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The unexplored brutality of performance recipes

Orstavik, F. and Harty, C. (2017) The unexplored brutality of performance recipes. In: ARCOM 2017, 4-6 Sep 2017, Cambridge, pp. 512-521.

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In the context of a predominantly managerial discourse, innovation in construction is often conceived in linear terms as a one-way diffusion process. Innovation is to be facilitated by management and is equated with the beneficial spread of novel technologies and operational ideas to a population of firms: from those that are “in the know” to those that are not. Lean Construction, Integrated Project Delivery and Building Information Modelling are well-known innovations in this sense. These are large scale, all-encompassing and well-intended recipes for industry improvement and change. However, in spite of the rhetoric around Lean, IPD or BIM, diffusion of these ideas, principles and technologies has been slow. This can be attributed to a gap between the persuasiveness of linear diffusion models and the realities of complex, messy, and fragmented construction activities. Perhaps as a response to this, recent attempts have been made to broaden the appeal and increase the coverage of performance recipes – by linking them together. This just further obscures the tension between simplistic models of innovation and the complexity of construction innovation process involving many actors, interests and activities. To address this, we develop a systemic, rather than linear, understanding of innovation, which accounts for, rather than obscures, complexity and heterogeneity. In doing so, the underlying and often reductionist assumptions on which Lean, IPD and BIM as innovation programs are based, become visible. By highlighting how these innovations make assumptions about complexity in construction, the relationships and tensions between recipes are highlighted. The different and often brutal ways in which construction is reproduced and reduced through representation in these recipes points to the inherent problems with linear models of construction innovation, and suggests alternative system-oriented perspectives.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Organisation, People and Technology group
ID Code:74715
Additional Information:ISBN: 9780995546318


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