Rule 1, on page 1 of the book of war, is: “Do not march on Moscow”. Various people have tried it, Napoleon and Hitler, and it is no good. That is the first rule. I do not know whether your Lordships will know Rule 2 of war. It is: “Do not go fighting with your land armies in China”. It is a vast country, with no clearly defined objectives.

Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, House of Lords, 30 May 1962

Someone should come up with a similar quotation for all the BIM Lords out there, who battle vainly, usually on a daily basis, with superiors who insist on committing the equivalent BIM blunders as marching on Moscow or fighting with land armies in China.

One such BIM blunder is of the over-promise-and-under-deliver type. It is all too common for clients unfamiliar with the nitty gritty of BIM to believe the hype and think that just “because BIM” they will have a beautifully resolved and fully coordinated design. That “because computers” the design solutions presented to them will be of the highest calibre, unique, beautiful and hopefully award winning to boot. Simply put, that a blind faith in technology is the answer and will somehow overcome all the obstacles that still exist, and will continue to do so since nothing else has materially changed apart from using some fancy new software, is sure to disappoint. For example, the following question is taken from a masters level paper on algorithmic graphical environments:

Remember: resistance IS NOT futile…

The answer, in case you did not know it, has been helpfully highlighted in red. The blue grammar wiggle worms, although not deliberate, are actually helping to literally underline the pertinent points; that difficulty provides a clue and that maybe the problem did not exist in the first place. Furthermore, as item d) alludes to, machines are certainly not perfect because the humans designing them are not perfect. Flawless repetition should not be mistaken for perfection; repeating a mistake consistently one thousand times is still a mistake times one thousand! Confused? Ok, time for an analogy then.

The African Shoe Salesmen

Two friends, who happen to be shoe salesmen, go on holiday to a small African nation. One day they are being shown a local area by their tour guide when the first shoe salesmen suddenly remarks to the other, “We should open a shop here immediately! Think of the sales! Everyone has bare feet!” to which the second shoe salesmen says with a wry smile, “Don’t be foolish. We wouldn’t sell a thing. Nobody here wears shoes…”

What’s that? Still confused, you say? Not a clue what I’m gibbering on about? *deep breath* Fine. I’ll make it as simple as possible for you then.

Computers should be used for the tools they are. No more, no less. They should be used to assist where humans are weak (repetition, consistency) but not so much where humans are strong (creativity, originality). There is no magic. No secret sauce. There is input, there is output. The use of computers and fancy software, like Revit and Dynamo, is not in and of itself the solution to all our cost and productivity woes. In some ways the use of such tools is solving a problem that did not exist. Just like the shoe salesmen. It is adding complexity where none previously resided.

However, in just the same way that the internet has not entirely replaced the need for libraries, it has made researching and finding sources of knowledge (like this fine blog, for example) so much easier. The playing field has been levelled and opened right out. But public libraries are no less a source of knowledge than they ever were before. The contents of the books on the shelves was not suddenly devalued overnight by Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

So back to where this post started. Details and BIM blunders. A huge mistake, often made, is to somehow expect software to be the answer and for it to fix your difficult project. However, by adding an additional layer of complexity, I would argue that difficulty will only increase, costs are only likely to creep up further, and quality and timeliness will stubbornly refuse to improve. What it leads to are fancy shapes and fancy geometry but not necessarily better outcomes.

How to Avoid Fighting With Your Land Armies in China

The answer is, of course, to make information management central to all your processes. BIM is just a database and the same level of care and attention to detail should be applied to every input, just as it would be if you were filling out a phone contacts list. Would you double check the number you just entered and write the correct name and contact information, or would you just multi-copy-paste and assume everything went to plan? You’ve never copy-pasted and had unexpected results, like in, say, Excel? Never accidentally copied erroneous data from a header or footer, or missed a few lines of your target content? Never? Really? You surprise me. Are you a computer? Yes, of course you are, because that is exactly the kind of task that should be automated unless you want mistakes to creep in the nearer you get to 5pm on a Friday afternoon.

By Bim Weasel

Born in 1900, in a block of cheese, Bim Weasel has had to struggle from day one. After eating his way out, bursting forth, like some kind of pasteurised Alien alternative, he began trading nuts and seeds before moving on to complex financial derivatives. After making his first million at the tender age of 13 and three quarters, he diversified into commodities. The outbreak of the First World War saw his fortunes rise yet further, as now the owner of copper, bauxite and iron mines in Papua New Guinea and Australia, and rubber plantations in the Dutch East Indies, his holdings shot up in value. The next decade saw Bim spend his fortune on women and fast cars, whilst the rest he just wasted. By the outbreak of World War Two, Bim was destitute and living as a tinker and shoe repairer in a coastal village in Sulawesi. Despite not being a Dutch national, his love of the colour orange saw him interned by Japanese Imperial forces. He was sentenced to execution and only saved at the last minute by a young Jedi. In gratitude Bim joined the Rebel Alliance and saw action on the forest moon of Endor, frozen Hoth and arid Tatooine. Upon his return to earth, with laurels upon his brow and feted as a war hero, he wanted nothing more than to return to nature and work the land; a simple agrarian lifestyle, far away from conflict. He kept a low profile and slipped from the public consciousness, his past largely forgotten and his true identity unknown to those few mortals who met him on his occasional forays into urban areas in search of cheap thrills and rice flour. He may have remained forgotten and unknown, wandering Southeast Asia as a vagabond, had he not overheard a conversation in a bar one night whilst on one of his jaunts into civilisation. A pair of businessmen were talking in hushed tones about a new disruptive force, sweeping all before it and trampling all over norms and customs the world over. No, this was not a US presidential candidate, but an American software developer called Autodesk, and in particular a product called Revit. Intrigued, Bim sought knowledge and found a ready source of pudgy, pallid and poorly dressed men from the damp isles of Britain; a cold and windswept outpost on the extreme fringes of Northern Europe. A destination even the all-conquering Roman legions decided to abandon due to its inhospitable climate, arcane traditions and warm beer. However, it turned out that living in fog and drizzle for three hundred days of the year also accelerated creativity and the ability to generate a seemingly endless number of Microsoft PowerPoint slideshows, as well as memes. Bim immediately felt comfortable in this land of sunlight starved and sexually repressed Gollums, and within a short time he had established himself as a purveyor of some of the finest slideshows, Yammer posts and memes. Bim travelled the world, expounding eager audiences with tales of 15-20% efficiency gains, whilst providing little or no hard evidence. It was like a dream come true for Bim, having felt that he had discovered his true calling! The rise of Bim has since been vertiginous, with almost all nations, states, principalities and fiefdoms seeing the benefits Bim brought, but with one stubborn exception; Hong Kong. Seeing it as almost his divine duty, Bim took it upon himself to conquer that semi-submerged volcanic caldera in the South China Sea. He has been there ever since. Hong Kong still stubbornly refuses to accept Bim, yet still he persists. Now entering the third decade of his second century of existence, he feels sufficiently knowledgeable to be able to pass on some of his experiences, here in this blog. Read on, brave adventurer!

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