Improving innovation management in construction

2011-06-13T08:44:41Z (GMT) by Nicholas Shaw
The need for change and improvement in the construction sector has been well documented. The recent economic downturn, greater levels of competition, increasing product complexity, regulatory requirements and tougher environmental targets are all examples of current challenges that continue to add weight to this requirement and accelerate the pace in which the sector must respond. It is widely agreed that it is through innovation, which can be defined as the successful exploitation of an idea, that construction firms will be able to create and exploit solutions in response to many of these challenges. In response, more and more construction firms are seeking ways to manage innovation in a more strategic and conscientious manner. However, there is little practical guidance for construction professionals on how this can be achieved and progress towards the optimisation of intra-organisational innovation in construction is widely considered to have been slow. Progress has been hindered by a lack of research and understanding of innovation in the construction context. There is an urgent need to address this and equip construction firms with practical and effective approaches for improved innovation management. This thesis presents an action research project that has developed and tested two interventions aimed at improving the management of innovation at the intra-organisational level within a major construction, engineering and associated services firm. The first intervention comprised of a stage-gate idea management process, a support network of innovation champions and a web-based tool for capturing, storing and reporting on ideas, with the purpose of providing a new platform for innovation outside the normal scope and boundaries of a single project. The second intervention included an online resource that provided tools and guidance for innovation with the purpose of promoting and providing practical support for those seeking to facilitate innovation in their projects or teams. Evaluation of the first intervention has revealed a number of important results, including the improved performance of budgets for innovation, increased employee satisfaction with levels of support for innovation, improvement in self-reported innovation performance and an increased portfolio of innovation projects. Usability testing of the second intervention suggests that it is a valuable tool that encourages and supports innovation at the project level. The thesis concludes by outlining a number of recommendations for consideration by the industry, along with suggestions for future research.