Final report: Wolves hunt better in a pack

Yesterday the final report from our research project “Barriers and drivers for a digitally driven industry development” was published. The report was written during the fall of 2018 and summarizes the results from the research project. The title of the report is “Wolves hunt better in a pack” and it reflects one of the core conclusions, the need for construction industry actors to work together instead of as lone wolfs.

Unfortunately, the report is only available in Swedish, but publications are on the way. At the end of the report (which can be downloaded here) a few of the articles are summarized in English. PI for the project was Henrik Linderoth. Any mistakes in the report should thus be blamed on me, and interesting results should be credited to Henrik!

A short summary of the whole report

This study took its basis in the challenges that arise from the tension between the construction industry’s characteristics and the prerequisites needed for a successful digitization driven industry development. The purpose was to create an understanding of how the industry’s parties experience and handle these challenges in their work to develop and streamline the industry, as well as describe and analyze how the obstacles can be bridged.

To reach the purpose, a qualitative study was conducted based on interviews and focus group interviews with four groups of industry actors; clients, contractors, consultants, and architects. A total of 20 respondents were interviewed, focusing on perceived obstacles and challenges. Thereafter, five focus group interviews were conducted where the focus was shifted from obstacles/challenges to driving forces and possible ways forward. The interviews and focus group interviews comprised of more than 900 pages of transcribed material, which was analyzed using a thematic analysis.

In the results, three areas of obstacles and three areas of driving forces for a digitization driven industry development were presented and discussed. Identified obstacles were conflicting roles and perspectives, routine networks and identities, and a lack of pressure for change. The identified drivers were pockets-of-change, technology maturity and institutionalization, as well as infrastructure basis. These areas are further elaborated and discussed in seven different scientific contributions.

A direct conclusion is that the strongest advocates for a developed use of digital technologies are not the same people as those who are in power to decide on how digital technology is to be used. This is particularly obvious in relations to architects and clients. The architects see the long-term benefit for the clients, while the clients often only sees a more information-rich model as an increased cost. This is an example of the fact that the basic idea of BIM, “to build in the model and assemble on site“, stands in stark contrast with the industry logic that promotes immediate action where there is rarely time “to do things right” from the very beginning, but always time to correct errors. One way to bridge this contradiction could be the development of more trust-based and long-term collaborations between the industry partners, already from early stages and across several projects. However, there is a perceived danger that the involved parties would become fat and lazy when they have secured their involvement in several projects. This can be seen as a manifestation of existing mental models in the industry where it is assumed that “the lone wolf is the best hunter“. However, an alternative mental model could be launched, where different networks of actors compete against each other, and if not everyone is doing their best every time, the network lose to competing networks. In other words, to move from the idea that “the lone wolf is the best hunter “ to an idea that “wolves hunt better in a pack”. The big question is however what opportunities there are to change these mental models?