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Magnetic fieldby Michael Soo

Disruptive technology is a term coined in the 1995 article ‘Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave’ by Joseph Bower and Clayton Christensen, which provided insight into the failure of leading companies to stay at the top of their industries when technologies or markets change.  Disruptive technologies are innovations that create new markets through displacement of earlier of technology.  Though the term is relatively new, disruptive innovations have been a constant throughout history and we are now in an age where digital disruption is playing a key role in the rise and fall of today’s organisations. I recently attended a seminar presented by Kristen Drury from the University of Sydney Digital Disruption Research Group, where she commented that the digital trend in organisations since the mid-2000s has had a significant shift from mobility in the workplace to connectivity.  In the mid-2000s, the Blackberry was envisioned as a tool to allow Executives to be mobile and replace every other device including the computer.  Since then, disruptive technologies such as the App market, cloud storage and more connected devices have gained influence, with Executives now having an office workstation, a laptop, two Smart phones and a tablet device, with their work accessible across all these devices plus their home PC.  From an innovation perspective, Blackberry who as ahead of the game in the mid-2000s as the leading mobile device for work, fell behind in the market due to their inability to adapt to changing trends. Here in Australia, organisations that focus on innovation and technology are being rewarded for it with the Commonwealth Bank being ranked as the highest ranking brand in Australia by research agency Milward Brown Optimor.  Ian Narev, CEO of Commonwealth Bank commented in an AFR article that change is so fundamental it’s difficult to foresee an industry where it’s not some combination of a significant threat or a significant opportunity.  CBA’s strategy on being a leader in technology in the banking industry started over a decade ago when they were the first of the Big 4 to upgrade their core technology platform.  They continue to push forward with technologies such as an advanced Netbank portal, mobile banking, contactless payments, cardless cash withdrawals and real-time banking, with the focus of adopting innovation being led from the top. Embracing digital disruption is also an important factor in attracting and retaining talent.  In a recent Deloitte report titled Digital Disruption: Short Fuse, Big Bang? They highlighted the importance of businesses to develop serious digital strategies and win the war on talent or put their future at risk.  For current Gen Y professionals, their attraction to innovative organisations is out of necessity to stay relevant.  In a competitive environment where we have seen traditionally perceived safe jobs reported as no longer secure, developing relevant and current skills is what will protect their job security in the market. In the Construction industry, there is opportunity to stay relevant by continued investment into more affordable and sustainable built environments and supporting this through the use of current digital disruptions in the form of BIM, virtual meeting technologies, collaboration platforms and cloud based information systems.  Drury noted in her seminar that since the Financial Crisis, there has been more demand for output from the same resources due to the increased competitive environment.  For this to happen, the boundaries of space and time for work to occur have become blurred, with greater communication and transparency in what we do.  That is where the value of BIM, collaboration technology and cloud based system exists, allowing organisations to operate globally in the connected workplace with access to more people, more knowledge and make more informed decisions.

Image courtesy of explodingdog.com

Image: explodingdog.com

by Peter Aynsley

I recently responded to an interesting question on LinkedIn by Elton Tom H that I thought was worth sharing. The question was “What automated systems or processes are used for management of design, procurement, construction risks?”. There were some interesting responses, including one suggesting that an “….automated system is not at all appropriate…”.

 

There are a number of tools “out there” to automate the process of managing risk. An answer to the question involves both the in-principle issues that determine the functionality of the required tool; and the specifics of available tools. Automation is the element that is included in the question and therefore must be a part of any complete answer.

Some of the key issues in addressing risk – apart from the identification and subjective/objective analysis leading to that identification – are completeness of information; transparency; involvement of the appropriate stakeholders; responsibility; accountability; and empowerment. The fundamentals of an automated system – correctly implemented – address these issues. Specifically, the automated system will:

  • Allow both the original identifier of the risk and any subsequent participants in the process to input/attach/link the information relevant to their input
  • Direct the initial risk identification to a person or parties empowered to make basic decisions like (a) is this really a risk?; and (2) who is the party now appropriate to conduct the initial assessment and mitigation analysis?
  • Manage the routing of the risk under alternative scenarios based on the outcome of the initial review
  • Keep all relevant parties informed as the risk management progresses, including ongoing access to real-time status
  • and so on.

Assessment of the risk itself is of course another story. There are automated tools to establish an in-principle risk assessment – inputting a range of data that assists in the formula calculation of likelihood/consequence/rating. Some of that data is invariably subjective and a subjective review is always an important element of the review, not to mention the development of treatment options. I’m not about to start going through the traditional qualitative and quantitative approaches here.

A good automated system allows all stakeholders to openly determine the appropriate routing and examination/decision-making on risk up front, before a risk is even identified; to then manage each identified risk in accordance with the initial (and evolving) assessment, including any interaction of risk elements/mitigation measures between the individual risks; and contain adequate flexibility to allow adjustment over time based on real-world events.

