Transitions in construction

Transitions in construction

Whatever you thought, think again.


Predicting the future, revisited

ResearchPosted by Dan Engström Sat, January 14, 2012 23:50:54
Yesterday, a younger colleague (thank FSM for people not yet stuck in old habits) pointed out to me that there might be a serious flaw in my logic in my last post. She politely pointed out that I think the ECTP vision for 2030 we wrote in 2005 in part already is old news. That will likely happen to your strategy too, she said and smiled.

Now, that is two cents worth thinking about. The ECTP vision is fairly abstract, because it covers the whole Euopean construction sector, and so builds on needs and trends that are farily stable. But this new strategy we're writing is for a single research group and will necessarily be more concrete. Predictions for the future need to be fairly general. The concrete substance of the trends we build the LTU strategy on, how long will they hold?

Is it possible for us to lay a track that we want to stay on for a s long as it takes?

The ECTP vision looked 25 years ahead but the LTU strategy only looks ten years ahead, with is a mitigating circumstance that will help. But the problem remains; a business strategy can include the flexibility to adopt to quick changes in the market, but research is a long-term activity. For how long should we expect a research strategy based on extrapolation of current trends to be useful? Ten years? Five? Three? It is my experience that construction research in a new (-ish) field needs to be developed for three to five years before it has useful substance. We need a strategy that'll work as a compass, on a concrete level, for at least five to seven years.

Or is it possible to work out a strategy that includes flexibility? Yes and no. Mode II research (yeppur, that's what we do - you should read the text I linked to) communicates with the context which the research studies. In Mode II research (also explained here) knowledge is co-created between stakeholders and researchers. So, this research is easier to adopt to changes in the context than Mode I research is. But that is valid on the level of a single project or a group of parallel projects. For a research group to develop critical mass and credible research, there needs to be stability in the focus over a longer period of time than a doctoral project.

We want to write a strategy that guides our work as to what we should do in order to support the positive development of the construction industry (you know, the product logic and coherent value-chain I keep going on about). Since we work with customer pull for our resaerch results (an absolute necesity in Mode II research) we need to be needed by the industry. In order for our resaerch unit to be a significant player, we need to be able to guess rather accurately where the development will lead the industry.

Can we get a sufficient hit-rate in predictions of a future scenario seven years from now?

Image: Derail by Jinx! Flickr Creative Commons.