Innovation is essential in the construction industry. This vital value helps companies think more creatively and collaboratively, which means more streamlined projects and the potential for plenty of growth.
At Procore’s Groundbreak 2022 conference, Alex Belkofer, Senior Director of Virtual Design and Construction at McCarthy Building Companies, and Jorge Tubella, Robotics and Research Lead at Dysruptek, spoke about how their companies have learned to drive innovation from within.
Identify and Empower a Champion
Change can be difficult, and it’s essential to communicate early on with the people who will be most impacted.
“A lot of people don’t know what they don’t know when it comes to technology out there,” explained Belkofer. “So, it’s important to intentionally partner with teams and seek out opportunities and ideas from the people who are really experiencing the most pain. You have to bring those people into the conversation.”
Bringing people together from different parts of the design-build process and aligning their needs with the company is the first step toward an innovative cultural shift. Involving critical stakeholders early in the project also makes it easier to find and empower star players.
“You really need to highlight and find your champions. This is people first,” emphasized Belkofer. “Finding your champion — somebody who’s going to be vocal, somebody who’s going to promote, somebody who’s going to be direct, somebody who’s going to drive that piece of tech or innovation —will start cultivating an internal innovation growth process.”
Champions are even more effective if they’re from different levels of the company hierarchy, spreading the good word as far as possible. After every communication cycle to stakeholders, champions will help promote the new tech, enthusiastically share their favorite features, and become a wealth of information for others to turn to. Without this critical support, innovation projects risk losing steam and momentum altogether.
Make It Personal
Companies and their champions also need to be strategic when it comes to rolling out information about new changes. There will always be those who aren’t interested in new things when they have projects to finish and fast-approaching deadlines.
For that reason, new tech or processes should be introduced by emphasizing the real, practical effects it will have on users’ daily lives.
“I think a big part of how we try to appeal to those folks is just, ‘how can we improve their quality of life?’” says Belkofer. “Sometimes ROI isn’t measured in dollars and cents. Sometimes it’s just, ‘are you making my life easier today?’”
By aligning with stakeholder needs early, at all levels, organizations can ensure that any piece of innovation is making a real impact on its users.
“We weigh how successful any innovation is by subjective and objective metrics. Objective metrics are hard to quantify [in this situation], but we try to hold a metric to it. This gives us an overall look at how this piece of technology is going to work in our organization and if we should be able to scale enterprise,” explained Tubella. “But we care just as much about subjective data that we’re gathering, which is, for us, an indicator of scalability. Are people actually going to adopt this? Is it making their life better? Is this technology removing frustrations and improving what they can do? That guides our innovation process.”
The end user should be the focus when selecting data points and developing new technologies. Breaking down silos and empowering these users requires leaders to make the “why” of innovation clear and the benefits of change personal and tangible.
“If I can empower you guys to do anything,” advised Belkofer, “it would be to approach people with a solution at their level. Don’t shoot way above them, and don’t make assumptions about what they need. Come to them where they’re at.”
Create Opportunities for Innovation
Keeping up with trends is only one piece, innovation must also be driven from inside the organization. A dream and a wish will only get companies so far if they don’t proactively create opportunities for innovation to thrive.
“One of the best vehicles we have to find and solve problems is an internal innovation program,” said Tubella of his work at Dysruptek. The innovation program is “essentially a Shark Tank” program where people submit ideas, the company reviews their pitches and meets with the teams.
“We get a pretty good look at what the problems are,” said Tubella.
They get a bottom-up approach to understand where their issues are, and then their role in disrupting is finding out what it would take to solve that problem. One subject matter expert submitted an idea for a remote pneumatic pressure testing device, which was eventually developed into a prototype with a US patent and is now moving toward potential commercialization. By creating a literal stage to speak on and incentivizing workers to participate and share ideas, Haskell and Dysruptek can find and squash common pain points with new solutions.
Building Invaluable Partnerships
Implementing new tech is easier, faster, and more effective with the right tech (and partner). The construction industry is finding many new ways to evolve in the modern era, but none have come as far as construction tech has. Whether it’s cutting-edge equipment or construction-management software, innovation keeps contractors moving forward into the tech age; it’s essential to long-term success.
“For us, the Procore partnership is really valuable. It’s an important part of driving what I call the connected jobsite, or getting information from the office to the field, round-tripping it,” saie Belkofer. “Our partnership is really a source of aggregation, of connectivity emerging, and blurring the lines between design and construction.”
Tubella shared how a single, centralized source of truth, powered by new tech, has transformed processes at Dysruptek.
“There are a few waves of technology that are going to hit construction. The first wave has already hit, and companies like Procore have helped construction start digitizing. The next wave that will hit us is how we’re leveraging this data. How are we using emerging tech, and how else can we bring in AI and other tools? And this is where Procore starts playing a more serious role,” explained Tubella. “They’ve grown so much into the industry and anchored themselves that one of the questions we ask to point solutions coming into our ecosystem is, ‘Are you Procore integrated?’”
With empowered champions to sing your praises, a stage for new ideas to shine, and responsive tech that eliminates headaches, contractors can set themselves up for innovation and optimization growth. This is a people-first industry, and people-first solutions will win every time.