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.