Many construction businesses shy away from change, ending up less resilient and less innovative. Some fall into the trap of following the same best practices as everyone else, leaving them less innovative and with fewer points of competitive difference.
In 2006, the Sloan Management Review offered insights into why companies miss opportunities to innovate. Its “12 Different Ways for Companies to Innovate” highlighted an “innovation radar” framework as a tool to avoid missing those opportunities.
The Harvard Business Review reports people are afraid of innovation because of the word itself. The authors argue for using words like “ideas” or “reinvention.” They suggest focusing on the result of helping people, simplifying things, or making the company better. Focus on value.
Whether it’s value for employees, value for clients, or value for partners, any fresh idea or innovative concept is only as good as the value it delivers. You can conceivably create value propositions in any of 12 unique business aspects, according to Sloan.
Here are four with special meaning for construction companies:
Your unique company has unique aspects to its construction services. You can innovate there without following the crowd by improving your strengths.
Do you have a client communications process that’s unique and ready to get even better? How about your marketing? Are you using the best tools for the process? Or are you still managing multiple projects individually even though you’d reduce inefficiencies by managing them as a platform?
Besides playing to your existing strengths, innovating with processes also includes fixing things. If your specialty contractors regularly have schedule conflicts brought on by materials substitutions, you can adopt technology that improves your specifications processes.
Or, if your project teams often have conflicts, you might introduce team-building exercises and events to help them overcome their issues.
Think of a platform as a place to assemble components that make up bigger components. Anything modular is the obvious example in construction. If you can build the smaller components of an assembly in a controlled environment and then assemble those on site, you’ve created a platform from which to launch new services.
Maybe you don’t offer just products built on site. The do-it-yourself home improvement niche is a prime example of a market waiting for pre-built components. Other contractors and corporate owners often have needs that modular components can fill. And, your own clients might benefit from pre-built components.
Modular is just one example of a construction platform. Clients in a certain market segment all share similar challenges. You might create a platform within your organization to address those challenges. It may be a unified way to manage third party inspections, or a materials tracking program that clients interact with to see where specifications might have to change.
3. Supply Chain
You will hear a lot about supply chains in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies were already streamlining supply chains with a value-added focus, but all of that is about to speed up.
In construction, you seldom influence your supply of lumber, steel and concrete. But, you can have a big influence on windows, doors, insulation and all those other necessary components you source specifically for projects.
Are there novel ways to integrate orders and fulfillment so you get more transparency? Can you increase or decrease touch points to make deliveries quicker or more accurate? Can you blend your sourcing with that of partners to everyone’s benefit? Today’s supply chain tools promise to help you innovate in both the fabrication and materials sourcing realms.
When you innovate with presence, you create alternative places or novel ways for clients to buy your services. You might opt for expanding into a geography where your services are in short supply.
Creating extra ways for people to buy your services could also mean taking on new project types, or alternative delivery methods. Perhaps, you can create an entirely new delivery method for a niche construction market. Or, you might partner with a designer and cater to an under-served segment like build-to-suit or retail renovations. Innovating through presence is a possibility for many construction companies.
In short, think of innovation as the path to value creation. Then focus on ways you can increase the value in what you provide to employees, partners, and clients.