Sharing data or sharing values?

  • by Jenni Barrett
  • 26 Oct, 2017

Report from BE2camp 2017

On 10th October, I joined the BE2Camp crew in Oxfordshire. BE2Camp are on a mission to use the internet of things to innovate in the construction industry. Their annual meets are, without fail, characterised by environmental sustainability, a sandbox mentality, and great cake. 2017 was no different, with phenomenal cake prepared by Claire Thirlwall (Thirlwall Associates ). As the theme was 'open data,' all edibles came with their own ' DECLARE ' cards, a nutrition label for building products, championed by the International Living Future Institute .

I had been invited to present my recent research findings that explored social interaction as a critical ingredient in the design process. I discussed how collaboration is about, not only sharing physical data, but also our human values to enable the imaginary building to be successfully realised. Design isn't simply data drops and exchange. Sharing our individual project and personal values, ethics, imagination, and aspirations help us to achieve better quality outcomes, more innovative solutions, and mutually inspiring results.

Design isn't simply data drops and exchange...

I highlighted the cognitive dissonance in the aspirations of the construction industry to be collaborative, and the mechanisms that facilitate collaboration. For example, nearly all construction contracts are held between clients and individual companies, rather than remunerating the design team as a whole. This can result in a dominance of pro-self behaviour and inhibit the pro-team behaviour that drives creative and collaborative projects. Similarly, construction protocols.

Similarly, construction protocols (not least BIM Level 2) require sensitive corporate data to be shared amongst the team (which may include future competitors!). Compliance with this protocol may threaten your future competitiveness in a tough construction market. However, if you resist compliance, a cultural norm of low risk tolerance and self-protectionism within the project team can develop. These norms of behaviour will directly affect your ability to collaborate effectively and work together towards high quality or innovative solutions.

There was much to discuss at BE2Camp. Martin Brown , author of FutuREstorative talked about the use of data in sustainable building.   He asked whether we can ever be serious about sustainability if contractors are not even clear about the material composition of what we have installed, citing the acute lesson of Grenfell Tower. How can we apply the precautionary principle if we don't have transparency and ready access to the data that will allow us to make good decisions. We think we have come so far, but clearly we have much work to do.

Ben Ward of Flood Network also showed us how open data can enable meaningful innovation to manage flood risk and response. I was also wooed by the urban modelling capability of VU.CITY , which is modelling our urban environments using open data. The model opens a world of visualisation with infinite capability, especially in terms of planning and urban design.  Here's a sneaky peak at a bit of their presentation...  c/o Su Butcher .

You can check the full Storify here...

by Jenni Barrett 26 Oct, 2017

On 10th October, I joined the BE2Camp crew in Oxfordshire. BE2Camp are on a mission to use the internet of things to innovate in the construction industry. Their annual meets are, without fail, characterised by environmental sustainability, a sandbox mentality, and great cake. 2017 was no different, with phenomenal cake prepared by Claire Thirlwall (Thirlwall Associates ). As the theme was 'open data,' all edibles came with their own ' DECLARE ' cards, a nutrition label for building products, championed by the International Living Future Institute .

I had been invited to present my recent research findings that explored social interaction as a critical ingredient in the design process. I discussed how collaboration is about, not only sharing physical data, but also our human values to enable the imaginary building to be successfully realised. Design isn't simply data drops and exchange. Sharing our individual project and personal values, ethics, imagination, and aspirations help us to achieve better quality outcomes, more innovative solutions, and mutually inspiring results.

by Jenni Barrett 11 Jul, 2017

What if your team set up doesn't match the typical description?  How can you collaborate with people you will only be working with for a matter of months?  

The dictionary boffins at the University of Cambridge define 'collaboration' as " the situation of two or more people working together to create or achieve the same thing ."

What this definition doesn't impart, however, is that these " two or more people " might be working in a variety of contexts, places, or organisations that may, or may not, be conducive to collaboration. At the large scale, your industry may be turbulent, chaotic, or uncertain. At the day-to day level, you may not be physically working together, but in distributed locations, relying on today's technology to connect. You may be collaborating with a variety of disciplines or cultures, who just don't see the world like you do. You might not even be a permanent member of this team. You might just be parachuting in to offer the benefit of your specialist skills. The team itself might be temporary.

