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Decisions, decisions, decisions. How do we make the right one? How do we know the direction to go? Is there a right and wrong decision.
We sit down and talk with Nathan Clark about choosing technologies that work. We learned about Nathan through LinkedIn where he shared a blog post he wrote about the philosophy behind decision making.
We enjoyed reading it so much that we thought we would bring him on the show!
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Tyler: Welcome to the Construction Brothers Podcast. I'm your host, Tyler Campbell, and with me like he is every week (announcer’s voice): My brother, Eddie Campbell!
Eddie: What just happened?
Tyler: Well this week, what is holding you back?
Eddie: All right, Nate. Thanks for joining us today. Why don't you tell us who you are and what you do?
Nate Clark: My name is Nate Clark and I'm a key account manager at Fonn, and as key account manager I assist construction companies that are navigating digital transformation to really make sure that they find the right fit. Diving a little bit more into Fonn, the way I like to describe Fonn is a construction management app that lets everyone focus on what they're good at. And what I mean by that is, guys in the field get to do what they love. They get to play with souped up versions of pretty much their childhood toys. You know, mini construction sets become power tools, AC cars become bulldozers, they're using their craft to pretty much build the environment around us. And they're really excited about it. I relate it a lot to my best friend. He has this bit where every time we're driving down the road, you see the skyscraper, and he always hits me and he’s like, “Hey, I used to work over there.” It was annoying at first, he didn't understand he was doing it, but I can relate to it. And it's pretty funny because you get the sense of pride for what you've accomplished. And I feel like in the field, you really get that, but it doesn't really stop there. You know, it's with managers, it's with people in the office, they're making the game plans and they're executing and when it all goes well they get that same sense of pride. So at Fonn, our mission is really to disrupt the software norm, and we're not just wanting to help one side. We want to help both the field and the office. We can do that by not only increasing efficiency, but streamlining communication on and off the site. The key to that is really our user-friendly design, one, and making sure that it's not adding on more work for either party.
Tyler: So Eddie was the one to kind of dig you up and talk to you. And so I came back through and I actually was able to read this article that you put out on LinkedIn, it's called “Construction Technology: The Reason Psychology Is Holding You Back.” So that was the main reason for getting you on the show today, to talk about this article and maybe some of the points that you made, because we just really loved it and we thought a lot of people would benefit from it. So can you tell us briefly about the article and some of the main ideas around it?
Nate Clark: So I think it's best to start off with the why and then maybe progress from there. And in construction we hear it all the time, right: It's supposedly “behind the times,” and we're on a podcast, I guess, you know, the listeners can't see the air quotes I have with that. But you know, construction really, it is behind when it comes to technology, but it's not necessarily for the fact that the technology isn't there. It's really more of the adoption rates throughout the industry, and then that's the reason it's scattered. So the purpose of the article is really to dive into, one, the psychology behind it, how it can affect their business, how we can grow, not just from a company perspective, but also as an industry. So during the article, I dive into a lot of examples and that's really more so for my understanding, it helps me learn, but it's also for the reader, so that maybe if they are reading it and they hear a scenario, they can sit back and think, how does it apply to our situation? So I guess, you know, the main points I go into are psychology a little bit, and then I also went and digged into product fit and how much that matters, why it's important. If a company gets onto a platform, a software, a certain piece of technology, whatever it may be, and it's not the right fit, they might not try technology again. And I'm sure you guys have heard it and I'm probably gonna butcher this saying, but have you ever heard “A rising tide lifts all ships?”
Tyler: Yes. Love that one.
Nate Clark: As technology grows and moves forward, it becomes more connected, and the industry needs to move forward together to make it happen. So I really wanted to sit down and write an article on what I'm seeing in the industry and see it as a time to learn more about psychology ‘cause I thought it was interesting.
Tyler: I'm wanting to, like before we move on, you said “product fit.” What do you mean by that?