The tool my own business uses is PMWeb; however there are many systems with a range of capabilities – both generic systems and systems designed to specifically address risk. The starting point is having the appropriate attitude to the issues that need to be addressed and the alternatives available. Automation can ultimately only go so far – the old GIGO principle remains – but the fundamentals of a good automated system are the embodiment of open, honest and well-considered principles in that automation – plus the ability to quickly make changes if “oh sh*t, we got it wrong”…..

Enough on my view – what do you think? What tools do you recommend (if any)?

sunflower closeup on field under blue sky. soft focusby Darragh O’Keefe

Thinking about sustainability across whole systems rather than in individual areas can create multiple benefits with limited resources, creating value for organisations and clients, according to Mary Casey, associate director at McLachlan Lister, a project management and management consulting firm.

Casey, who is also the chair of the Living Future Institute of Australia, describes sustainability as the practice of creating places that are adapted to their specific environment, that use less than they give, that do not damage the ecosystem of which they are a part, and that provide a healthy habitat for human beings. It’s essentially about maximising our quality of life, she says.

However, how we generally approach sustainability is to talk about efficiency, she notes. “It’s a cold word. It often takes up more than its share of conversations about sustainability because it’s the key economic argument in favour of most solutions. The catch is that efficiency is about maximising the potential of an existing way of doing things. But what if we’re doing the wrong thing,” she asks.

Casey’s argument is that, up until now, sustainable design and practice has focussed on components, rather than on systems.

“We maximize our component of the work in isolation from everyone else’s component. When you do that, you get highly efficient individual components, but inefficient systems overall and perverse outcomes,” she says.

Casey cites the example of installing a solar panel on a building. Rather than thinking of the solar panel as an addition to a building, you should consider the whole building, which is a system, and you should think of the building in the context of your whole organisation, which is also a system.

“Even though it might seem a little odd, if you’re not considering that solar panel in the context of your company’s mission statement, you’ve got very little chance of getting the optimum result.”

And what better system to model sustainable design on than nature, says Casey. “Nature optimises brilliantly by organising itself in systems. If we could equal that level of design, we’d have a built environment that supported a very high quality of life.”

Casey points to indoor environment quality (IEQ) to illustrate her point. IEQ is the umbrella term for good daylight, good acoustics, low levels of indoor pollutants and good interior comfort (humidity and temperature).

“According to Linking Energy to Health and Productivity in the Built Environment, published by Vivian Loftness and colleagues in 2003, the benefits of high IEQ have been shown to include increased productivity and improved attraction and retention rates of employees. Further, Patient Rooms: A Changing Scene of Healing Research Summary in 2010 found IEQ increased rates of recovery in hospitals,” says Casey.

How can aged care facilities improve their IEQ? Unsurprisingly, Casey provides an example from nature. “You have to think like a flower,” she says.

A flower is rooted in place like a building, and yet it harvests all the energy and water it needs; is perfectly adapted to its climate and site; operates 100 per cent pollution-free; is comprised of integrated systems; and is beautiful, she says.

“This is the ultimate benchmark of sustainability across all aspects of a building,” she says. “But let’s just consider one particularly powerful aspect: daylight.

“Let’s say you want to have good daylight in a space, and to achieve that result with no glare, your architect has proposed a light shelf as part of the design. This component in the façade will bounce light up onto the ceiling, bringing bright, diffuse daylight deeper into the space than the window could on its own. It will also shade the window in summer, reducing radiant heat coming into the building.

“The shelf, considered alone, would look like an additional cost, however when you think about the building as a flower, or a system, you see that the light shelf uses the energy of the sun to create light, taking advantage of its location’s free energy; the harvested sunlight is pollution-free; the light shelf means you need fewer light fixtures inside; fewer light fixtures mean less internal heat load in the building; and less internal heat load means less need for air conditioning, and reduced plant size.”

If the light shelf is taken away, the consequences would be seen rippling through the design, and the significant costs that come from not thinking like a flower, she says.

“Nature has billions of years invested in smart adaptations, and we are part of that accumulated wisdom, even if we’re still comparatively new to it.”

Casey quotes the biologist Janine Benyus, who said: “The boundary between us and the rest of the natural world is a false one that dissolves when you consider what is really important, what makes life worth living.”

Published in the March 2014 issue of Australian Ageing Agenda.

Magnetic fieldby Ian Cartwright

Last Wednesday evening I attended a CPD/networking event at which the speaker was Ron Gibson (Go Networking, Perth WA) who spoke on how to network effectively. Ron delivered an excellent, interactive presentation that used active audience participation to demonstrate the basics and how comfortable and easy it can be. The result was the noisiest, most interactive CPD event I have been to this year, and as a direct result of it, I have two meetings set up.