For you and your colleagues, these atypical situations can be everyday. But the management guidance tends only to deal with the common and the typical.  Their solutions can't offer anything valuable here.  Your atypical team is likely to encounters its own, special issues……


The nature of the temporary project team presents significant barriers for transferring information and ideas.  Short-term relationships inhibit knowledge and innovation transfer between projects and organisations. Team members may be unsure about how to act, or may not feel safe to contribute ideas, due to the unfamiliar situations, group cultures, and norms, that are repeatedly presented.   Team members experience a duality of purpose as they hold membership, not just within the project team, but within their own organisations. Frequently, this manifests as organisational pressure to generate profit, which contradicts the group's goal to 'go the extra mile' and create something new or different. This can create conflict within the group and hamper creativity. The usual 'teambuilding' events are observed to be ineffective in these situations.

 

So, how can good collaboration take place in the temporary team?

 

Here are 3 tips that might make the difference between success and failure…..

  1. Familiarity breeds effectiveness.
    Simply put, to collaborate effectively, you need to nurture the team's familiarity (within professional limits!). This action will essentially fast track your group through Tuckman's stages of group development . You could meet more frequently than is typical for that project. Meeting face-to-face on projects isn't always possible, so nurture relationships by setting up an interactive environment, where formal and informal conversation can take place. There are many apps and sites that facilitate this, such as Slack or Yammer . Create a specific channel for informal or social chat.  Ensure that there are prolific opportunities for developing familiarity with each other's social norms, such as through social events or informal chat, before or after meetings. Familiarity with each other's social cues, personalities, and opinions all helps to create the cohesive group culture needed to collaborate, create, and innovate.

  2. Embrace the positive.
    Acknowledge the opportunities presented by the temporary project team, and direct the group discussion towards taking advantage of them. For example, the temporary team can sometimes create an 'experimental workshop' environment that can actually promote innovation. Sometimes, however, this requires team members to be more flexible in their roles, rather than sticking rigidly to the job that they have been allocated, so this is something that might be considered.

  3. Share success.
    One of the main problems of the temporary project team, is that of innovation diffusion . Once the team has disbanded and moved on to other jobs, the processes, learning, and ideas that contributed to their success are forgotten. Your temporary project teams will continue to be creative and more likely to produce innovative work, if the knowledge generated in previous work is collected, reviewed, and shared across organisational boundaries after project completion. Consider embedding this process in your organisational project protocols. Joint submissions to industry awards are always a great opportunity to do this, whilst collectively celebrating achievements.

     

    It's good to be different .

    by Jenni Barrett 26 Jun, 2017

    The meaning of the terms ‘ creativity’ and ‘ innovation’   feature frequently in workplace discussion, but vary widely in their intended meaning. 

    Given this variation, how can we define a common organisational or team purpose?

    So, how can these two terms be mutually and universally understood in collaborative conversations?  Here are a few perspectives that you might use in collaborative conversations to universally and mutually clarify, understand, and share your goals.....

    Creativity researcher and writer, Teresa Amabile , co-author of The Progress Principle , describes creativity in a workplace context as “ the production of useful and novel ideas. ”   She offers a different definition of innovation, describing it as “ the successful implementation of ideas .”   So, creativity is about ideas, whereas innovation is about the commercialisable outcome.  But the process of innovation has to encompass creative thinking to be successful.

    The production of a'new ' thing is generally accepted in management thinking as necessary for competitive advantage and business success. Consider that the new ' thing ' doesn't have to be a specific product , but may relate to a service or  process that creates value.  

    And this novelty doesn't necessarily have to set the world on fire.  Only a limited few of us will be changing the world.  But all of us need that elusive competitive advantage.  If we aren't producing radical innovation, then we can always make incremental change.  Consider these four levels.  Which of these levels of product innovation does your organisation intend to generate?

    1. A product that is brand new to the world.  
      Your company has never developed anything like this before and the market has never before used it.

    2. A product that extends an existing line.
      The product extends and existing product range, but will be brand new to the marketplace.

    3. A product that connects the company to its market
      The product isn't new to the marketplace, but will be new to the company.

    4. A modification product
      A product that has been modified to create a slightly better one.

    Before you evaluate your organisational innovation capability, be clear about your organisational intentions.  Will the innovation be revolutionary or attempt only to reconfigure a small and specific market niche?  Will the innovative product or service redefine the market requirements (think, smartphone), add value, or guide future product development along a continuum of improvement.

    Be clear about your purpose before you exploit opportunities.  

    Achieve success by communicating clear intentions to your collaborators, so that you are working to a unifying common purpose.





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