Courtesy of Fiatech
Matthew May, opening day Keynote speaker at Fiatech 2012.

What are the secrets to innovation? How can the construction industry find new ways of innovating tools for the trade or to improve productivity? Sometimes, the answer is not in the black, but in the white space between the lines. You just have to challenge how you think about innovating.

That's the word from Matthew May, a popular motivational speaker on business processes, who also writes a blog and columns for the small business website  Sometimes, he says it's what you don't do that can inspire creative approachs to problem solving—and innovation. It's the notion of subtraction as part of the equation of what to do, and that isn't there can often trump what is.

May spoke to the Fiatech annual conference, which is meeting in Miami April 2-4, about how construction industry professionals can find new ways to innovate. Some of those rules are synthesized here:


Rule #1: Define innovation for the everyman.

-- Make it an open process with every idea welcome.

Rule #2: Think like children. Experiment, observe

--If we observed first, and designed second, we wouldn’t need most of the things we build."

Rule #3: Make kaizen
[Japanese term for continuing improvement] mandatory.

--When you approve a little bit each day, eventualy big things occur and when it happpens, it lasts. That's how the famed Deming Award in business was created.

-- Create a standard for that constant stream of improvement and follow it. Find a better way and then repeat. Repeat.

Rule #4: Creativity thrives under intelligent constraints

--Creative tension is what creates new thinking

-- Avoid swinging for the fences all the time. Small ideas are easily managed

-- But avoid trying to get too clever and packing in too many ideas

-- Also, try to avoid paying for ideas and solving problems frivolously

-- Divorce yourself from the problems you are steeped in solving every 90 minutes.

And finally: Be persistent. Keep trying. As May and many of the interviews he highlighted during the keynote pointed out, innovating and problem-solving don't happen in a compact amount of time.