So to pay it forward, I want to share some takeaways from Ron’s presentation. Particularly welcome to me was the affirmation of some of my good practices – though there was also recognition of my not so good practices, and the dispelling of some commonly-heard practices. I recognise we are all different and operate differently, but Ron’s methods resonated with me and I will be adopting them.  Anyway, here are some ideas for you to ponder:

Effective networking is a skill, not an instinct

Companies rarely teach, coach or mentor on how to network effectively. Managers or your boss generally just expect you to figure it out. People do need training, coaching, feedback and support to learn to network well. The sink-or-swim method is not appropriate. They might not drown, but they will certainly not win any Olympic medals – and they may even take down a few others with their thrashing around.

Networking is about building relationships and trust

Networking is neither the venue to attempt to sell nor the form for distributing as many business cards as possible. Networking is simply about getting to know people. When the often self-inflicted, sometimes company-instigated, ‘selling pressure’ is removed and the focus moves to simply engaging in conversation, you can relax, be yourself and enjoy the process. It is amazing what mutual interests you can find and talk about with only a little effort.

Having worked with major construction disputes for many years I have seem a common theme in the genesis, escalation and difficulties with resolving disputes. Most often the core issue is a breach or loss of trust, the manifestations of which include failed memories, broken promises and changing interpretations of events. Trust was once implicit in professional dealings and still is in certain cultures. In western cultures it seems caveat emptor prevails over implied trust. Starting from a base of getting to know someone can provide a good foundation for implicit trust – and people work with people they trust.

Networking is the art of making people feel comfortable

Making the relationship requires a soft approach. Remember you are not selling anything!  In most network settings everyone is a seller: the chances of selling to a seller are pretty slim, so be a giver rather than a taker.

‘Working the room’ is a bad idea

This was my top takeaway and one that vindicated something I have long believed. ‘Working a room’ is bad practice. It is an insincere numbers game where, in order to get to the ‘right people’ (who may not be the right people because you simply don’t know), you dismiss many along the way. You may make one ‘good’ contact this way, but you’ll likely leave behind many people holding an unfavourable opinion of you.

The Three (well, four) Golden Rules

According to Ron these are the four things you must do:

  1. Every day without fail reach out to someone you know and have a friendly conversation. The objective is to simply stay in touch. It is essential to stay in touch during the good times. However, the call must bring some kind of value.
  2. Be remembered. Once a week for 40 weeks a year proactively do something nice for someone.  Buying opportunities regularly go to the last person in the mind of the decision maker.
  3. Once per week (minimum) go somewhere to meet new people.
  4. Finally, and above all, be yourself. You cannot be sincere if you are acting.

I found this immensely valuable and hope you too.

Happy networking.

By Darwin Barus, Consultant, Perth

A construction project is a moving feast. Changes are almost always required along the way, and this can lead to misunderstandings and conflicts.

Negotiation is an essential process for parties to a conflict to resolve their issue without having to proceed to court. Whilst there are a number of definitions of ‘negotiation’, its essence boils down to two distinct characteristics: it is a process, and it is a form of communication. To succeed using this process/communication method, it is essential that you know how to negotiate. Generally, there are three key principles for which each party should take into account when negotiating a conflicted issue.

Identify conflicted matters

This is the most important element of the negotiation. The parties coming to the negotiation should know what the conflict is about. It is not surprising that the parties sometimes do not really understand the main conflicted matters. In reality, it is not uncommon that those involved in the negotiation are not the project team members who have good knowledge of the project. Therefore, the main conflicted matters may not fully be understood. It is suggested that the person who represents each party (or negotiator) identifies what the precise matter that needs to be resolved.

Trade concessions

During the negotiation it should be kept in mind that each party should not always give but give with return to trade concessions. The best approach to this principle is to give as little as the party is able to ensure that it achieves value for money. The rationale is that giving too much may cause one party to undervalue the opponent’s gift and always expects it to give, give and give. In other words, each party should consider making offers and counter-offers. The key language which signifies that one party is ready to trade concessions is “If you…..then we…..”.

Move at a measured pace

In the event that the parties agree to trade concessions, it is crucial that they move at a measured pace. What it means is that they should not concede too much and too quickly. Ideally, they should stop at a point where the move is sufficient to promise hope of reaching settlement for the conflicted matters. In practice, each party should work out the settlement that it would “like to get” and “should get”. In simple terms, what is the maximum and minimum in order to reach settlement?

In most cases, each party will often move from the offer that it would like to get to the offer that it intends to get to reach settlement. That is the offer between the “like to get” and “should get”.

By following the above principles, you will benefit from securing a good negotiation outcome.

image credit: explodingdog.com

image credit: explodingdog.com

by Mary Casey

In construction – or any complex human endeavor for that matter – a variety of professionals with highly specialised expertise and skill sets have to work together. You want to be confident that an expert’s advice is carefully considered, specific to your circumstances, and clearly explained. Whilst you do find people who do this very well, if I asked you to think of a time when a consultant delivered something far below these expectations, I’ll bet it wouldn’t be too hard for you to think of an example.

