“We don’t know who it was discovered water, but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a fish.”

Proximity. 

It brings with it all sorts of benefits - a deeper understanding, better connections, an awareness of landscape. Efficiency.

But maybe it brings with it a whole new array of challenges. The understanding leads to structure, structure leads to process and process leads to habit. What drives efficiency also entrenches our thinking - and the more we add to our well trodden paths the more difficult it becomes to question why we're not walking another.

How embarrassing would it be to find out there was a better way all along?

In my eyes it's a very human problem, and one I certainly can relate to. But can it take place on an organisational level? And if so, could we be convinced there is a better way? 

We're kicking off a collaboration project with Birmingham City University to find out. 

First years, fresh of mind and brimming with enthusiasm (or residual alcohol if I remember my own first year... which I don't) will be set a challenge to redesign our MyPlace model. Not challenging enough?

Well we're asking them to do it for half the cost. 

Led by Alex Dixon, the project, involving around 180 students across a range of construction and engineering disciplines, will kick off from February to May and generate loads of fresh thinking. Aside from our (unashamedly stretched) target, there are few other constraints to get in the way. Their newness to the building sector will be an asset, not a hindrance. While we're not going into this expecting a fully fledged, ready to build scheme - we're optimistic that we'll have a handful of ideas we might never have arrived at. If we can harvest just a few of these we'll be well on our way to the next MyPlace iteration. 

Now, before going further I think I need to clarify a point... MyPlace hasn't been singled out because the thinking there is entrenched - far from it - there's a whole list of reasons why the team received the innovation prize at our last colleague awards! No, we're working with the MyPlace team because they're open to change and open to challenge, yet still use quite a traditional build. If this collaboration is to work, we'll need colleagues who are prepared to step outside the framework of their current product, something easier said than done. Our MyPlace team are very much the pioneers.  

It's all still very early days, but over the coming weeks Alex, the MyPlace team and I will be working with James Gaytten at BCU to flesh out the programme ahead of February. It may well change and adjust, but I'll release a series of posts as the image becomes clearer. 

Finally, the project also gives us a wonderful opportunity to promote Bromford and the housing sector as a whole to the next generation of professionals, and with it the possibility for internships and work placements for the students who stand out from the crowd. 

That's all for now - wish us luck, and stay tuned! 

@ThomasHartland

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