VDC/BIM: Disruptive Innovation, Creative Destruction



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March 13, 2015 │ Leonardo Rischmoller │

While there is not yet a more or less agreed definition about what BIM and VDC are, BIM/VDC is still seen by many careful risk-takers concerned with maintaining the status quo as only an incremental innovation oriented to improve on an existing way of doing something.  BIM/VDC, however, is not only an incremental innovation but a new way to deal with the whole life cycle project development processes that will transform completely the AEC/EPC industries.Thinking about BIM/VDC as a form of “disruptive innovation” (Clay Christensen) or “creative destruction” (Joseph Schumpeter) could help us to understand the path of huge transformation that the AEC/EPC industries have just started to walk due to the impact of BIM/VDC adoption. I have prepared the following table where I have included some of the things that I believe will be either created or "destroyed" once BIM/VDC becomes industry practice. Some companies have already started the process of creative-destruction included on some of the ideas on the table, others could use the table to realize what is needed, while others will probably follow an approach similar to the weavers in rural England during the industrial revolution, they demonstrated, petitioned Parliament, and even burned down textile mills in an effort to fend off mechanization. Would we be better off now if they had succeeded and we still made all of our clothes by hand?

Leading innovation requires leaders to rethink their roles and responsibilities. Many leaders like structure because it provides the comfort of control. They neither understand nor feel comfortable with the improvisation and autonomy that innovation requires. BIM/VDC is seen by many as a disruptive threat for established roles, status, reputation, or rights and prerogatives. However, when innovation is the goal, a conventional approach to leadership makes little sense. BIM/VDC demands not only the development of new technological skills but also learning new management approaches instead of clinging tenaciously to the skills that made the AEC/EPC industries successful in the past.

BIM/VDC might seem to be a non-core activity today that might become an absolutely critical competence to have mastered in the future. I am convinced that introducing learning goals in addition to performance goals, and making a pause to reflect on the “creative destruction” and “disruptive innovation” nature of BIM/VDC will help to realize where each of us fit on the trip of BIM/VDC towards becoming integrated into the fabric of the AEC/EPC industries, across every function and region.

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