Breaking Glass – Innovation May Not Happen Without IT

Change is hard. Especially for people and organizations that are rooted in tradition; are used to conventional (proven and accepted) ways of doing things; and feel comfortable with the processes and relationships that they’ve become so accustomed to—pretty much most of humanity. This is particularly also true for the construction and real estate industry. The industry has been kind to most of us in it (well…some more than others). Lots of people in this industry have benefited from the “business as usual” mentality (but don’t forget: many people also have to work around the clock to make ends meet as they partake in the eco-system in this vast industry).

Surely, the industry has some unique characteristics that may appear to make change even harder. As the second largest industry in the world, it is also known as one of the most labor-intensive and fragmented industries (more than 12 million companies serve the industry in North America alone with the majority of them employing less than seven people). Also, none of the “products” (= the actual buildings and infrastructure) are the same, making it more seemingly difficult to “automate” and “replicate”. Consequently, the construction and real estate industry is tainted with one of the world’s lowest levels of productivity (and one that seems to be still declining) and with the highest levels of recognized inefficiency (cost). But we’ve heard it all before, and every other industry before us that has transformed itself had to overcome its own barriers and challenges.

Change is necessary. Shifts in the global economy are requiring it: remaining competitive in a world where we see business and power get re-distributed across the globe. Environmental pressures are pushing us for it: there aren’t enough resources out there to sustain our current way of living (and infrastructure building). The new labor force will be demanding it: connectivity, mobility, multi-tasking, and work-life balancing (or work-life blending, as Nitin Kawale @CiscoCanada coined it at the Empire Club Luncheon last week in Toronto) is significantly altering expectations of the young workforce that is coming our way. Change – Innovation – (r)Evolution is inevitable.

Surely, change will happen gradually and over time. We can sit back and let it happen. This is kind of the way it’s been for Centuries. But with the speed of global business, and the acceleration of economic and demographic and environmental influences around us, this may just not do anymore. We may need to be more pro-active and guide, as well as forge the inevitable change to happen.

We change through innovation. We innovate by departing from tradition and conventional ways of doing things. We may disrupt established processes and relationships during this journey of change. We may not always be right the first time, as we can’t truly predict what the future holds. We may upset partnerships and friendships in the process of doing this (sorry !). But eventually, we will all be better for it. We have got to break glass and move beyond the hardship and discomfort that innovation and change may seem to cause us (in the short term). It simply has to be done…yet, together. Only then, we’ll enjoy the sustainable opportunity and prosperity that the future has to offer.

About Rick Huijbregts

Rick Huijbregts is Vice President of Industry Transformation where he is responsible for Cisco Canada’s IoE strategy and industry business development. The members of his team are industry subject matter experts and each engage in the transformation of their respective industries (healthcare, oil and gas, financial services, education, real estate, and industrial sector). Huijbregts is also General Manager for Cisco Canada’s Smart + Connected Communities practice, including Smart + Connected Real Estate. Huijbregts holds construction and architecture degrees from Tilburg Polytechnic University and Delft University in the Netherlands, and a doctorate from Harvard University. Huijbregts is currently a faculty member at the Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education where he teaches classes on Smart Buildings and Smart Cities. He also serves on several boards of Canadian academic institutions and not-for-profits. Rick Huijbregts est vice-président de la transformation sectorielle dont les responsabilités comptent la stratégie de l’internet multidimensionnel et le développement commercial du secteur industriel de Cisco Canada. Les membres de son équipe sont tous des experts dans différents domaines et œuvrent à la transformation de leurs secteurs d’activité respectifs (santé, énergie, services financiers, enseignement, immobilier et industrie). Huijbregts est également directeur général du segment des communautés intelligentes et connectées, dont le volet immotique des immeubles intelligents et connectés de Cisco Canada. M. Huijbregts est titulaire de diplômes en construction et architecture de l’université Tilburg Polytechnic et de l’université Delft aux Pays-Bas ainsi que d’un doctorat de l’université Harvard. Il est actuellement professeur de Harvard à la faculté d’études supérieures pour les cadres en aménagement urbain où il donne des cours sur la gestion intelligente des immeubles et des villes. Il siège également à plusieurs conseils d’administration d’universités et d’organismes à but non lucratif.
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