We come up with all kinds of excuses for it: ‘They’re time-poor’; or ‘Their fee is tight, so I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised’. Being time-poor or fee-constrained isn’t really the issue. Deflecting instead of assisting, pushing clients away with ‘pat’ answers instead of working to understand their specific drivers and objectives – these are real red flags. They signal a problem with the degree of alignment between personal and professional objectives. As managers, we all have the opportunity to contribute to this alignment, and it’s clearly in our best interests to do so, as its importance is increasingly being shown to be the key to unlocking exceptional job performance.

In a recent workshop with Bill Reed at the International Living Future Institute Conference in Seattle, we talked at length about motivation, effectiveness and fulfillment. They presented three ‘levels of living’:

  • Automatic
  • Responsive
  • Purposeful

When we are on automatic, we’re just going through the motions: getting up, brushing our teeth, getting on the train to go to work. We’re not even necessarily mentally present; these things just happen as part of a routine.

When we’re responsive, we’re in knee-jerk mode. We’re not planning ahead; we’re being buffeted by whatever comes across our desk at any given moment of the day. We feel powerless and overwhelmed, so most of our responses are not coming from a creative place that’s interested in finding solutions, they’re coming from a place of past experience which may or may not be completely relevant.

When we are purposeful, we are 100% mentally present, acting in alignment with our personal beliefs and philosophy, and therefore providing high-value thinking for the time we are concentrated on a particular task. In his book, Drive: the Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink talks about the power of this alignment, sharing a number of examples of companies that have provided the space for their employees to discover what motivates them about work – with amazing results. Pink says, ‘Human beings have an innate inner drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another. And when that drive is liberated, people achieve more, and live richer lives.’

This isn’t really new; Stephen Covey has been talking about it for years in his Seven Habits book. The reason you don’t see it everywhere is that it’s hard work figuring out to help your colleagues be autonomous, self-determined and connected – all in more or less the same direction. It’s risky, but worth it. As Tom Kelley, General Manager IDEO, puts it: ‘The ultimate freedom for creative groups is the freedom to experiment with new ideas. Some skeptics insist that innovation is expensive. In the long run, innovation is cheap. Mediocrity is expensive.’ (I would argue that any group composed of humans is by definition, ‘creative’. This potential exists, regardless of the task.)

Pink, Covey and Reed agree that unlocking potential starts with the individual…and the first individual to look at is you. If you have a consultant who doesn’t seem to want to do their job, ask yourself: Did I invite them into the questioning part of the process, allowing them to apply their creativity to help me define the desired outcome? Or did I make the brief so prescriptive and/or problem-focused that I boxed them into a corner, shutting them down before they even had a chance to think about it?

If you want people’s best work, they have to feel autonomous, self-determined, and connected…which means that as a manager, you have to practice levels of awareness that demonstrate you are acting purposefully. Reed offers some advice on how to put this into daily practice:

  • Shut up and listen
  • Stay out of automatic mode – check yourself – if you’ve heard yourself say it before, it’s probably auto mode
  • Put yourself in their place
  • Let go of control
  • Make the process about defining the effect we want to have in the world; co-creating in a state of unknowing, collaborating about potential, not problem-solving
  • Become a questioner
  • Hold on to the not-knowing, the empathy, sympathy, wonder
  • Practice it all the time – with coworkers, family, everyone.

You will have to practice to get this right, no doubt about it. But these techniques have enormous potential to make your life much more enjoyable, rewarding and effective. Covey recommends selecting someone you know and letting your designated Guinea Pig know what you’re doing – tell them what you’re trying to achieve with practicing the technique so they can tell you if you’re straying from the path, and ask them to tell you how they think it went afterwards. You’ll find you are compelled to keep practicing, because the results were so much better that you can’t go back.

Being the client (or representing them) doesn’t mean you get to sit back and wait for the creativity to come to you. Being an active, passionate and purposeful manager is the way to get autonomous, self-determined and connected consultants.

bigstock-technology-eye-scan-radar-15983603by Ian Cartwright

 

What do the following have in common?

A “rare” Greek statue, purchased by the Getty Museum’s purchase for nearly $10m, that turned out to be fake.

1. Predicting, from an hour long interview, which couples will and will not stay married.

2. How to prioritize potential heart attack victims

3. A fire fighter retreating from a strange fire that saved his crew from certain death.

4. Warren Harding, arguably one of the worst US Presidents.

The answer: all of these stories feature in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell. These and other examples illustrate how a skilled and experienced person was able to identify, literally in a blink, that which eluded (or eludes) others armed with extraordinary amounts of information. Most would recognise this as intuition but would be unlikely to take decisive action based upon it. Blink tells us this could well be to our disadvantage.

