere has this been more true than in my experience in the architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) industry. Policies, SOP’s, methods and more have led many companies to many years of success. And why bother to change and adapt to the world around you? The mantra ‘that’s the way we’ve always done it’ has worked for so long, many principals and presidents have seen no reason to adapt.
That was then, this is now.
The scary thing is ‘then’ was barely ten years ago, if that. Our world is changing around us daily, if not hourly. It is impossible to keep up with the start-up and technology driven age we are living in. What once could take years of concept, research, design and delivery has been compressed into what seems like mere days. Think tanks and crowdsourcing is the new norm and the power of one has now become the power of many. No longer is the need for change inevitable, it is mandatory.
This all hit home harder than ever last week in Nashville, while attending #CONSTRUCT, the Construction Specifications Institute’s (CSI) annual convention and affiliated Trade Show from Hanley Wood. After Institute President Casey Robb impressed the need to ‘Step up your game with CSI’, the keynote address was delivered by Ira Blumenthal and entitled ‘Change is Inevitable: Building Your Brand for the Future’. In a well researched and passionately delivered address to the general assembly of CSI members, Ira’s presentation really hit home on the absolute need for change. Starting off with asking ‘How many people flew here today?…….on Eastern Airlines?’, many thought-provoking messages were hammered home on not just how the AEC industry has changed, but on how the world has changed and how FAST it is changing. Remember when McDonald’s rolled out the McCafe to keep up with the coffee industry? They are now selling the 2nd most coffee in the industry – all because of the need to adapt to their industry around them.
‘Critical mass’ for the sake of this presentation was the adoption of new technology by 50 million Americans. What once took 25 years to reach 50 million users in television has adapted through just one year for my social media medium of choice, Twitter. Facebook may have taken 2 years to reach ‘critical mass’, but now there are 1.15 BILLION users as of June 2013 – over 15 percent of the WORLD population. While Twitter and Facebook may not be at the backbone of your organization, or even used by your marketing team, it is a great indication on how things are indeed changing around us.
Change isn’t easy, whether it is personal changes that you need to make within or to your company as a whole. However, change is not only inevitable and mandatory. As Ira said, ‘most people and organizations change because they are forced to change. Why wait for a fire to install smoke detectors?’ His answer: ‘we become paralyzed by our paradigms.’ The mentality of ‘This is the way we have always done it’ is the mindset of extinct organizations, like Eastern Airlines. Simply put by Ira, ‘Ignore change, and you will die.’ The message sent was widely received by all: 500 plus members of the Construction Specifications Institute; an organization 65 years in the making in perhaps one of the most changing industries out there: AEC. Don’t be afraid to break some rules, alter the guidelines and invent something new. ‘But this is how we’ve always done it’ is not how your organization is going to bring itself into 2014 and beyond. Whether to build a better building or deliver your product, you can’t be afraid to ask questions, form allegiances and raise the bar.
I came home from Nashville with one of Ira’s messages flowing through me: ‘Your history means nothing. Today and tomorrow, you must do it again and do it better.’ Think big and raise the bar – it is how you change and grow that matters today.
(Note: I would be remiss if I didn’t give a hat tip to @KaitlinSolomon3 of CSI who put together a great Storify summary of September 25, 2013, which you can see here and to my fellow Tweeps for their Tweets of a great keynote: @DStutzman, @TheGainesGroup, @LizOSullivanAIA, @cheriseschacter, @m2architek, @rietta_mccain, @matt_porta, @speclawyer and @vivianvolz)
For those that are interested in watching the first 5 minutes of Ira’s keynote to CONSTRUCT, I have shared it on YouTube: