BIM Show Live at the Construction News Summit Tech Sprint

Posted 25.10.16 in News

A new Space Insight from CEO of Space Group, Rob Charlton

Last week, BIM Show Live sponsored the Tech Sprint – an event that took place as part of the 2016 Construction News Summit in London.

We were keen to be involved with the Tech Sprint – the idea of working with the under 30s on digital solutions fitted our focus perfectly, though, when we initially agreed to get involved, we were not 100% sure what we were getting ourselves into!

As part of the Tech Sprint, we were to provide several coders and developers from our Space Applied Technologies group. The SAT team works both internally and with external clients, to develop bespoke solutions to challenges facing the industry, using technology to deliver and resolve these challenges – this would align them perfectly to work with the teams taking part in the Tech Sprint. The SAT team don’t get out much, so it was a nice little treat for them to get to go to London and spend time with other people from the sector.  Though the team have been involved with tech hacks in the past, the format of this one was a little different and our role was to support the teams to provide a proof of concept to communicate their idea.

Over twenty-four hours, four teams from across the sector would come together in the Hilton London Bankside to develop a platform to address a current problem in the industry. The brief remained fairly open to ensure maximum flexibility. Each of the teams was made up of eight people. Unfortunately, as we might expect, the men somewhat outnumbered the women significantly.

Keen to be involved, I had committed personally to support the hack for as long as I could before I needed to sleep. Most of the group had at least 20 years on me so I had booked a Premier Inn across the road as a precaution and escape route!

Once the event kicked off, it was really interesting to watch the teams and the different dynamics at play. My perception had been that each team would spend time coming up with a killer idea and then use the next 20 hours developing the solution for the pitch and while this was actually a long way from the reality, I believe the teams got more from the process that the actual solution.

The team dynamics were very interesting – with participants being selected to represent different parts of the industry such as contractors, subcontractors, engineers etc. however apart from that, it was random. Some of the teams fell into an immediate collaborative approach, others selected a leader while others would have benefitted from a wider discussion. At times some of the stronger personalities affected the wider team’s contribution.

When it came to ideas, obviously the groups who settled on their direction early were at a huge advantage and their solutions which were easier to develop were very simple and had real clarity. If the idea needed more than two minutes to explain, it was going to be a struggle. The teams which sought to address a small issue fared well. Others tried to address huge industry issues which was really commendable but quite difficult to hone to a solution in the timescale given.  The breadth of the issues was enlightening.

The teams continued to work through the night. I have to admit that I did bail out, back to the comfort of the Premier Inn at 1am and didn't return until 6am and of course I felt guilty when I returned (not really) … I found some of the SAT team lying on a meeting room floor using the tablecloths as pillows and sheets – that’s one for Twitter!

Through the course of the night, our teams had been working on developing the ideas into proof of concept. Out of the four, some were narrow enough to develop a high-level solution, while others were too broad to be able to deliver something tangible.

By lunchtime, the groups were ready to present and all teams presented their solutions really well, with confidence. This is a really interesting characteristic of Generation Y; they have the confidence to communicate clearly.

So what else did I learn about the future generation of our industry and how ideas are best developed?

  • Most importantly - a good idea is essential. However, a good idea without a strong team to develop it further will always struggle.
  • Generation Y collaborates well and works successfully in teams. From past experience, I have not necessarily seen the confidence to collaborate to this extent in those of us who are a little older.
  • Clarity of communication is essential and less is more. Filling space with noise doesn't make an idea any clearer.
  • Trying to solve the challenges of our industry in one go is probably too ambitious. However, taking one small issue at a time is the most effective way forward.

Ultimately, I was really impressed by all teams and I am encouraged that they will be the ones taking our industry forward. They understand the challenges that the industry faces and all the teams were creative and entrepreneurial in their solutions. Their enthusiasm was infectious.

I also learned that I need my sleep and that the younger generations have far more energy than I do!

Our future is in safe hands.

As a footnote; the winning solution was outstanding, solving an industry issue to reduce cost and waste. To explain it simply " Uber for concrete deliveries"!