Nate Clark: Yeah, of course. So, you know, you see in the industry a lot that there's so many different construction technologies out there, whether it's software, robots, AI, the scary stuff you see in the movies, whatever it may be. A lot of companies are getting onto a certain technology just because they might hear about it in a magazine or they might hear about it from friends. But it might not be the best fit for their company, and it can really hold them back because if they're just using technology just to say they're using it, it's not going to benefit them. And they're wasting time and money and honestly their people's efforts to try to implement something. But in the end, if it doesn't work, then it's not going to be good for the industry as a whole.
Eddie: Well, I wanted to kind of shift over into one of the analogies that you use in the article, and that is the analogy of a race horse. So how about, describe that a little bit as an analogy, and what can we learn from race horses today? This sounds fun.
Nate Clark: Of course, well, I don't know too much about race horses in general, but it's a fun thought experiment. So I use race horses in the article mostly to reflect the mentality of a lot of businesses. And like I said, I really dove into psychology moreso because it's interesting to me, and then as I started reading, I got more interested and really tried to apply it to construction, right, our business. And if you can imagine, let's say a race horse would be your business. And generally in business, external factors happen. This could be an economic turn. It could be maybe your player joining your market, just as some examples, but something that happens outside of their control. I use that analogy because, during a race, a horse, they’re wearing blinders. The reason that they’re wearing blinders is to keep their focus on what's in front of them, it's blocking out all external distractions. So they just, they're racing, they're going for their goal. And if you can imagine your company as the race horse, you've spent years training and refining your techniques and your methods have worked so far. You've won a few races along the way as you've gone. And you know, you're getting prepared for the big race, right? Let's just say the Kentucky Derby, the big one. It's coming up, you're confident in it. You're feeling yourself a little bit, you know that you're going to just, you're going to blow by it. But a few months before, the competition committee might call, and for some reason, they're switching the track up. Before blank, it’s raced on a dirt track. And for some reason, this year they've decided to make it a turf track. Don’t know why they did, but you know, it's a thought experiment, why not? So your horse, you've only ever trained on dirt, and you have a couple of options. Are you going to stick to your normal training methods and hope for the best on race day? You know, the surface might’ve changed, but once you put on those blinders, you should be good to go—or do you change your training method? Do you change your training grounds? Are you going to prepare differently for this new surface? That way when you actually put on those blinders, all the external circumstances have been accounted for, and then your horse is fully prepared and ready to go for whatever. These are just kind of the fun thought experiments that come up in psychology. They differ from reality a little bit, because you know, you get presented this type of option, generally people are gonna pick number two, right? You're gonna change your training. You're gonna change what you do to be prepared. But that doesn't always happen in the business world around us, right? It's different for each circumstance and you never know what's going to happen, but it's fun to think about stuff like that. You can apply it to your job then and apply it to your business.
Eddie: Yeah. You know, I'm gonna play devil's advocate a little bit here. I mean, I'm the kind of guy, let's say, and I'm—
Tyler: “Let's say.”
Eddie: I am not really this way, but—
Tyler: I already know where you're going with this. Let's say that.
Eddie: Let’s say that I kinda like sticking with what works. And I know that what got me here is good. And I don't like change so much. So what would you say about that? How could that ever get me in trouble? If I know it works, I stick here, how does that get me in trouble?