Blink puts intuition on a sound scientific footing and provides an extraordinary and illuminating insight into human cognition. In doing so, it forces us to look at the way we use information to make decisions and challenges many of our prejudices. Blink encourages us to think smarter and trust our inner decision making.

Intuition- what is “it”

Many people have it. Basketball players have ‘court sense’, Napoleon had ‘coup d’oeil’ (power of the glance), birdwatchers have ‘giss’ and detectives have ‘hunches’. All of these synonyms are essentially describing skilled intuition. Jack Welch summed it up in the title of his book, Straight from the Gut.

Regretfully, these synonyms cloud with suspicion what is a very real human ability. Blink shows us that with some exceptions we all have this ability and routinely use it without knowing. Unarmed with the knowledge presented in Blink, we are unable to explain our intuition and are reluctant to understand and acknowledge it. It is a human trait to dislike saying that we don’t know. Instead we prefer to look for an elegant solution even if it is inaccurate. It satisfies us as an individual and – perhaps more appealing – it will likely satisfy our would-be cynics. An elegant solution just makes us feel better. Consequently we pay too much attention, and assign too much weight, to grand themes and pay too little attention to the intuition stemming from fleeting moments.

Information – for better or worse

Today we are faced with incredible amounts of information and are unreasonably expected to consider it all. Anything less is likely to be met with disdain and in the extreme could be the basis for allegations of negligence. The real problem today is that we frequently have too much information and that information leads to ‘analysis paralysis’. This expression is anything but trite.  Blink demonstrates vividly how too much information slows down the decision making process while regularly yielding no discernible improvement in the quality of the analysis.

Consequences of this are decisions that take too long to make and fewer decisions being made. Neither of these scenarios is desirable yet they are both far too easily accepted. Through powerful examples Blink demonstrates how valid and useful decisions are possible through examination of a cross section of the available information. The crucial skill is to identify what information is the most relevant and pertinent for making the decision.

Human cognition

Blink asks us to acknowledge there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational (i.e. conventional) analysis, based upon the theory of thin slices. Thin slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behaviour based on very narrow slices of experience. The psychologist John Gottman used this methodology to predict with 95% accuracy which couples would and would not get divorced based upon a one-hour session.

Blink presents other experiments with similar results that prove, by minutely dissecting interactions and circumstances, that the human mind clearly collects and analyses information that can be interpreted rationally.

An everyday example is our interpretation of body language, particularly facial expression recognition, and Blink indirectly explains why movies such as Toy Story, Shrek and all other modern animations are so ‘real’. The makers of these films, Pixar and Dreamworks, use the extensive research of Paul Ekman and Wallace Friesen, who catalogued approximately three thousand facial expressions, to create a taxonomy of facial expressions covering the full range of human displays of emotion. Modern animations are so believable because we intuitively recognise and relate to the mimicked expressions. However, when we move away from the human habits and have to make decisions about more abstract constructs, we lose trust in our intuition despite there being no difference in the process.

When we make intuitive decisions we are recollecting prior experiences, reinterpreting and applying them to the current circumstances. Our subconscious is actually very good at thin-slicing and often delivers a better answer than more deliberate and exhaustive ways of thinking.

However, because we do not experience this process consciously, we are unable to rationalise and therefore accept it. The process simply happens too fast. (This is somewhat ironic, given that we rely daily on our computers to do exactly this, i.e. process large quantities of information at seemingly impossible speeds.)

Our brain is at least comparable to our computer yet we are afraid to trust it and are often discouraged from doing so. We are diminishing the value of experience and know-how in favour of codified standards. Blink convincingly concludes that intuition is unfairly castigated and I agree.

Information and decision making – less is more

Notwithstanding the above there are examples where we might unquestionably accept that more information is better – medical care, for example. Given that a life could be at stake and medical malpractice being an omnipresent and expensive risk, one could be forgiven for virtually demanding the need for more information. However, Blink demonstrates that too much information – even in a medical care scenario – can have a negative effect on decision making.

Blink explains that we do not need to pay attention to everything that happens (this should not be surprising, it is essentially the Pareto principle or 80:20 rule); we need to identify the most important information. In the famous Cook County experiment, a county hospital with major resource challenges developed a radical approach to prioritising patients suffering symptoms of heart attack. Brendan Reilly recognised that too much patient information interfered with doctors’ ability to predict heart attacks. To ease the doctors’ burden, he developed an algorithm involving only the most important and immediately relevant information to make the prediction. Its accuracy and success was unprecedented, completely exploding the myth that the quality of decision making is related to the amount of information available.

To emphasize the point Blink cites another famous medical study conducted by Stuart Oskamp. This study showed that with increasing information doctors became more confident in the accuracy of their diagnosis. The fact was there was no change in the accuracy of the diagnosis and their confidence was greatly disproportional to the accuracy.  We are being coerced and cajoled onto being information junkies and our addiction is perhaps literally killing us.

