Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Creating the Next Big Thing

We've all had that aha moment.

The one where we look at something that's missing in a work flow, tool or technology and say to ourselves, "Wouldn't it be great if...?"

I attended a couple of general high tech conferences recently (not necessarily related to AEC) and was really excited to see where technology as a whole is headed. Though some of these tools may or may not find their way into the AEC industry, it became very clear to me that the need to consistently explore, vet and deploy technologies that may have value is becoming increasingly important for our respective professions.

In stark contrast, (mostly due to the proximity in timing of the events) I attended a tech forward conference for the AEC industry...and wow what a difference. Most of the "innovative" solutions out there were software tools that have existed in our fields for quite some time with new features or bells and whistles. While this is valuable for tech vendors to consistently improve their tools, there wasn't much in the way of WOW. This isn't a dig on vendors and I'm usually easily impressed... but the huge difference between the tech conference and this event was shocking. So my question is this:

"How can we create an atmosphere of wow in the AEC community that consistently rewards innovators and young companies who are pushing the boundaries in our profession?"

This is a hard question to answer I'm learning.

The significant difference between the technology sector as a whole and the AEC sector is that the general tech sector has a small army of early adopters just waiting to try the next big thing. *Think line three blocks long for the new iPad or xbox. While in the B2B world (AEC), we are usually slow to test and pilot and even slower to adopt tools and technologies that may significantly impact our value proposition.


I think there are a few good examples of great companies that are becoming early adopters of promising technologies. As well as some bright spots of innovative start up companies beginning to push the boundaries or redefine those boundaries. Though I don't believe it is nearly enough.

We need to start thinking like a community aligned towards a similar purpose of improvement and value. Not individual companies that latch on to a new tech, up sell it to the market through PR campaigns and then get on to the next thing without truly investing in that tool or technology and going deep to explore its value.

Ultimately, we need to understand that the danger in remaining a long sales cycle or shallow cycle (use and lose) industry that is slow to adapt and change is that it will not draw that next generation of start ups brainstorming in their garages... into the design, construction and operations markets. Rather they will focus on other markets with lower barriers to entry.

So how do we create this atmosphere of wow and early adoption? Not sure I have the best answer yet, but I do know some of it begins with starting to understand that being sold to by the "little company that could" is ok and I encourage you to have a dialog with this community. You may learn something or you just may believe its the next big thing.