Nate Clark: That is completely fair. And it's a great question. And obviously different circumstances happen, but generally, at least from a business perspective, being stagnant can really can change the entire aspect of not only your company, but as the industry changes around you and you see the competition changing, if you just stay and kind of do the same thing and you're not willing to change, you can go from whether you’re top dog or up there, you know, you can get past relatively quickly. And I'm not sure if you guys remember, and this might be a little further down the road, but do you guys remember back in the day when computers—this was a while ago, but—they had like two pre-installed games on it. It was like chess and Minesweeper, I think were the two. You can play against the computer. And I mean, I was probably like seven when I did it, so I wouldn't win against the computer that much. But if you put a professional up against it, I mean, they would win 10 times out of 10. It's sort of changed now. So there's actually a documentary I'm not sure if you guys have seen it, I think it's on Netflix. This isn't a plug for Netflix, but I'm pretty sure it's on Netflix. And it sort of just completely takes that to a whole new level. So in 2016–and it's really interesting if you guys check it out, it's really interesting. So in 2016, there is this this group and they created this AI computer, right? It was called AlphaGo and they taught it to play this game called “Go,” which is this old Chinese board game. I think it's the oldest board game that is still around today and still actively played and taken really seriously. Like if you are somewhat good at the game when you're young, they'll take you out of school and all you do is you train to play this game. So it's intense. They sought out, in this documentary, they sought out to use this computer to try to be the top dog, the best person at “Go” in the world. So the way that they could do it was they use machine learning. And you know, just over time, it played against itself thousands and thousands of times a day. And eventually they recorded this documentary. It was a big event and they brought in—his name is Lee Sedol—the best, right? He's supposedly the best in the world. He can beat pretty much anyone any day of the week. And they brought him in, they played five games, and this computer, this AI computer ended up beating him four out of five times. And like I said, just playing against itself over and over, it was able to learn from its mistakes, it was able to learn new moves, things that other people aren't doing. And I guess it's a long-winded answer to say, learning from your mistakes is great and you have to learn from your past and you should constantly be doing that. But there's also times when you can do that as much as you want, but there's still going to be room for improvement because technology is there. You know, technology can do stuff that you can't always do. Sometimes it's not always experience and learning from it. Sometimes it's relying on the technology that's out there and really getting past that fear of, “I don't want to do it this way, or I don't want to do it that way,” and relying on some help.
Tyler: Finding the things that will advance you and your mission, and constantly being on the lookout for those things. You were talking a second ago about, you know, the “Go” player. And I immediately, as a musician, I thought of this: A playoff that happened between Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton. And it's just kind of this old tale of, Hendrix was the guitar hero, for lack of better word. He was the guitar hero of London. You know, everybody was like, “Clapton. He is the best. He is the best.” So he's playing at this club down in a basement somewhere. And Jimi Hendrix shows up, Jimi Hendrix comes up and says, “Hey, I would really like to jam with Clapton.” And so Clapton's like, “Yeah, sure, come on, man.” Didn't really know much about Hendrix. Hendrix comes up and starts playing a rendition of “Killing Floor” that is so good that it makes Eric Clapton walk off of the stage, light up a cigarette. He is shaking trying to put it in his mouth, and he's just looking at his tour manager, like, “How is he so good?” There's always something or somebody that is going to be better than you. So I just was, I was thinking of that, it's just that feeling of like, “Oh my gosh, they’re just so much better than me.” I imagine that “Go” player felt the same way.
Nate Clark: Right, right, right. Yeah. It's not always it's not always the best to think about it. You try so hard to be the best at something. And if it's someone else or, heck, a computer even is better than you. Yeah. It can be frustrating.
Tyler: It puts you in your place.
Nate Clark: That's right.
Eddie: We think that just by maybe working harder, training harder, or something like that, we are going to stay ahead of the curve. It seems like you're an advocate for people when it comes to “maybe that's not enough,” maybe we need to be thoughtful about progression because sometimes there are outside factors that just, they're unforeseen and maybe they're not fair. And we need to be able to cope with those outside factors and then make good decisions. And those good decisions, for you, you're trying to outfit people and get them into the correct applications and software. Right?
Nate Clark: Right. Yeah. Of course.
Tyler: So getting into that, what are some of the first questions that we should ask ourselves as builders when we're trying to adopt new technology or new applications? Based off of some of the things that you wrote, I feel like there's a lot we can pull from it, but I would love to know what your starting point is for us.