We are human

Blink reminds us we are human and the ways humans work. We think in patterns and images and we learn by example and direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.

Verbal overshadowing occurs when we attempt to codify into words that which we know instinctively. As a result our actions or decisions frequently do not comport with our verbalised intents. This is routinely observed when comparing house purchases and selection of partners which frequently vary considerably from what we said we were looking for. Why? Largely because we didn’t truly know what we were looking for until we saw it. Well, our subconscious knew.

Patterns present themselves in distinct ways and we come to recognise them. Equally, we draw great inferences from what is not there – what is ‘missing’. In each case we may be unable to articulate the pattern recognition.

Summary

Blink concludes that truly successful decision making relies upon a balance between deliberative and instinctive thinking. The circumstance determines the balance. In a life threating situation instinctive thinking must prevail. With more time, we can spend more time deliberating but must recognise the risk of ‘analysis paralysis’.

Whichever circumstance we face we must learn to be more trusting of our intuition: it is a fundamental human characteristic; it took a lot of experiences to develop and it will often be more accurate than other information which often only creates self-doubt.

Application to construction, dispute resolution and adjudication.

There are countless examples where we could make improvements by embracing some of the suggestions in Blink. Here I reflect on a few applicable from my experiences.

Construction is a dynamic process and requires dynamic decision making yet all too often we suffer analysis paralysis. This is driven by the ever-present fear of making decisions that might have ‘consequences’ and the relentless inquiry into who is responsible and who owes what. Is it important? Of course, but as a barrister once advised when talking about the law, if you follow what is intuitively correct then chances are the law (or the contract) will be on your side. Whilst not the most technically robust statement I believe it was insightfully accurate and prudent counsel.

Parties to construction contract do need to be more dynamic in their decision making. To do so requires mutual trust, and allowing people to exercise reasonable intuition. Intuition is after all the product of experience and a construction project requires an incredible amount of experience.

Dispute resolution is about the substance of and parties to a dispute. It is multi-faceted involving ‘the facts’ of the dispute, storytelling, gamesmanship and strategy. Perceptive intuition is invaluable in dispute resolution. With skill and experience a good practitioner can intuitively assess the strengths and weakness of a dispute, distinguish a credible storyline from a stretch, weigh up the people on ‘the other side’ and as a result, effectively advise on strategy.

The best intuition is that borne from experience managing construction projects and negotiating their disputes. In this regard construction experts play an invaluable role in construction disputes because they appreciate the whole picture. They provide intuition on performance, the contract, costs, programme and the claim.

This intuition is valuable in its own right as well as using it as the basis for developing or defending a claim. Intuition allows a party to hit the ground running.

Adjudication is an excellent example of Blink principles applied to a practical setting. Typically in adjudication the amount of information is comparatively small compared to what would be available at litigation or arbitration. At the same time, many adjudicators may not have the extensive legal experience of a judge or barrister, though many do in my opinion have adequate legal experience or education for their role.

With limited information adjudicators make decisions upon what I believe is a mix of the information they are supplied interpreted in connection with the contract, and their experience or intuition. Of the many disputes adjudicated here in Australia, the UK and elsewhere, only a small percentage are pursued further. So much so that adjudication has been responsible for a significant decline in formal proceedings.

Clearly those involved in construction disputes are satisfied that there is adequate information for an adjudicator to render a fair determination and that opening the matter up again would be fraught with the danger of analysis paralysis.

bigstock-molecular-structure-38773771For too long, we have seen the environmental movement through a conflict lens: ‘This is a war. There is a battle to be fought for the planet, it’s us against them’ – and because so much is at stake, the intensity of the fight is often raised to extreme levels.

Over the 10+ years I have been working as a sustainability specialist, I have come to the conclusion that the answers we seek are not technological. They are personal, social and psychological, and if this is going to work, then these answers are going to have to be collaborative and connecting. It’s about changing the brief for ourselves as a species. We’ll all have our own preferred methods to use to get there, but we have to agree on the destination, so we need to focus on what we can agree on and start from there, instead of debating the detail and swirling around in a whirlpool of wasted energy and no results. What sort of future do we all want to be a part of?

I recently attended the International Living Future Institute’s UnConference in Seattle, which is the annual meeting of their membership. It was an incredibly energizing and inspiring three days of talks, of which probably the most familiar names to you will be two of the keynotes: David Suzuki and Paul Hawken. Both of these guys are heroes of mine; indeed, Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce, was the catalyst for the transformation of my career from architect to sustainability advocate. Both of them exhorted the assembled to think differently, to act differently. To work for what we share; to stop fighting; to reconnect with the world and each other. It was kinda something to hear these two icons of environmentalism saying that it’s time to ‘come together’. I personally found it deeply inspiring and empowering.

