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Smart Construction: How AI and Machine Learning Will Change the Construction Industry

These days, seemingly everyone is applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning. I have written about disruptions in the manufacturing industry, such as Industry 4.0, while illustrating the Hard Trends that indicate where improvements will be made in the future.

The construction industry, which makes up 7% of the global workforce, should already have applied these technologies to improve productivity and revolutionize the industry. However, it has actually progressed quite slowly.

Growth in the construction industry has only been 1% over a few decades while manufacturing is growing at a rate of 3.6%. With the total worker output in construction at a standstill, it is no surprise that the areas where machine learning and AI could improve such statistics were minimal. Yet, those technologies are finally starting to emerge in the industry.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is when a computer mimics specific attributes of human cognitive function, while machine learning gives the computer the ability to learn from data, as opposed to being specifically programmed by a human. Here are ten ways that AI and machine learning will transform the construction and engineering industries into what we’ll call “smart construction.”

  1. Cost Overrun Prevention and Improvement

Even efficient construction teams are plagued by cost overruns on larger-scale projects. AI can utilize machine learning to better schedule realistic timelines from the start, learning from data such as project or contract type, and implement elements of real-time training in order to enhance skills and improve team leadership.

  1. Generative Design for Better Design

When a building is constructed, the sequence of architectural, engineering, mechanical, electrical, and plumbing tasks must be accounted for in order to prevent these specific teams from stepping out of sequence or clashing. Generative design is accomplished through a process called “building information modeling.” Construction companies can utilize generative design to plot out alternative designs and processes, preventing rework.

  1. Risk Mitigation

The construction process involves risk, including quality and safety risks. AI machine learning programs process large amounts of data, including the size of the project, to identify the size of each risk and help the project team pay closer attention to bigger risk factors.

  1. More Productive Project Planning

A recent startup utilized 3D scanning, AI and neural networks to scan a project site and determine the progress of specific sub-projects in order to prevent late and over-budget work. This approach allowed management to jump in and solve problems before they got out of control. Similarly, “reinforcement learning” (machine learning based on trial and error) can help to collate small issues and improve the preparation phase of project planning.

  1. More Productive Job Sites

Professionals often fear machines will replace them. While intelligent machines will take over first repetitive and eventually more cognitively complex positions, this does not mean a lack of jobs for people. Instead, workers will transition to new, more fulfilling and highly productive roles to save time and stay on budget, and AI will monitor human productivity on job sites to provide real-time guidance on improving each operation.

  1. Safety First

Manual labor not only has the potential to be taxing on the body, but also to be incredibly dangerous. Presently, a general contractor is developing an algorithm that analyzes safety hazards seen in imagery taken from a job site, making it possible to hold safety briefings to eliminate elevated danger and improve overall safety on construction sites.

  1. Addressing Job Shortages

AI and machine learning have the capacity to plot out accurate distribution of labor and machinery across different job sites, again preventing budget overruns. One evaluation might reveal where a construction site has adequate coverage while another reveals where it is short staffed, thereby allowing for an efficient and cost-effective repositioning of workers.

  1. Remote Construction

When structures can be partially assembled off-site and then completed on-site, construction goes faster. The concept of using advanced robots and AI to accomplish this remote assembly is new. Assembly line production of something like a wall can be completed while the human workforce focuses on the finish work.

  1. Construction Sites as Data Sources

The data gathered from construction sites and the digital lessons learned by AI and advanced machines are all tools for improving the productivity of the next project. In this way, each construction site can contribute to a virtual textbook of information helpful to the entire industry.

  1. The Finishing Touches

Structures are always settling and shifting slightly. It would be beneficial to be able to dive back into data collated by a computer to track in real time the changes and potential problems faced by a structure — and AI and machine learning make this possible.

Given the inevitable changes on the horizon, and the potential for costs to drop up to 20% or more with increased productivity, professionals in the construction industry must pay attention to Hard Trends, become more anticipatory, and ultimately learn to turn disruption and change into opportunity and advantage.

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What an Orchestra Can Teach Your Company About High-Performance Teams

Do you ever feel like you’re conducting an orchestra? It’s hard to get all the people and parts moving harmoniously, isn’t it?