Nate Clark: Yeah, yeah, of course. And you know, some of that comes down or I guess comes back to the psychology. Which is why I wrote the article in the first place and what I've been interested in. And you know, when you dive a little bit further in it, you start to really wonder, why am I making these decisions? You know, what do I need to look for? What do I need to ask myself? I can't take credit for it, it was actually first described by a man named Leon Festinger and he was just an incredibly smart American social psychologist. And he describes something that he called “cognitive dissonance,” and it normally occurs when a person holds contradictory beliefs about something. They'll typically experience stress, especially when they participate in something that goes against one of the beliefs that they already have. So I guess a little bit more according to his theory, when two actions or ideas are not psychologically consistent, people will do everything and anything in their power to change them until they become consistent. So you want to have your feelings about everything kind of align and down the same path. And this discomfort is usually triggered by the person's beliefs clashing with new information that comes out and it's not necessarily in line with what they already know. And it kind of freaks you out. You know, you think something or some way for so long and kind of becomes like the constant. And when new information comes, you don't really know what to do with it. So basically they just try to find different ways to resolve this contradiction, reduce that discomfort. There's generally a few ways that they're able to do this, two, three, four different ways that you do it. It's all depending on the person. In my article, specifically since it was construction technology, I made it about that and the contractor's view or a thought process about technology, but it can be applied to everything. So I guess right now, heck, I have a box of donuts sitting right next to me. Let's say my goal was to lose some weight, right? So there's some different ways people process that information. Donuts are bad for you, right, and that's the norm everyone knows—it's a lot of sugar, that's chocolate, I should probably have some vegetables or something like that. So there's different ways people actually go about changing their behavior, and I think that's how it applies the most. You can either change your behavior, say, “I'm not going to eat these donuts right next to me, they're bad for me, it's gonna make me gain weight.” You can justify the behavior by changing the conflicting cognition, and this would be something like, “I'm not going to eat donuts during the week, but I'll have a cheat day here, maybe one day a week.” And then you can, you know, there's the other side of the spectrum where you can just blatantly ignore the information that comes to you, the new information, and say, “I'm going to eat as many of these donuts as I want and I'm not going to gain a pound. Screw it.” And that's the thought process that goes on, you're constantly trying to figure out what is the best path to take through the information you have and your beliefs from before.
Tyler: Probably the best path that you could take right now, Nate, is to take the donuts off of your desk and eat them, actually. No, I’m just kidding.
Nate Clark: I'll eat one right now.
Tyler: Pass one through the screen, please. We need Wonka Vision. Oh man, we need Wonka Vision.
Eddie: You have put yourself squarely in the “denial” column. I will eat these, and not gain weight. That's what I choose to believe.
Tyler: Exactly. “These are delicious.” I think there's probably some architecture that you can take into account. And one of the things that I've been learning, I've been using this app Noom to just help me kind of keep my weight in check and learn some new things about food and how I handle things. One of the things that they teach you as a psych trick is make sure that you take into account the way that your room and the things around you are laid out. You think about this, right? If I always keep donuts on the counter, the odds of me eating donuts goes up a lot. So if I keep an apple on the counter, the odds of me eating an apple goes up. So if you want to make changes, you need to also adjust your physical space or even your virtual one, too. If you're spending too much time on Facebook, delete the Facebook app, you know? Pick up a book instead. You know, I think there's a lot of architecture that goes into this. And something to remember, I think, with picking out applications, with finding new software solutions and everything, you're the architect of your company, of your day. You're laying things out so that you can be successful.
Eddie: Well, I like what, Nate, you said earlier, and that was picking an application just because you saw somebody else have it.
Tyler: Don't do that.
Eddie: Yeah, because, “I saw it in a magazine” is probably not the best way to pair a software to your actual needs.
Tyler: Hold up, hold up, hold up, hold up, wait, wait, wait. You're reading magazines still?
Eddie: He said magazines, not me.
