Changemakers On: Collaboration – Digital Magazine


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Collaboration is critical to bringing design-build projects to life. However, it requires some alchemy to get it right. We asked two changemakers with decades of experience: What makes the magic of collaboration happen?

A change agent called attention to the risks of too much collaboration in organizations and shared a short-term and long-term approach to avoid this exhausting problem.

The other described what it takes to create a double whammy of collaboration and technology. Leadership and clear goals are critical to a successful collaboration. Once established, technology can be added as an accelerator to achieve goals.

Collaboration is part of our daily work. To continually improve project results, it is critical that we continue to find ways to work together more effectively.

Rethink collaboration to avoid overload and burnout

We live in a world overloaded with collaboration, and it’s not helping architects and designers do a better job. Rather, it is leading to stress, negativity, burnout, and less innovation.

It’s time to rethink how we collaborate, according to steal cross, Professor of Global Leadership at Babson College, Founder and Chief Research Scientist at Connected Commons, and author of Beyond collaboration overload.

Cross believes that the rise of collaboration tools and the increasing volume of meetings across all industries has created an environment where everyone collaborates too much and, worst of all, ineffectively.

“We know that physical spaces play an important role in the effectiveness of architectural teams. Distances as low as 10 feet reduce the degree of connectivity in a workspace.”


“Over the last 12 to 15 years, worker demands for collaboration have increased by 50%,” says Cross, who draws his conclusions from his work with more than 400 organizations.

“That’s not necessarily because the workload has increased. That’s because business leaders have been ‘slowing back’ their organizations to make decision making more efficient.”

Cross says the impact of that is increased complexity of the job and an increase in the number of meetings everyone has to attend.

“In all of these meetings, people are constantly multitasking and trying to meet the demands of all of these expanded collaborative efforts,” he says. “It’s overwhelming them.”

One of the main reasons this organizational focus on collaboration is backfiring is that companies are not measuring it correctly, or not measuring it at all. Organizations often measure project budgets or timelines, but not the collaborations that produce those results.

Organizations can address this by spending analytics efforts identifying high-performing projects and the people who execute them, and then understanding what really drives success. From there, they can structure future projects based on the insights that emerge through the analysis.

In her work, Cross maps the points of collaboration in an organization or project and then compares the connectivity patterns with the ideal state. The gap between the two provides guidance on how best to collaborate in the future.

Insights from his analysis often lead to looking at physical workspaces, as well as meeting times.

“We know that physical spaces play an important role in the effectiveness of architectural teams. Distances as low as 10 feet reduce the degree of connectivity in a workspace,” she says.

When you place highly connected people—high performers who are 18 to 24% more effective than their peers—in strategic places, you create natural points of collaboration without adding more meetings or tools that will overwhelm your team, Cross says. .

Instead, Cross says organizations can stimulate collaboration by strategically positioning well-connected people in open plan offices or relocating them during moves.

“Many times, the same people who collaborated in the cubicle farm will do so in the open space context,” he says, noting that analytics can be used to determine the correct location to place people to enable effective collaboration. .

Main point

Collaboration that produces successful results can, and should, be measured alongside financial performance and project schedules. Take a look at high-performing teams or groups and study what they do differently to model it in other parts of your business.

Driving a project begins with leadership and clear objectives

brand greffen You may be the CTO at DIRTT, but a technology solution isn’t the first thing you look for when looking to enable collaboration to achieve better results in the built environment.

“I’m a tech guy who always believes that technology is the latest thing to go,” he says.

So if technology isn’t the first solution to help the construction, architecture and design industries work more collaboratively, what is?

Greffen explains that a clear objective, and leadership, are key elements for a successful collaboration at the beginning of a project. The initial goal should be clearly defined and aligned for the entire team, rather than each individual team having different expected results. Original goals can be lost without objective alignment, she adds.

“Discipline and absolute clarity of goals are essential when you are trying to achieve and maintain a focus on results.”


“Discipline and absolute clarity of goals are essential when you’re trying to achieve and maintain a focus on results,” he says. When goals and leadership are in sync, projects can reach successful conclusions in a faster and more collaborative way.

Regarding the head or manager of the project: “Having really strong leadership, not only at the sponsorship level, but also at the level of the daily work team that is done in real time, or near real time, communication is really essential “, said. he says he, because it keeps the teams aligned and on track for the result.

When information and intent are not “democratized” and known to all team members in near real time, problems can arise.

Designers, for example, may know the intent behind a design choice, but the building element may not have access to that information. This, in turn, can lead to construction options not being aligned with the overall goals of the project.

Greffen says the barrier to collaboration becomes a lack of real-time access to intent, “and intent is everything.” This is where software and technology come into play.

With emerging technology like the cloud, augmented reality (AR), and virtual reality (VR), collaboration can start sooner and give everyone access to the same information to overcome their challenges. “The sooner you can clearly share insights, the more you’ll shorten the schedule and actual construction time on site,” he says.

The next step in using technology to improve collaboration is to use artificial intelligence (AI), Greffen says, to add expert support to the process.

“The way expert software is enabled today is through AI and machine learning. It is about building a system that has the capacity to speed up decisions, [and] AI enablement is the best technology we have today to provide value-added access to automation without barriers,” he says.

“Ultimately, without giving people great collaborative technology and without doing the leadership work, the alignment work, setting the outcome and managing, you’re not going to accomplish anything,” he says.

key takeaways

Lack of access to real-time information, and more specifically to design intent, is a major inhibitor to collaborative success. Technology can be used to improve collaboration among various stakeholders while giving everyone access to the same information.

Explore more of the DIRTT Changemaker Series

This article is part of a series in which we speak with industry leaders about the issues, changes, and opportunities facing leaders in design, construction, real estate, and business. Explore more topics and hear from more change agents.


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