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Silver Bullet Fallacy: Technology in Construction

In ancient mythology, werewolves were mythical creatures that took on a human form except when the moon was full. With the full moon, they transformed into enormous ravenous wolves killing humans, causing terror, and generally being a nuisance.

The only way to deal with werewolves was to shoot it through the heart with a silver bullet. Man…that sucks!

So, I need to find myself some silver and turn it into a bullet – this is already sounding expensive and specialized! Then I need to hit a small target precisely or the whole effort fails. Where is the damn heart in the werewolf anyways?

Maybe I’ll just put this off for a lunar cycle or two… we’ve been fine so far.

Does this feel familiar? Deciding to modernize a construction operation through digitization can seem equally daunting, maybe even scarier…

Looking at selecting and using construction tech through the “silver bullet lens” might look something like this:

  1. I have a problem (the werewolf).
  2. Get me a silver bullet (technology solution).
  3. It’s going to be expensive, so use the cheapest silver we can get (cost driver).
  4. Don’t miss, we only have one shot at this!

Sometime the specific output of the technology meets the requirement of the problem to a T; I’ve seen it happen. As a consequence, the in-house champion might get emboldened and start firing silver bullets. You see where this can go off the rails, right?

I have first-hand experience of slinging silver bullet and expecting the magic to rain down. Multiple experiences actually – want to see the scars.

Striving to learn from these experiences, I now try to view the world through an “Outcome Stack” lens. It goes like this:

  • Outcome: What do we say we want?
  • Love the Problem: Why is this outcome desirable? What is the underlying issue? Who has this problem? What do they do about it today? What would be different once this problem goes away? Why now? Etc. (Being extremely curious – this is where the magic happens!)
  • Information/Data: What insight would address the problem and achieve the desired outcome?
  • Technology: How does the data/insight gets collected or shared (or both)?

Graphic by Aedo

Consider this Outcome Stack perspective like using water in your home. It might look something like this:

  • Outcome = taking a shower
  • Problem = someone smells funny…
  • Data = water
  • Technology = plumbing

This analogy is possibly illustrative in a couple of ways:

  • Water (data), in this instance, is only useful when it’s shower time. It’s the exact moment that it becomes valuable in addressing the problem and achieving the desired outcome.
  • Water (data) can address other problems like no clean shirts and being thirsty.
  • Generally, you only think about the plumbing (technology) when it’s not working.

So (if you’re still following this analogy and metaphor-laden odyssey), here is an approach on how to move away from the silver bullet technology trap:

  1. Contemplate a future state business outcome.
  2. Get clarity on why this outcome is important and impactful.
  3. Identify the business insight that would achieve the desired outcome.
  4. Implement the data/technology solution and assess against expectations.
  5. Rinse and repeat.

Plus, one more for extra marks:

6. Treat your data as an asset. Curate and save it, you never know what problem it may solve in the future.

So (put a bow on this one, pal!) the bumper sticker here might be:

Forget about the silver bullet; lead bullets fired repeatedly do a far better job!

Aedo’s mission is to help forward-leaning construction leaders that are committed to driving improved-operational performance through data. If this is you, and we are not already speaking, we’d love to meet!