The Dual Disruption Brought About by BIM

We should all know by now that BIM is considered a disruptive technology.

Chuck Eastman, Paul Teicholz and their cohort said as much back in 2008.

But “disruptive” to whom, exactly?

The person or persons who work in BIM, of course.

But what about those who don’t work in BIM?

Who – whether by their choice or another’s – work alongside those who work in the technology, but don’t work in the technology themselves.

Their work lives have been disrupted in innumerable ways.

For BIM not only disrupts those who work in the technology, but also those who aren’t using BIM.

Why aren’t they working in BIM? They may not be asked to work

  • on BIM teams because they are perceived as being too senior, often equated with being too expensive.
  • with the authoring tools because their skillsets are needed elsewhere, outside of the BIM workflow.
  • in BIM because there’s a perception that older works are slower learners, and there isn’t time to train someone who needs to be performing ASAP.

BIM Outliers

Other times, where the opportunity is left to the employee, BIM outliers may perceive themselves as being too far along in their careers to be learning a new tool.

Or too near retirement to learn something new that will only be utilized for a few short years.

For whatever reason they aren’t working in BIM, they are nonetheless dually affected by its increasing use in the organization. They are

  1. perceived as working outside an innovative, growing and continuously developing process.
  2. increasingly perceived as belonging to a culture that no longer exists.

BIM outliers are working at a time when “the way we do things around here” is no longer “the way we do things around here.”

BIM outliers are disrupted because the shared meaning of their organization’s culture has gone the way of hand drafting and CAD.

In other words, the organization’s stories and rituals have changed.

To the extent that a firm’s culture is defined by the encouragement to innovate and take risks, BIM outliers may be perceived as working outside this firm value.

To the degree that the firm’s culture is organized around teams, the BIM outlier may be perceived as working independently, as an individual among teams.

BIM haves and BIM have-nots

It is possible for the BIM outlier to be perceived by others in the firm as representing the firm from their pre-BIM era.

To the extent that this conjures-up pictures of dinosaurs is something to seriously consider.

Your firm may not yet have a BIM culture, with BIM haves and BIM have-nots. But just as one day in the not too distant future, when BIM will be the new standard of care in the AEC industry, so too BIM will be the status quo within most organizations.

And whether through attrition or other means, BIM holdouts will be a faint memory. And the social glue holding your firm in place will be replaced by BIM, just as Horizontal Glue was replaced by BIM 360 Glue.

Your firm’s old culture – like the old guard – played an important role when new technologies and work processes were first introduced. They kept the place together in a time of rapid change.

But chances are, change in your organization is part of the scenery today – no longer requiring the former entrenched culture for stability during uncertain times.

The new culture that BIM brought about has its own (war) stories and rituals, and only those who work with the tools or in the process, can understand and help transmit your culture’s meaning.

Which is doubly disturbing to those who are on the inside while remaining on the outside. Because the stories that make up the culture of the firm will no longer be in a language understood by all.

Unless, of course, you and your coworkers are as skilled at telling stories – in a language that can be understood by all – as you are as working with the technology.

– Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED-AP

In July 2013, I will be leading a 2-day seminar. To learn more, please click the link below:

BIM: Lessons in Leadership

Harvard GSD Executive Education seminar

July 8, 2013 – 9:00am – July 9, 2013 – 5:00pm

Gund Hall, 48 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

Earn 14 AIA/CES



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9 responses to “The Dual Disruption Brought About by BIM

  1. John O'Neil

    You really nailed it, Randy.

    I’m a BIM outlier of a slightly different sort, a full-time in-house spec writer with 40 years of experience. It’s obviously not practical for me to be directly involved in producing the model. But the specs I produce have to be consistent with, and support, the rest of the information in the model. So I will learn as much as I can about the model and how to review the information in the model.

    Our firm has not yet adopted one of the BIM-linked spec production systems, but I’m pushing for that to happen on a new Revit project later this year.

    The firm’s culture will certainly change, and anyone resistant to working with BIM will rapidly go from being an outlier to a has-been.

    It will be a fascinating journey.

    • randydeutsch

      Thank you, John, for sharing your insight. I commend you for recognizing that BIM is not just a passing trend that will go away, and for positioning yourself to help bring about change within your organization in a way that works with – not against – the system. The fact that you see this opportunity as “fascinating” instead of a threat is unusual in my experience – and a good sign that you will be around, adding value while moving the ball forward, for some time to come.

  2. Glenn

    Its interesting, in that it seems many firms never really got good at CAD, let alone doing CAD via some coherent standard, but we assume they will get good at BIM. Or, maybe those firms will finally fail. Change does that.

    • randydeutsch

      I don’t know if we assume firms that didn’t master CAD will nevertheless get good at BIM. There’s an understanding in the industry, though, that if they don’t find a way to do so, they will gradually play alone on the sidelines becoming increasingly irrelevant. That said, those who work well in CAD have a harder time learning BIM – in that they try to get BIM to do things that they do in CAD – not realizing that BIM is an altogether new paradigm. It would be interesting to find out if firms that don’t have a long success record using CAD have an easier time implementing BIM.

  3. Elizabeth Church

    Randy: Nice to know that the dialogue from Human + BIM Forum continues–When a tribe or village was ‘under siege’ by forces outside their control (climatic, environmental (Pompei), rainforest devastation, etc) they adapted or suffered the consequences.The writing of Robert Gutman and Dana Cuff’ might be a point of departure for insights into new cultural norms in professional practice. Perhaps Sherry Turkle might partner shed some light…

    • randydeutsch

      Great analogy – sounds like I need to re-crack open my copy of Collapse. Thank you Elizabeth for the author suggestions.

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  5. Peter in Maryland

    Well, some of what you observe is true as far as it goes, but your commentary would be more valid if BIM were the only tool that folks used to run a business that designs buildings. As an MEP firm, tho, we also use Trane Trace, Microsoft Excel, Word, Powerpoint (marketing), and (egads!) AutoCAD for projects that do not need BIM – and there will likely be many of those for years to come. And to run those programs, we need folks who know how, so we’re not firing anyone who doesn’t know the latest output from autodesk.


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