Building with Digital Blocks — Why a Culture of Innovation is Vital for the Future of the Construction Industry

Building with Digital Blocks — Why a Culture of Innovation is Vital for the Future of the Construction Industry

Rapid change and digital transformation are no longer buzz words or concepts that are only attributed to the most adaptive organisations across the world. Globally, regardless of industry, organisations are facing the choice to either digitally adapt and embrace innovation, or be left behind. 

For the construction industry – a sector known for its labour-intensive and siloed working – implementing new digital technologies could be considered a total evolution in practice. 

Many in our industry are already adopting Building Information Modelling (BIM) 3D modelling, virtual and augmented reality, and data-driven decision making as part of their everyday operations. 

But not all are ready for this level of business evolution, and its rapid nature often increases hesitation. 

Both internally and externally, innovative organisations will find resistance from those who prefer the old way of doing things. So what can organisations do to bring those people along on the digital transformation journey?  

The case for digital evolution

Recent Gartner research found that 91% of businesses are engaged in some form of digital initiative, with 87% of surveyed senior business leaders stating that digitalisation is an organisational priority. 

Much of the world is catching on to how imperative it is to stay ahead with digital technology and opportunity. The industry is at a tipping point, and organisations without an innovation strategy run the risk of being left behind.

Adopting technological change and its organisational impacts

  • Cost reduction. Change often comes with initial cost considerations. But, long-term forecasting, particularly in embracing the power of automative and AI technology, can show exciting cost reduction possibilities. 
  • Increased productivity. When it comes to keeping work moving forward, especially with teams across multiple sites, there’s nothing quite like digital connection to make an impact. 
  • Faster turnaround. Automation of repetitive tasks, intelligent workflows, and fine tuned forecasting are some of the ways technology can supercharge timelines. 
  • Risk mitigation. The construction industry is well positioned to embrace the impacts technology can have on risk mitigation and security. From drone surveying to virtual reality compliance training, the opportunities have exciting ramifications.
  • Seen as a leader in the change. Those who embrace technology and understand how it can map to the day-to-day operations of the construction industry can lead an otherwise hesitant sector and will grow a reputation as being ahead of the digital curve. 

How innovative leaders can show the way

International leadership expert Simon Sinek speaks of the belief that great leaders who truly inspire their teams do so, consciously or not, by following a pattern referred to as The Golden Circle. This pattern demonstrates how much more can be achieved when decision making and leadership is focused first on a clear ‘why’, followed by the ‘how’ and the ‘what’. 

Change will commonly attract levels of fear or hesitation, and the unknown frontiers of technology will not always sit well with the risk-averse. Confident and equipped leaders can effect the cultural change here. Technology is not the enemy – instead, anxiety about change is what can hold organisations back. 

Building a culture of innovation

Building a culture of innovation begins with fostering an innovative mindset within senior leaders, and equipping them with the tools to effectively inspire their teams by communicating the ‘why’ for any project. 

For a culture of change to be immersed within an organisation, it needs to come from the top. Leaders must demonstrate their excitement for innovation, moving away from a risk-averse way of thinking, and toward an out-of-the-box mindset.

A culture of digital innovation is called a ‘culture’ not a ‘project’ for a reason. Realising the real, long-term positive impacts from digital change will only happen if it is truly embraced as an organisation-wide culture – not a side-project, or temporary goal. Aligning innovative activities and even education to business objectives will make the ‘why’ clear to stakeholders as well as the ‘what’ and ‘how’. 

Spreading the transformation

As with any business objective, it’s important to keep track of changes and milestones. Then, once the impacts are becoming evident, you can begin championing the evolution externally. 

In the construction industry – one that is perhaps a little slower to adopt digital change – curious leaders will seek case studies when considering a digital transformation. Much of our industry is overlapping and interlinked, with no organisation operating as an island. Taking steps collectively and building on each other’s expertise in these unknown frontiers will see everyone win. 

Celebrating transformation

The journey to digital transformation is a long and sometimes difficult one, and not necessarily one that ever ‘finishes’. To maintain a sustainable culture of innovation, it is paramount to allow space where small victories and milestones are shared and celebrated along the way.

Acknowledging and celebrating progress will reward the investment from all team members and stakeholders, and inspire them to continue innovating. Embrace this direction both internally and externally, and keep the momentum going by sharing positive impacts and evidence of benefit early on. 

Change is here to stay

For an organisation to truly embed innovation into its operations, it has to be understood that this process is never over. New technologies come along all the time, and organisations will need to keep in order to stay competitive.

The only constant is change. Developing an organisation that is not only resilient to digital change, but thrives within it, will bring benefits not just for your business but our whole industry.

Khalil Shaiful

Deputy Director, Group Level at Boustead Projects Singapore