On a recent episode of Talking Business Now, I talked with Maestro Roger Nierenberg, the founder of The Music Paradigm. Nierenberg believes organizations can learn many critical lessons from orchestras, including insights into team collaboration and how to be more productive.

The Music Paradigm is an immersive learning experience Nierenberg created for business leaders, using actual orchestras. Company participants discover how the orchestra mirrors their company’s own culture.

Nierenberg made his New York conducting debut at Avery Fisher with the Pro Arte Chorale and Orchestra. He’s conducted numerous American orchestras as well as several abroad, including recording with the London Philharmonic and conducting at the Prague Spring Festival and the Beijing Festival. While he was with the Jacksonville Symphony, he made an astute observation after listening to many business and civic leaders: the challenges and opportunities organizations face during times of rapid change could be demonstrated with an orchestra. The Music Paradigm was born.

The format itself is simple enough: customized two-hour sessions consisting of a pre-meeting, the session with the orchestra and follow-up discussions. Nierenberg meets with the leadership team to explore their challenges and goals. He then creates interactive exercises for the orchestra designed to bring the company’s issues to life.

Next, the organization’s participants are seated within the orchestra. As participants observe the musicians, they focus on the dynamics at play. Because the orchestra is mirroring the actual dynamics of the company , participants discover some surprising and fascinating lessons about dysfunction, diversity and leadership.

“I’m asking them to adopt certain behaviors that are very much like the kinds of behaviors that either they want to bring about in their own organization, or else, they don’t want to admit that it’s holding them back,” Nierenberg said. “And so the orchestra becomes kind of a mirror for them to look at themselves and see themselves more clearly than they can in real life.”

Afterwards, Nierenberg conducts a discussion with participants about what they have just experiences and the key lessons that can be drawn.

If you’re interested in more details about The Music Paradigm and what your organization can learn from it, click here to listen to the full podcast.

Best Practices Growth Human Resources Leadership Personal Development

Professional Workplace Environment Awareness

Are you paying attention to your workplace environment? As a busy leader, your professional attention and commitment is to ensure the workplace environment creates productivity and team effectiveness.

Look around your office right now. Is there clutter everywhere? Does it seem a little crazy or chaotic? Are important files and papers easily accessible? Is it easy for people to collaborate on an idea? Is it easy for people to find where they need to be? Consider creating an attentive workplace by looking at the environment that you create. Do people have an opportunity to move into a quiet room or space, to get things done? Are your meetings productive by considering the environment, to maybe call in others or use video technology? How are you paying attention to your environment? But think about the environment as the wider context, as well.

What can you be doing, as a leader, to pay attention to our environment, meaning a bigger environment? Do you have a recycling program at work? Just maybe even recycling bins beside the printer. Can you offer refillable water bottles or water stations for people to avoid the plastic waste? Could you consider donating unused furniture from the office to charities that could maybe really use it? Do you encourage people to maybe use public transport instead of driving everywhere? There are so many ways, as a leader, we can pay attention to, not just the office environment, but also the wider environment, as well.

When a friend of mine was doing property development, he decided to make sure his building was LEAD certified. Now, while you might not be a big fancy property developer like he is, maybe there are things you can think about when you’re designing a new process, or product, or protocol, that allows you to be more environmentally friendly.

As an Australian, I get that I’m a little crazy about protecting the environment, which means, personally, I do carry refillable water bottles. I do try and use … Well, not always use public transport, but I do try to from where I live. I definitely try to reuse the towels when I visit a hotel, instead of using housekeeping all the time. I definitely try to donate things wherever possible. If I’m not using it, I’m sure someone else can use it.

What are some little ways that you could pay attention to the environment, both at work, and at home? I want to challenge you to just look around and have a think. In our book, Attention Pays, we cover this in the chapter on Global Attention, meaning, how are you paying attention to your community, to the world at large?

Now, you may not be a Tesla driving, environmentally conscious person, but there are little tiny things I bet you could pay attention to at work that would make the environment easier for people to get work done. Or maybe be kind to the environment with the way that you get things done.

How are you, as a leader, truly paying attention to your environment? I would love to hear your comments, so feel free to share them with me directly. It is my belief that when you pay attention, attention pays.

