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Are you sure that you are you the smartest person in the room? Or do you have the “Smartest Room”?

As leaders, the approach that follows will seem glaringly obvious. Yet new project after new project is kicked-off with sublime disregard of these basic truths. There is always some underlying source to cause failure.

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”

George Santayana.

How do you elevate your whole company or become successful as leaders in construction?

Having “Collective Genius” is the way to become one of the most the innovative companies.

Many times organizations establish a Business Framework: inclusive of Vision, Mission, and Values, and Objectives. It is taught that these boxes should be checked off when you start a company. Do you have a Business Framework that your company follows? And that can you ensure each person in leadership follows them? Can you recite each as if they are part of your being?

Believe me, people don’t remember that stuff verbatim! – Especially if they didn’t come up the statements. It is sometimes hard when you are the one who came up with it. [I know from experience. :-/ ].


How can you guarantee that your company’s leadership, all the way down to the mail carrier, CARRIES OUT the Values established for the company, in every task they do, conversation with the customers, in every thought? IS THIS POSSIBLE?

Much more, can this be done with a construction project team? Typically, construction project teams are made up of multiple parties – For example: Architects/Engineer (A/E), General Contractor and other specialty vendors for furniture, Audio Visual etc. That means have hire vendors that are not necessarily familiar with Your Company’s “Framework” to build out space for you?

Collaboration leads to group genius. 

By using Lean Integrated Project Delivery( -ish) methods,  you can absolutely have “built-in” schedule predictability, safety improvements, and maintain your budget.  However, replacing bureaucratic behaviors must be done to achieve this, by “Transformation of Design and Construction”, by Lean Construction Institute (edited by Bill Seed of Walt Disney.) By having your project team change their behavior from bureaucratic to an open and honest level playing, all can glean the following benefits:

  • The team has deeper & honest discussions.
  • Trust is built within the team.
  • You become long-term partners.
  • You have collective genius.


At the Lean Construction Institute Congress in Boston, MA, the Keynote Speaker – John Y. Shook, gave kudos to Professor Linda Hill at Harvard Business School, a professor teaching only 22 minutes away from the World Trade Center, where the Congress was hosted. (The irony. 😉

Professor Linda Hill has done some research on how the most innovative companies have become and maintained successfully as leaders in their markets. Our Keynote ran the video of her well-liked Ted Talk to bring about a major phenomenon:

“… we found that innovative organizations are communities that have three capabilities: creative abrasion, creative agility, and creative resolution.”

These three community characteristics are similarly just as applicable to a successful Construction Project team. Shook talked to about his experience with Toyota as the senior American manager and his role to assist North American companies to implement the Toyota Production System.

What are these elements of Collective Genius and how do we apply them?

  • creative abrasion
  • creative agility &
  • creative resolution


#1 Creative Abrasion –

The team is willing to argue for the greater good of the team and Every voice is heard. It is about fostering the generation of ideas, and allowing the safe space for discourse and debate.

This is what takes place when we do a pull-planning session. Everyone has the opportunity to voice their valid opinion. They have the attitude to argue why it makes sense to do it their way, and ask the question to challenge.

So you don’t think I’m advocating all-out arguments in work environments, arguing with someone is very different than arguing against someone: Arguing with someone is when you are arguing for a cause, a higher purpose! It is not simply to problem solve, but to value each other for each person’s expertise and capabilities.

“In innovative organizations, they amplify differences, they don’t minimize them…Individuals in innovative organizations learn how to inquire, they learn how to actively listen, but guess what? They also learn how to advocate for their point of view. They understand that innovation rarely happens unless you have both diversity and conflict.” – Linda Hill

You set up a system, where each person is tasked with contributing in order to better the cause – Never neglecting because there may be a challenge.

#2 Creative Agility  

The team is willing to grow the areas that are not working OR make the hard decision to redirect – Quickly.

“Creative agility is about being able to test and refine that portfolio of ideas through quick pursuit, reflection and adjustment. It’s about discovery-driven learning where you act, as opposed to plan, your way to the future. It’s about design thinking where you have that interesting combination of the scientific method and the artistic process. It’s about running a series of experiments, and not a series of pilots.” – Linda Hill

This concept of Creative Agility is very similar to PDCA, which is “a framework that provides a methodical approach to problem solving and continuous improvement – DR. W. Edwards Demming. It is an iterative cycle composed of four main phases: Plan, Do,  Check,  Act. (PDCA)

PDCA is shared by many manufacturing companies and especially by Toyota, and now in the Lean Construction Method. This process can be applied to any type of initiative – from small to large – and by any type of business function – Click here for more information about the PDCA method and how to implement it.

#3 Creative resolution

The team is willing to “keep going” even though the ideas don’t seem to fit.  At least right away.

“The final capability is creative resolution. This is about decision making in a way that you can actually combine even opposing ideas to reconfigure them in new combinations to produce a solution that is new and useful. When you look at innovative organizations, they never go along to get along.”  – Linda Hill

You can achieve Synthesis and Synergy,  using this approach despite at even conflicting ideas:

  • They don’t compromise.
  • They don’t let one group or one individual dominate, even if it’s the boss, even if it’s the expert.
  • Instead, they have developed a rather patient and more inclusive decision-making process that allows for both problems and solutions to arise and not simply either/or solutions.

Lean Construction Institute teaches Target Value Design, where all values are upheld in the design process. It allows for the designers and constructors to work together in an innovative manner to complete the design – never compromising on values, quality, budget, and schedule.

Wonder how Pixar and Zappos are considered some of the most innovative companies?

Collective Genius is the way!

Would you like to implement this framework in your internal company? Would you like to create a physical working environment that matches your internal company values?

To hear more about how to be Collectively Genius at your company, join my email list. You will get more posts like this and updates on my upcoming podcast.


About the author, Brittanie

Construction Management professional and enthusiast. I'm always researching ways to positively impact the construction industry by implementing best practices and innovative ideas, and implementing collaborative approaches.

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