Here’s a brief summary of their key points.

David Suzuki’s key message was about the way we think about our world. The key insight we need to achieve is that we are not separate from the world. When we all live in cities, we get to thinking we are separate and the economy becomes our highest priority, which is fundamentally incorrect. If you can change the rules of a system, then it’s not the governing system. The rules we cannot change are those of nature. It is ridiculous to design something that does not acknowledge these rules – designing structures assuming infinite spans, for example. In biology, it is the same. We have to work within the rules, and the rules are: we are animals; the biosphere is finite; and we rely on the biosphere to survive. If we agree on this as a starting point, then how do we design an economy that aligns with that reality? Borders mean nothing to water, or fire, or plants. ‘The market’ is a human construct, not a force of nature – which means we can make it bend to our demands. We need a new perspective. How do we change the way we see our place in the world? In closing, he said, ‘It’s not “too late”. We don’t know enough to say that it’s too late. We must have hope. Back off and give Nature a chance, and she can be far more forgiving than we deserve. But we gotta back off fast, and let the regenerative potential of nature do its work.’

Paul Hawken’s message was similar, beginning with the statement that ‘working towards the future changes the present’. He described our current condition as ‘catastrophising the future’, which is a cultural narrative that is not helpful. Most people are numbed by it. For most people, it is easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism. Clearly, we need to change the discussion, so how do we do that? Start from absolute first principles: This is about supporting Life, and Life creates the conditions that are conducive to Life. We need no other mantra, no other rule. If we operate according to the principles of Life, the key realisation is that no one is ‘in charge’. No political party, no corporation – which means that you can’t wait for anyone else to take care of it. We each need to work. It is also absolutely true that Life’s primary method of getting things done is collaboration. Our bodies are communities of 90% non-human cells that all work together. So the first thing we need to do? Stop fighting. Realise that we are all part of the solution. Work together to shine a light on what is wrong – without blame – and do something about it. So the next time someone wants to debate with you about: ‘Is there such a thing as climate change?’, move the conversation to: ‘Do you accept that there are limits to the system upon which we rely for Life?’ It’s a different conversation from that starting point. ‘We can’t solve our problems with the same thinking that created them’.

Confrontational, adversarial thinking is the thing that is messing up progress for just about every important thing in the world at the moment. If we make sustainability a political discussion, or a ‘sided’ discussion (which unfortunately, we already have), we’re toast. This is not a debate, it’s a design discussion. Discuss. :)

bigstock-Summer-landscape-with-green-gr-15348293This day was originally established to commemorate women’s suffrage, and has historically been used to highlight the ground we still needed to cover to reach equality. Of course there’s still work to do, but the day is now shifting focus at least in part to a celebration of how far we’ve come.

We thought we’d do something to mark the day, so we asked the McLachlan Lister staff to share stories of female mentors as part of that celebration. We got responses about moms, aunts, daughters, wives, teachers, work colleagues and friends, which I guess just goes to show that inspiring women are pretty much everywhere.

So here they are – have yourself a dollop of inspiration on us.

Jo Veitch: My very first manager after graduation was a woman for whom I worked for over two years.  She held a very senior position in a very old-school, male dominated London organisation and was a great inspiration to me. She didn’t hand out praise very easily and I had to work hard to earn her respect which I valued greatly.  In return she taught me how to be completely professional at all times and to be an equal to my peers – both male and female. She mentored and managed me but never controlled me and gave me room to grow and develop which I believe I did significantly in those two years. She also had children, a little later in life like me and demonstrated that it was possible for a woman to pursue a successful career balanced with a healthy family life – she was, and still is a devoted mother and highly respected and well-liked professional. Twenty years later we are still in touch, we exchange Christmas cards and news. She is always happy to hear how my career has progressed and how my family is growing and I am keen to hear how her business is going – she went on to set up her own business. I should probably tell her one of these days what an inspiration she has been to me.

Leslie Butterfield: One of my biggest mentors was my Mom. No, she was not a professional, but was the one who packed up our family of four kids and repeatedly moved us to the far flung parts of the globe; setting up homes and taking care of all the arrangements (in the days without the internet and very sparse telephone options!). She had no assistance, no friends or family in these locations, and very little help from my Dad who was busy working, frequently remotely. She often didn’t even speak the language. Facing ambiguity? When you don’t know what something is going to be like, and don’t know anyone who can tell you, just be flexible and take it in stride! Fearing change? No problem – change is good. Embracing new places, cultures, challenges? You bet – make the most of it and learn what you can. Needing to be self-sufficient? What choice do you have.  Fitting in? Take people for what they are, don’t pre-judge, and know that everyone has something to offer. Facing an inhospitable environment? Look for the good parts and know that others have it way worse off than you. In essence, Mom taught me to (in today’s lingo) ‘suck it up’; to be brave and take on challenges and risks; to not rely on others to make things work; and most of all – to enjoy the journey. Thanks, Mom.