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Answer the Call for Rest and Recovery

You know that I’m Australian. But, I’m also a US citizen. Now for me, my entire family is in Australia. Now my honey and I moved here many, many, many years ago and I still call Australia home, and I call the US home as well.

I think it’s important I go back to Australia to see my family. Now so many people say to me, oh I’ve always wanted to go to Australia, but it’s so far. Well here’s how you think of Australia. It is very simply just six movies from LA. That’s right. Once you get on the plane, have a little snack, have a meal, have a little nap, watch six movies and voila, you’re there.

But why I think it’s so important to share this message about why I go back to see my family, is I think it’s really important to live a life that we don’t have any regrets. I think so often as busy professionals we think, oh, I’ll make a vacation when I have time. I’ll make plans when I have time, I’ll put it off, I’ll put it off, I’ll do it when I’m not so busy. Well here’s the reality. We are all busy. And one of the things I want to challenge you about is as a leader you are role modeling for your team about the importance of recovery. If you don’t spend time with your family or do whatever recharges your batteries then you become a tired leader and honestly, you become a boring leader.

My team knows that I have to go back to Australia every year because I get homesick. There is literally no cure for homesickness except being with people that I love. There is something about the Australian concha, the food, the sense of humor, the beauty the sunshine, the animals and it’s very different to what I experience here. I love living in the US. I love working with my American clients and my Canadian and also love being able to go home to Australia, see my family, wrap my arms around my mom, see my baby sisters, well they’re not really babies anymore, see my nephews and nieces. To shop at my favorite stores, to see my dearest friends there.

What are you doing to take care of your recovery? How do you recover? How do you show your family that they mean so much to you? You see when we pay attention it’s not just about what we pay attention to professionally, it’s who we pay attention to personally. And for me, that involves a trip to Australia every year. Sometimes even twice.

While you may not need to go to Australia. When was the last time you visited with your family? And if you can’t physically visit them, when is the time last time you videoed with them? I want to encourage you, what’s your Australia. What’s a trip maybe that you’ve always wanted to take but you keep it off? Now is the time to book it. I go back to Australia every year because I love and adore my family. I enjoy spending time with them and frankly, I need to see them. They are a recovery opportunity for me. What’s your version of Australia? I’d love to hear from you.


Best Practices Growth Health and Wellness Human Resources Management

Increase Summer Focus by Embracing Intentional Distractions

Boost productivity by embracing distractions.

Have you ever considered having summer hours? In my small business, we have summer hours that start in June and go all the way to the end of August. Well, what does that mean? It simply means we finish early on a Friday afternoon.

Now, what I know to be true about where I live is everybody wants to escape and enjoy the beautiful summer weather. Some people have shore houses or lake houses or they want to go to the beach.

Can you create summer hours? What about giving your team flexibility to be able to work from home, outdoors or remotely on a Friday? Could they leave the office a little earlier so they can enjoy the beautiful sunshine and maybe avoid the crazy traffic that starts on a weekend? Does your business allow people to be more flexible in the summer?

You see, what I think is important is if you want to boost productivity, if you want to pay attention to what needs to get done, it means you also have to make time for play. So often, our team works so hard, working and answering emails at night, taking meetings after hours, attending conferences, and yet we don’t always give them the time to play.

Take the Summer Challenge

Can you make your more productive summer more fun? Can you have more play? Now, the easiest way to do is book it in. Create easy things. Like maybe people can go home early every other Friday or maybe you have people who alternate so that something is also covered in your office, but that they get the opportunity to work remotely. What are some ways you can implement summer hours or intentional play? Book it in.

Create systems allowing your team can work remotely. Provide employees with a flexible work schedule so they are off every Friday, or every other Friday. Maybe they could even extend the weekend. It could go to Monday. You just need to find what works for you.

Turn on your “Out of the office.” Make the message fun so others know you won’t be around but would be delighted to help them when you return.

If you decide on summer hours, can you make it fun, make it playful? Maybe with a few systems in place, you can have meetings outside.  Allow the team to understand the systems, make sure the team understands the protocols and policies. Let’s redirect phone lines. Let’s put “Out of office” messages together, and let’s make sure we make the most of our summer. Step away from your devices. Hang up the phone. Get out in the sun and enjoy your summer.

