The Lean and Green Blog: Wisdom from an unlikely source

February 2, 2012

The fall of 2010, I found myself working with some of the best and brightest minds I have ever met in the construction industry.  I was working with a client in Alabama on a LeanBlitz with TrueNorth.  At dinner, the second night of our weeklong engagement, the owner asked two of the attendees a simple question.  After having spent the day hearing feedback and improvement ideas, what do I need to do to improve my organization? The response was simple, profound, and unimportant to this story except to say the owner was impressed and surprised that a college student, invited to observe and wise beyond her years, understood his organization better than some of his own employees.

As a professor last year, I learned that students often have a better perspective of our industry because they have not been seasoned by years of habits.  Students observe and then form opinions.  Their thirst for knowledge also encourages them to ask questions that change the outcome of process or event. Since my teaching experience, I take time with my former students to listen to their opinions and insights, especially as it relates to emerging techniques and technologies.

In 8 days, you can have the same opportunity to learn from the best and brightest our industry has to offer.  Every year, at the International Builder Show, students from across the country converge on the show to share their wisdom and compete with each other on a real life construction project.

This year, students were given a difficult piece of dirt and, given the current market conditions, were challenged to develop a site plan, home designs, marketing and financial data to support the viability of the project.  Additionally, students are required to include green features, including creative means to minimize the added cost of being a better, greener builder.   In Orlando, those students will present to a panel of judges representing investors and the best team walks away with bragging rights for the next year.

Follow this link ( to the official schedule. With three days of presentations, you are sure to find a 30 minute block of time to sit and learn from this unlikely source of wisdom. Find your favorite schools and you might just find new talent to challenge and grow your business. I’ll see you at the show.


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