Tyler: Well, I think that that's something people do, though. You know, they see somebody using the new shiny thing and they have to have it. And man, we have shiny object syndrome so bad, and it's not just in our industry, it's in others, too. I see it throughout, like everybody's gotta get a new truck. That sort of thing,
Eddie: Nate, is it fair to say—I mean, there's certainly some shiny object syndrome going, but what about just the side of, “I don't know what to do, so I'll just look around and see what everybody else is doing and I'll do that.” Not giving much thought to how we're “architecting”—thank you, Tyler—our processes in the applications that we use.
Nate Clark: Yeah. I mean, that's exactly right. So during the journey you're going to have to beta, it's a constant renewal process, right? You're going to have to see what's working and what's not, and it's always best to really get an adviser through it. And that's just because I say adviser doesn't mean that you go out and spend money on someone who tells you what to use. But you know, I talk about technology a lot and how it can help a company grow and mitigate risks, whatever it may be, but action alone during that will likely do more harm than good. The question shouldn't be throughout this process, “What should we do?” Right? It's not, “Hey, what do we need to do next?” The question should really be, “What's holding us back?” And when you have a good business model, you've seen some initial success, you don't want to just uproot everything and change course strategic initiatives. That's what got you there in the first place where you're having that success. You just need to take a step back, really, and find a solution to the obstacles that are holding you back. Rushing to change everything isn't the answer. Far too often you'll see a company take it from one extreme to the next, where they're going to shake up everything that they've had before, their processes, their relationships, and it can really ruin them if they just jump in headfirst, “We're going to do it just because.” And construction software, construction technology’s the exact same way that it's no different. Like I was saying, it's going to be a rolling process of renewal that you have to implement as your business grows and adapts to the environment around you. Often a good place in construction is a construction software, construction app, but you really can't fall into the, “What should we do?” Air quotes. “What should we do” trap, finding the right fit for your company is going to be vital. If you have that trusted advisor or a good friend, that's done it before and understands your needs, that's going to give you that much more of a chance to have success implementing that software. So just make sure that you actually understand what your business needs. If you do that and you find the right fit, then you really can transform your business into whatever you want to make it.
Tyler: I feel like that segues perfectly into our megaphone questions. So if you could kind of condense what you just said, and we gave you a megaphone that the whole industry could hear for 60 seconds, what would you tell them, man?
Nate Clark: Yeah, of course. And that's part of it. One, obviously come take a look at Fonn, but two, make sure you take a step and really know what you want out of your company when you're adopting it, make sure you're finding the right fit and make sure you're talking to the right people and make sure you're looking at it from the ground up. Is it helping the top just as much as helping the bottom, the guys in the field, or everyone in between? Just make sure you understand completely what your business needs. And if you know that, then you can find and effect a perfect technology that will allow your business to have success for the years to come.
Tyler: Heck yeah, man. Well, where can people look you up, Nate?
Nate Clark: Yeah, of course they can get all the information at our website, Fonn.io. You can come check out, obviously we have blog posts, whatever it may be, you can come get some more information on what we do. And then obviously I'm on LinkedIn, which is where we found each other. So if you want to, search me on LinkedIn.
Tyler: All right, man. Well, thank you so much for joining us this week.
Nate Clark: Thank you guys for having me.
Tyler: Hey guys. Thanks for joining us today. I wanted to take a second and point you at a couple of things before you go. Number one, make sure that you go check out our website. It is www.brospodcast.com. We're constantly posting new blog updates on there and thoughts of things that we're seeing in the industry. And then also, make sure while you're there, go check us out on social media. We are on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. We're constantly asking questions there, trying to get people involved and engaged and learn more about what's happening in the industry so we can keep bringing stuff to you that's relevant. And also, share it with somebody. If there's something in here that you thought was valuable, forward it over to your friend, let them know about the show. Again, that's going to help us out a lot. And finally, please leave a review. If you found this interesting or helpful at all, you could help us out in a big way by just hitting a review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. So thank you so much for joining us this week. Have a good one.