Best Practices Growth Health and Wellness Human Resources Management

Achieve the Ideal Workday

Sit back and imagine your ideal, perfect workday. What would it look like? Would it be a day without meetings? Perhaps it would be a day without interruptions. Maybe your ideal workday is one where you are focused on accomplishing the monumental task that has been occupying too much headspace.

When you consider what your ideal workday looks like, it’s important to make it a reality. While not every day can be ‘ideal,’ many can with a little strategic thought and attention to planning.

Here are some strategies to help you achieve your ideal workday:

Prepare today for tomorrow. Schedule the last 15 minutes of each workday to review what’s on deck for the next day. These strategies will ensure you have an ideal start to the next day.

1. Scrutinize your calendar and the meetings scheduled. Are they necessary – do you have to attend? Are you prepared – do you have an agenda?

2. Consider what projects you want to accomplish and the deadlines that are looming. In your calendar, set aside chunks of time to focus exclusively on accomplishing those tasks.

3. Tidy up your workspace to eliminate distractions upon starting work in the morning.

4. If you travel for work, host video conference calls or face-to-face meetings, take a few moments to consider what you are going to have to take with you and set it aside.

5. Visualize what you need to wear to be comfortable, sharp and focused at work the next day. Lay it out, press it and accessorize the night before.

6. If you’re going to make it an early day, prepare your breakfast the night before.

Make a Game Plan: At the beginning of each workday, write down three non-negotiable tasks that must be accomplished before ending your day. Maybe it’s making sales calls or completing a project. Either way, keep the list short to help increase the sense of urgency and focus needed from you.

Contemplate Quiet. When you allocate time for specific tasks, use the time wisely. The best way to achieve this is to have a quiet, distraction-free workspace ensuring your total focus.

  • Honor the time set aside in your schedule for accomplishing specific tasks, as if it were a client meeting. Don’t be late or allow interruptions.
  • Close the door. Our pro-open-door society is great for engaging employees and colleagues; however, can be challenging to working in an uninterrupted environment. It’s okay to close the office door when you need the time to focus exclusively on the tasks at hand. If you don’t have a door, consider using headphones as a ‘do not disturb’ message you can send to others.
  • Go off-site or seek an alternative, quiet location when you need to ensure interruptions won’t occur.
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Stop Playing a Game of Relationships Roulette

Attention is about connection. Attention is critical for cultivating healthy relationships – personally and professionally. Studies have shown us that when people fail to get the attention they need from a relationship, they will begin to seek it elsewhere.

Giving attention to someone is our way of prioritizing the relationship and showing them they are important to us.

When we give our attention to our spouse or partner, our relationship deepens.

When we give attention to our friends and family, our relationships become stronger.

As leaders, when we give attention to our employees, we retain their talent and create a sense of loyalty in the partnership.

My latest book Attention Pays, recently released and I’ve been ah-mazed at the number of people who have reached out to me about their experience reading it. Many of them have admitted they finally recognized the fact they were neglecting their more important relationships. Some even felt compelled to put the book down to give their focus to those they love in that very moment.  That makes me so happy. I am a work in progress, just like you. I need these reminders too.

I believe attention is our new currency. The more undivided attention we give to those that matter most, the more value they see in the relationship.

Here are a few strategies to help you focus your undivided attention on those in your life:

1. Device-free meals. Choose to keep the table a device-free zone. No matter the meal, no matter the company, choose to put it away. If you’re having a team luncheon, challenge others to do the same. Having dinner with friends? Make a deal with them that the first person to engage on their phone will have to pay the bill. Instead, use the time at the table to focus on those in your presence. Honor them and their importance in your life by engaging and gifting them with your undivided attention.

2. Purposefully plan. Be mindful and intentional about when you will spend time with those who matter most. Schedule time in the office to meet with employees to check in on their well-being. Set aside time each day to ask your children about their day. Consider planning a vacation with your friends or family that you can look forward to. Plan a date with your partner, child or friends. By planning ahead, you are letting others know how much you value the relationship.

