BIM and the Scientific Method

I have noticed that in BIM we often create new processes, templates, tools, and workflows to help support implementation and adoption. I will call these BIM experiments. We spend a lot of time working on these experiments and take great pride in them when they are completed. We put our new creations to the task on projects that they were created for and wave our banners when they work perfectly. Then we submit them to the rest of the world as the solution to their problems. I don't see this as being something that is necessarily wrong. But I do see a large flaw in the current approach. In order to point out this flaw I would like to give a simple lesson in the Scientific Method.

There are many different definitions of the Scientific Method but they all pretty much say the same thing. Here is my version for BIM which should be close enough to other versions:

  1. Recognize a Problem (or Ask a question, Make an observation, etc)
  2. Form a Hypothesis
  3. Conduct an Experiment
  4. Analyze Data
  5. Draw a Conclusion
  6. Retest

Now I think that the results from most BIM experiments do a good job at executing steps 1 through 5. Its step 6 that is horribly neglected. Step 6 is about allowing yourself and others to retest and experiment to see if the hypothesis holds up in all cases. The current method of doing this is to release our findings out into the world telling others to use our idea, template, process, or workflow. And that's it. There is no criteria for its use and there is no feedback.

Lets look at an example. Imagine you create a template to help guide you through some BIM purpose. You Form a hypothesis on how a team will work with the template. You might retest it internally until it works for a given project. After some small success you send it out to the world. At that point everyone else takes it and finds subtle things they would do different with the template. They alter it and use it for their own purposes. They also report nothing back about how effective it was.

Does this sound like a good experiment? Were the alterations made to the template in direct conflict with the hypothesis that was used to create it? How can the template be improved to be used in all cases if nothing is reported back? Is everything in BIM so "open" that it is not capable of evolving?

It seems to me that as a BIM community we need to learn to work together a little more. We need to stop trying to recreate everything when its not perfect. Instead we need to use some things in their imperfect form and then correctly document the issues and release that information back to the BIM community. This will actually move processes forward faster.

I am going to reveal something here that may be a bit surprising to some people. The BIM template, process, tool, or workflow that you altered from its originial state is not better than the original. Its just different. When you alter items in this way you do not add value to the BIM community. You water down the BIM community by creating paths that are divergent from the end goal of working together.

I don't want to discourage innovation. We should all strive to create new BIM Experiments that bring value to the industry. We should all work to improve BIM by providing constructive criticism about our common tools and processes. We should get past the idea that what any one individual does is so unique that it requires them to branch off on their own. You are not special. Your market is not special. Your contract type is not special. We are all doing the same thing. We should be solving these problems together. Only when we decide to do that can we help our BIM Experiments evolve.

5 Comments

  1. Since Connor's computer is Trash I am post his response see below:

    Your comments show your ignorance of the BIM community.

    Templates and Workflows are shared regularly in the BIM community. Most of your processes are probably some derivative of those shared ideas. Its obvious that you also believe that your creations (that are probably based on the industries sharing of ideas) are so great that to share them would take away your business advantage. Have you ever considered the hypocrisy of this position? You can't have BIM processes that don't involve others.

    I always think it is interesting to hear this kind of position. Even before BIM the most successful projects had a common theme of collaboration. 100% of the projects that were the most successful were the ones where everyone put their pettiness aside and worked together. BIM is no different. But it is bigger than any one project. Instead it is the idea that the way your company should function should be based on processes that work with others, not by themselves. You should probably go read my post BIM Teams vs Toddlers.

    You are right about one thing though. There are not enough venues to share ideas and evolve them into something better. I don't intend to create this group. Instead I have opted to try to be influential in the NBIMS. Its obvious from your post that you look down on this. I also thought poorly of the NBIMS for a long time. Then I realized we only have one national standard. And their efforts to date have already changed the industry. It's a small group of people trying to achieve an enormous task while people like you sit back benefiting from their work and contribute nothing back to the BIM community at large.

    BIM is bigger than your company. You are not doing BIM unless you are doing it with everyone else.

    I have to thank you for reinforcing my article by demonstrating every bad idea that keeps people from succeeding. Good Luck doing BIM all by yourself.

    • Just to clarify my last comment posted for me by John Grady was only meant for "Mr. Anonymous". Mr. Lighthart's comments are always welcome.

  2. First if you are coming to the table saying we are wrong don't hide in the shadows tell us who you are.

  3. Anonymous

    I agree with a small part of your post, mostly disagree.

    1. Your items 1-5 are what professionals do in their regular business on a day-to-day (BIM or NO BIM).
    2. Retest? what the heck is retest? You should have said continued education and mentoring by experienced personnel, to improve and grow your BIM and/or Business in general.
    3. Templates, processes, components, workflows, etc. are not developed to be tested and retested. Templates are developed based on your business' processes, workflows,including type of projects, clients, personnel, etc. that you deal with on a daily basis; which should be evolving/changing with technological advancements.
    4. No one sends their template to the rest of the world! You share your template with people that work with/in similar environments as you do, or that compliment what you do. Create a template for your world that will make you more efficient and profitable. Once you have that perfected, others will be interested in your "stuff". Until you have something that everyone else wants, your "stuff" isn't worth anything to anyone, and don't try to force it on anyone. i.e. "open BIM" is for people that don't have their proverbial crap together, and expect others to tell them where they need to be and how they need to be doing it. "You can't help people that don't want or think that they need your help!". Good Luck with your new task of changing the world.
    5. "we need to use some things in their imperfect form and then correctly document the issues and release that information back to the BIM community." This is probably the most ridiculous thing that I've ever heard. You want people to put out crap (but not just a small group of people, but everyone) and who do you expect to correctly document these issues and who would release them back to the BIM community? and how many of these people that release their BIM jargon on the rest of the world do you "TRUST", enough to change your business processes around? and will you use their BIM expertise to implement?
    6. Think about someone's "Business", clients included. Everyone is willing to help anyone, "if"at the end of the day they see a return. Remember these five (5) things:

    1. Profitability: We are running a business and if we can't profit, we can't survive.
    2. Efficiency: The more efficient your business is the more profitable you are.
    3. Trust: If you can't trust someone you will never look to them for key elements that affect your businss. (i.e. who do you trust in the "open" BIM world?)
    4. Continued Education: Better yourself and your business on a daily basis, don't depend on someone else to do it for you.
    5. Change: Stop procrastinating and make the change as soon as possible.

    Going back to what you said about correctly document the issues and release that information back to the BIM community. What group are you going to organize that will help do this for the rest of the world, for FREE?

    Everyone and everyone's business in the BIM world is a bit different (and could be considered special in some instances). Some branch off on their own so they can be a resource for people that need it. Which goes back to where you sort of contradicated yourself a little. Branching out, in a way does have a tendancy to better help the BIM community, since you are developing a BIM conglomoration, where there is more than just one "BIM Champ" as it is labeled, and yes they are focused on just that. If the Autodesks and the Bentleys, etc. of the world had these experts themselves, it would have been very helpful to the rest of the BIM world community, BUT they don't, and they never will. Those companies interests are selling software and could care less about how you utilize and implement processes or workflows or templates, or…

  4. I do agree with this post. However …
    There is this concept of competitive advantage that I have run up against over and over again. If someone (including me and my organization) thinks they have a more efficient way of operating – even if only for themselves or their organization – they will use it, and be reluctant to fully share it.
    Even an incremental step towards openness can be perceived, and often is, as putting an organization on a slippery slope. I marvel sometimes at the machinations of management to protect even the smallest 'secrets' as if they will make the difference between business success and failure.

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