Diversity in construction - key takeaways from the forum14 Jun 21
Lack of diversity and groupthink within an industry can reinforce practices that lead to error because they create collective blind spots. This was one of the key conclusions of GIRI’s recent discussion forum on diversity in the construction sector.
Watch the recording of the forum on GIRI's Youtube channel.
Lack of diversity leads to error
Different perspectives promote challenge, and it is challenge that helps prevent error.
When everyone has the same perspective, there is no challenge, and therefore errors occur. This is similar to the 'Swiss Cheese Model' for preventing accidents – preventing a single point of failure by layering multiple different defences. Or, in the case of diversity and error, if everyone has the same perspective – ie all the layers of cheese are the same - the holes align and error can occur.
Instead, ‘helpful disagreement’ is the basis for preventing error. Expressing different points of view can identify issues that may have gone unnoticed if everyone approached the problem in the same way. Making space for different voices encourages diversity of thought from which new approaches and solutions can spring.
The industry is changing
The challenges facing the construction industry are changing, and we will need a more diverse range of people to bring in the skillsets and perspectives required to meet these challenges.
From climate change to digital transformation, new materials and methods of construction, and changing user requirements – all these may require new skills that may be lacking in the existing workforce.
Not only do we not yet know what we don’t know, but by definition, we cannot know our own blind spots. So, the only way to combat these blind spots, and prevent the errors we don’t know we are making, is to bring in a broader range of skills and perspectives.
Error reduction now
To prevent error now, we need to unlock diversity of thought within our existing teams. This is a core focus of GIRI training, which tackles the issue in three ways:
- By creating a culture where everyone is empowered to speak up.
- By empowering people to engage in ‘helpful disagreement’ and to ‘press pause to avoid error’.
- By improving communication within and between teams.
Preventing future error
To prevent error in the future, we need to promote diversity to ensure the industry benefits from a full spectrum of perspectives, skills, and experience. To do this, we need to recognise when the industry is (unintentionally) homogeneous, and work to break down the unconscious biases that are responsible for this homogeneity both as an industry and within the industry’s different sectors.
We need experience AND diversity
Diversity is not a substitute for experience, but prior experience on its own is not sufficient to ensure we Get It Right. Instead, construction must combine traditional and new viewpoints to build on this experience, to prevent error blind-spots, and develop solutions to new challenges.
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