3. Little things matter. Have you ever been surprised by someone who bought you a coffee on their way to work one morning? Maybe you’ve come home to find a small, unexpected package in the mail from a friend. Little things matter. They are one way to give attention to those who matter in your life. They let others know you care. Consider grabbing your partner’s favorite dessert on the way home as a special surprise. Or, pop an unexpected hand-written note in the mail to a friend or loved one. Reward an employee with a coffee or sweet treat for a hard day’s work.

What ideas do you have? Feel free to share in the comments below. Relationships are critical to our happiness and are important to our personal and professional well-being. Invest yourself in relationships and show those in your life they matter most.

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Our Addiction to Social Media

Apps and social media are stealing our attention. We have become obsessed with likes, retweets, and finding the perfect gif response to post.

We miss the amazing play or moment at the concert because we are updating our Instagram.

We miss the bus because we are enthralled with the latest video on one of our YouTube subscriptions.

We miss our floor on the elevator because we were reading Twitter. We miss the green light because we are checking Facebook.

The CEO of a technology and data company recently shared with me his frustration about one of his senior leaders who appeared to be addicted to Candy Crush. In every spare moment, his director was online and had to be counseled twice in one week. The leader tried to explain it was his form of relaxation but after much questioning, he reluctantly admitted that his workload had fallen behind, he had emails in his inbox that hadn’t been answered for five days, and he was two weeks behind in developing a database for a client. Remember, this is a smart, functioning adult.

Maybe you don’t play Candy Crush but you feel a need to check every notification of a new email, text, tweet, or post on Facebook or LinkedIn, or maybe you have created Pinterest boards to plan your perfectly designed office or maybe you monitor every like you get on Instagram?

Gut check time: How much of your attention is being stolen by apps and social media?

Do we really have to include in our employee policies that people can’t play Candy Crush or check social media at work? Possibly. Some of our obsession is driven by habit and some of it by boredom. And it could be that the voyeuristic interest in other people’s lives is more exciting than whatever work is in front of us.

Regardless, the addiction is real. Technology, social media companies, and app development companies are competing for our attention and intentionally feed our addictions in hopes we will spend more time on their systems, enveloped by their tools. Either way, it demands are decaying our ability to truly connect in a meaningful way with others that is mindful, intentional, and purposeful.

I doubt anyone on their deathbed will say “I wish I’d posted one more tweet or picture.” Instead, I bet they’re likely to say “I wish I’d paid more attention to the people I was with rather than those on social media.”

Best Practices Entrepreneurship Management Personal Development Women In Business

Intention Makes Attention Valuable

Ever thought about the value of paying attention?

Attention sometimes gets a bad rap in today’s society. Perhaps that is because we’ve come to associate the concept of attention with unrelenting selfies that scream “look at me’ and the constant sharing of eery details of one’s life on social media. That is not the type of attention I want to discuss. The type of attention that truly matters and makes a difference in our lives is intentional attention – the kind that helps you show up as the best version of yourself in all roles of your life.

We all want and need attention from the people who are important to us. We want to feel we are the center of somebody’s attention, even if we don’t want to be the center of everybody’s attention.

Attention is critical throughout all aspects of our lives – including our jobs. We need focused attention from our leaders and employees to get work done, to achieve results, and to succeed. our customers and our teams need attention, too. People want to be seen and heard and to know that their concerns are being addressed.

Attention is not optional; it’s vital. It is attention that drives the results we all want and need.

Perhaps this why we always hear the phrase “Pay attention!” Our parents told us to pay attention. Our teachers told us to pay attention. We tell our kids to pay attention. These are all valuable life lessons.

The issue is that most of us are giving distracted, unfocused attention (like texting while driving) to everything and everyone we come in contact with. That kind of attention is worthless. It sends the message that the focus of our attention has little value, meaning, or importance to us.

Intention is what makes attention valuable.

Intentional attention is active. it involves seeing, hearing, and thinking about who is with you and what needs your focus right now. it requires us to choose consciously, act deliberately, and invest transformationally with our attention.

If you are ready to intentionally invest your attention in what matters at the moment; the people you are talking to, the priorities you are acting on, and the passions you are pursuing, it’s time to pick up a copy of Attention Pays and start paying attention to what matters most.

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