Construction Industry Slow to Adopt

Posted on April 27, 2010


In 1991, Geoffrey Moore wrote an important book called “Crossing the Chasm”, which discussed how technology should be marketed for maximum success. The Technology Adoption Life Cycle (TALC) shows that it takes  critical mass to get a product, or any new idea, traction in the marketplace.   This diagram explains Moore’s focus:  the quicker a company can “cross the chasm” and get the majority of a population to adopt an idea, the greater its chance of success.

Unfortunately for anyone trying to do anything new in the construction process, the construction industry is slow to adopt innovation.  A few demonstrations:
• Six Sigma – In 2010, people are still getting mileage out of this subject (webinars, convention seminars, trade magazines) as a new idea in our industry, nearly 25 years after it was introduced at Motorola where it was developed—and at least 15 years since becoming a mainstream manufacturing process topic.
• Lean Production (a byproduct of the Toyota Production System) – Again, people still get talking dates on this material, 15+ years since its mainstream adoption.  You would think most everyone would have drawn some parallels between car and building production, and improved their businesses in the past decade and a half.
• Building Information Modeling (BIM) – Some companies still think this is a ‘wait-and-see’ technology; some building owners do not see why their projects should be designed and documented in it.  Maybe 10 years ago you could have made those assumptions, but not currently.  This is a tool of today, not the future.

The Technology Adoption Life Cycle can take months for some technologies, or years when you discuss widespread (tens of millions of people worldwide) adoption of phenomena like Facebook or Twitter.  But in the construction industry, an industry pretty much defined by Moore’s Conservatives and Skeptics, it seems it is not uncommon for people to stew about something for ten years or longer before making a move.

Thus, we have subjects like Design-Build (DB) still getting major hits at industry conventions as hot topics.  Design-build is over 40 years old and is still trying to shake the moniker non-traditional project delivery method. What does DB, or anything different than the way it’s always been for that matter, need to do to cross the chasm in the construction industry? 

Or in DB’s case, has it already crossed the chasm?  After all, before the economic and construction slowdown, 2010 was the magical year Design-Build was to surpass Design-Bid-Build as the most popular project delivery method. If the chasm has been crossed, you can see what will happen from the diagram.  Better read up on DB, attend your seminars, and watch out because it is coming to a project site near you!