Technology, Work and Self Worth

Some of the best, smartest and most self-confident people I know are in Building. This is not to say I don’t know a lot of “A-holes” in our industry as well, we all know we definitely have more than our fair share. But I have always been impressed with the quality of people I meet in all sectors of our industry.  Tradesmen, labor management, architects, contractors, engineers regardless of the discipline, there seems to be shared quality within people who conceptualize, design, organize and build or simply put, “create” new buildings and environments in our world.

Almost all are fiercely, independent, yet they respect and are successful, collaborating with huge project teams. They know in great, detail their own specialties, but work hard to sufficiently understand the entire project in order to ensure their work will be successful. Confident in their knowledge and abilities, equally independent in their decision-making as well as collaborative with their project team, communication and work. Great qualities, I would say, for both a project team member and just a thoughtful, human being.

I think these qualities have a direct impact on our work satisfaction and ultimately our own sense of self-worth. Building uniquely offers all participants to physically experience the product of their work on a daily basis while being built and then the opportunity to walk around or within the finished product for decades to come. This is a unique experience most other industries just cannot offer their work force.   These extraordinary qualities and opportunities Building can offer its’ work force are central to providing not just work for a paycheck, but a working experience that creates challenges which can fuel personal growth, interest, passion, a growing sense of self-worth and long-term commitments. Properly managed, this unique characteristic of building can play a central role in confronting the multiple challenges building currently faces. (See, Who Is On First, What Is On Second, I Don’t Know Is On Third  and  Building In A Nutshell)

As new technology tools and processes are increasingly implemented, the industry must not only move quickly in embracing these new capabilities, they must also be careful and diligent not to allow these tools to destroy the great qualities and value that the “creation” (read as building)  process offers. The direct connection we all develop with our projects as we create buildings from concept to commissioning thru life-maintenance should be “enriched not diminished”!!

Innovation and new disruptive technologies are truly remarkable and I fully support continued research and growth. But it increasingly places itself in direct conflict with the health and future well-being of many within the building world and society at large. Within the building world, purveyors and early adopters of Technology, Innovation and Disruption (TID)  concepts must learn to continue this important work while both;

  1. Ensuring that they enrich and deepen the building experience for all participants
  2. While also accepting a share of the responsibility in how these disruptions negatively impact on individuals and communities.

Along with the remarkable wealth and capabilities that have been created to date; the same road has been paved with job loss, community and identity loss, and where the sense of well-being, belonging and self-worth comes under constant attack.

Today’s world has created a powerful combination of low-cost technology, low barriers to entry, and the potential of huge financial rewards. This empowers individuals and organizations large and small, to create solutions, that solve and automate specific business transactional challenges. These solutions can often times be created and implemented very quickly.  The ability to automate tasks and implement within days, weeks or months, increasingly quickly eliminates a growing number of work assignments throughout the building workforce. Now, for bottom line profits most would argue this is great!

But work provides many benefits:

  1. It provides a method of providing for oneself and one’s family the physical needs (food, shelter, health, security and enjoyment).
  2. It provides a means of creating, building and maintaining community.
  3. But perhaps most importantly in combination with items one and two; it is a critical component of providing purpose, meaning, self-respect, confidence and peace of mind to individuals and community groups that make up our society

Those large groups of people and communities that are being disrupted into irrelevance must be included within the productivity and efficiency equations that drive these changes large and small.

How are project team members who are not currently equipped to live in the technology /digital/information age, going to be integrated into this rapidly changing system? Or do we just take away their meaning and purpose leaving them behind to exist without hope and a future.

The current efforts of all the technology giants and entrepreneurs, to make our interactions, tasks and information gathering, analysis and implementation more effortless, productive and efficient are very worthy efforts.  Should there not be a commensurate if not greater effort to develop meaningful, opportunities for everyone to grow and participate? We have watched what has happened in many other industries over the past 2 to 3 decades and it will be very interesting to see how we in the Building Industry organize ourselves as we implement the same opportunities over the next decade.