MEP Masterminds Recap: Communication and Collaboration with Nathan Wood

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For the first installment of the MEP Masterminds virtual event, Nathan Wood—the “special mastermind of the week”— sat down with the group and discussed the importance of better communication, resilience and adapting to what’s going to become our “new normal.” Nathan is the founder and chief enabling officer of SpectrumAEC and executive director of Construction Progress Coalition. He helps firms knock down the barriers to digital transformation, helping them succeed with their people, process and technology.

“I’m all about exploring new ideas and new ways of collaborating, especially in this whole world of social distancing,” said Nathan. Nathan suggested people in the industry are realizing that we need to improve our communication and understanding across the challenges we are currently faced with.

It’s a good point, and one that people all across the AEC industry are struggling with. Nathan went on to explain that we ultimately need to bring together the combination of communication and collaboration, which he sees as “one in the same, in that they interact with each other.” He believes that cooperation is important but is not the same: it’s “where maybe we hear someone but we don’t necessarily agree with them.” In opposition to collaboration, cooperation requires no trust or relationship to be accomplished.

“The contracts we sign up for don’t always incentivize us to collaborate to the greatest extent and be the most transparent,” Nathan added. “We like to protect things and hold things close to the chest because it’s literally in our own financial best interest.” The importance of finding the root of our incentives, he believes, is paramount. Projects are only getting more and more complicated, and it’s important to find a way to offset that difficulty.

Nathan also discussed the influence that COVID has had on communication, which has been no small effect. It seems that chance encounters and “normal” conversations have nearly been killed off, at least for now. “I think you’re not getting the full engagement, the full interaction that you get with building relationships and building trust,” Nathan explained. There’s a generational aspect as well. Millennials and Gen Z, for example, are much better equipped to deal with virtual-only interactions than Baby Boomers are.

Intentionality has also come to the forefront in conversations, and paying attention is more important than ever. The disruption and distraction that we face now may be unfamiliar and new, but both have always existed. Chance encounters, in addition, still happen—but they may not be where you’d expect (think LinkedIn instead of the usual coffee shop).

Show participant Cliff Trotter added that this is not the end for construction, but rather a new beginning. “We’re all human, and us being able to interact with people that we know and don’t know is going to continue to drive this industry forward,” he said. “It’s just really showed our resilience. Overall, I think, that’s our big takeaway.”

While the old “normal” may never be coming back, the AEC industry is capable of moving on. We’ll adapt to the “new normal” and whatever that will bring.

Join in next week’s MEP Masterminds virtual event, “Transition to Revit,” with MEP industry specialist James Simpson. You’ll learn about how to make the move to Revit seamless, including workflows, productivity tips and even some discussion around prefabrication. A question and answer always follows the presentation, so you’re encouraged to participate and get empowered in your technology adoption.  

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