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UK BIM Alliance East – Jenni Barrett with her presentation on Behaviours & Collaboration within the Built Environment 

Find below Jenni Barrett’s summary post on the UK BIM Alliance online event, where she presented some interesting findings and research:

March 25th 2020 was planned to include a networking event in Cambridge, hosted by the UK BIM Alliance to talk about ‘Behaviours and Collaboration.’  But with the nation in lockdown in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was moved online.  The move to digital space hindered neither attendance, nor discussion.  In fact, as built environment professionals reflected upon their recent and rapid transition to totally online collaboration, the context of Covid-19 provided some valuable perspectives on how our digitalised construction industry might operate.

Event Chair, Craig Hardingham, updated us on the recent activities of the UK BIM Alliance and gave an overview of the UK BIM Framework and availability of guidance (https://ukbimframework.org/).  Su Butcher (Just Practising) explained that having the right technology for collaboration is the easy bit, but it only represents 10% of the equation.  20% of collaboration, she says, is the legislative element, the bit that means you absolutely have to do it (e.g. the contract).  But, Su says, 70% is about the behaviour.  If we can make behaviours like trust, openness to new ways of working a habit, then we can start to achieve true collaboration on our projects.

Next, I presented some findings from my recent research.  In this project, I observed some BIM teams and recorded their interactions across different types of media – online forum, conference call, and in traditional face-to-face meetings.  By conducting social network analysis on the frequency and direction of their social responses to ideas and decisions, I was able to map the patterns of collaboration (see below).  The results confirmed that the visual social cues that we receive during face to face interaction are vital when we wish to set collaborative goals, strategies and shared visions for our projects.  But face to face meetings tend to be very hierarchical and don’t necessarily allow for the opinions and ideas of more ‘junior’ staff to be shared.  Conversely, a more democratic environment was found in the online forum, where the real ‘shop floor’ creativity took place. 

In the current lockdown situation, these findings prompted much discussion, as they reveal that we have a lot of work still to do to understand how we best share ideas and values, not just information, in the new digital world of work.  The data also revealed that women, indeed, are consistently excluded from social sharing in collaborative projects.  This is a big concern for the Women In BIM team and we hope to carry out further research in this area.  It also underlines the huge importance of Women In BIM’s recent initiatives, such as the new mentoring programme.

Paul Wilkinson (Behaviours4Collaboration) brought home the need for effective collaboration via a reflection on the construction industry’s journey to digitalisation, and some predictions about future trends that look set to disrupt and develop future practice.

Finally, Tony Llewellyn (Resolex) shared insights about how to manage large, complex teams.  It is, he said, about instilling core values, as it is the values that will drive the desired behaviours.  He then described a useful team set up framework that can be applied to embed desired collaborative behaviours.  This does, however, require strong leadership, so that the team doesn’t revert back to the transactional behaviours that have previously limited our ability to achieve the positive group norms associated with true collaboration.

Thank you to all who joined a very timely and enjoyable discussion, both within the conference and on twitter (#Beh4Coll).  If you didn’t make it, you can still download the presentations from the UK BIM Alliance website and even watch it all again on YouTube.

So, to sum up the event’s message…

Stay well.  Stay home.  Stay connected.

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