Junitha Giles: In my previous company I worked in a competitive all-male (apart from me) environment. More recently I have been working in teams which include more females and I have to say they have shown me the value of developing solutions in a collaborative manner, both in terms of making it more enjoyable, and also achieving the best outcome.

Alex Birchall: During my time at University, I used to pick my subjects on a whim, sometimes only looking at the course name and not much at the detail. Studying History & Politics, you generally got what you asked for: ‘Australia Politics,’ ‘20th Century Japan’…the list went on. However, one particular subject caught me by surprise. I can’t remember the exact name of the subject, but what I initially thought would be an average history subject turned out to be a study of how and why buildings are heritage listed. After attending my first lecture and tute and finding out the course outline, I was ready to run. I’m glad I didn’t. The two women that ran the course had an infectious enthusiasm for the subject and encouraged me to explore the history that I was interested in. My professor was well read and only used notes so the students could keep up. My tutor was different, she was patient and practical. We went on my first ‘excursion’ since I was 12 and we experienced history as opposed to just reading about it. I learnt a lot of valuable lessons during the course which helped me with the rest of my studies and in my working life. I did quite well in the subject and put together my favourite university assignment – but I don’t think I would have stayed a week if it wasn’t for the two women running the subject.

Kimberley Lamb: Anamaria has been a mother figure to me since I first started back in November, 2011. She is my mentor here in Brisbane and is always encouraging me to improve and step a little outside my comfort zone each and every day. Recently we started working out at the gym together in preparation for my wedding in October. She pushes me to reach beyond my limits and listens to my whinging about how much it hurts! She is an inspiration to me every day. She is such a strong person, yet she’ll openly share her vulnerabilities, a personality trait which only emphasises how caring she can be. She is always there to talk to, and she will always make time to help anyone. She is continually pushing me to grow, and is always looking out for my interests and puts her own second. Her generosity is limitless, in the kindness she shows to others, and her selflessness in all aspects of her life. She will be sorely missed when she goes back to America and I hope that one day I will be half as amazing as she is.

Kate Benchoam: My inspiration is my daughter Emily. It is hard to believe a 12 year old, can teach, counsel and inspire another person who is more than 30 years her senior. Emily was born wise. She already came with knowing eyes that had travelled this world before. Her calm demeanour, resilience, extraordinary enthusiasm for anything that is thrown at her, and mature outlook, never ceases to amaze me. Her ability to bounce back from any situation, whether it is a disappointment, people problem, or health issues is far beyond her years. She will always see the best in others, and has the strength to walk away when she should. She approaches any set- back with great determination and optimism of how she can make things better.  I often find myself discussing my problems with her, and she will intently listen, and provide very sound advice.  She will always finish off with a special look, and an ‘it’s ok mum, everything will be fine’. Our life is always chaotic, and we are generally over-committed with activities that seemed like a good idea at the time.  When I am the one having a tantrum, she is the one calming me down, and making sure that everything will eventually happen, even if not quite as we planned. I draw such inspiration from my daughter; she will become an amazing woman.

Steeve Poligadu: Life is neither a midsummer night’s dream, nor a tempest – but a comedy of errors that we play as we like it! When I met Tasnim 15 years ago, I was having to choose between a career in politics or pursuing my engineering career. Not only was she always huge moral support to complete my undergraduate degree, but she followed me in Australia and put up with me through 10 more years of studying. During this time we lived as poor students in Melbourne and Sydney and she followed me through some of the smallest towns in WA, 2 beautiful children and a lot of debt. Had it not been for my wonderful wife, who knows what might have happened? The thing is that we always have to make choices in life and in business. The decisions we make are inherently dependent on the influences of the people who are closest to us. A mentor is someone who helps us believe in ourselves and become who we are. I am grateful to my wife for being still my most influential mentor whose wisdom helps me make the most positive errors in my life!

Mary Casey: The first female mentor that comes to mind (besides my Mom) was my Aunt Nina. She was an art dealer from New York City – and impossibly windswept and glamorous to me, a little Texas girl of 14. I wanted to be an artist back then, and when my Grandmother took me to NYC to see my Uncle’s studio a couple of years later, Aunt Nina took me under her wing: playing tour guide for whatever museums I wanted to visit; bringing me to gallery openings and shows; and talking me through the processes of the art business. We were pen pals for a couple of years after that. It was an important connection for me – a great example of how you can guide without pushing in any particular direction (especially since I ended up going for architecture); just helping to create the circumstances for self-discovery, and supporting action once the insight had happened. I hope that I can be half as good a guide to my niece, Penny.

Thanks to all the women in our lives; Happy International Women’s Day.

WordPress.com prepared a 2012 annual report for our blog – we did pretty well for our first year, with over 5,000 hits!!! Very excited.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 5,300 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 9 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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