Thinking Beyond Traditional Methods to Solve Traditional Challenges

The seven most expensive words in business are said to be “This is how we’ve always done things”. More often than not these words represent a loss of situational awareness. Maybe the same old process is outdated and there is a better, more efficient or cost effective way of accomplishing the same task. A company may rapidly and unknowingly put themselves at a disadvantage by not evolving, or worse, position themselves right out of the market. Another adage that is as true in business as it is in nature: adapt or die. Like everything that lives and breathes, a business must respond to change to stay alive. 

“In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment.” – Charles Darwin

As technology advances, new ways of doing things are changing not only how work is done but also the quality of the results. The ability to evolve to meet changing user or customer expectations is an important part of staying relevant in every industry. Accessing work environments is one area that has remained surprisingly unchanged. Scaffolding, ladders, lifts, and platforms are rigid and their use is restricted to limitations of the equipment and the workspace. Traditional methods may be best for small scale work such as painting in homes, where customization is costly and the risk is relatively low. Large scale work with increasing complexity, people and risk, may require unconventional thinking. Mindfulness around project goals, risks and benefits is key – there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

Rope access is used increasingly in North America in places where structures and lifts do not work. It is inherently more flexible and fluid for difficult to reach areas and can be more cost effective than other approaches. Yet it is still not as widely used in part due to a reluctance to change to fit environment. 

Rope access does place limitations on how work can be conducted. Tensioned net systems are a new and innovative way to avoid excess scaffolding and the restrictions from working while suspended. Advances in computer modelling, ease in manufacturing custom resources to fit, and evolution of the materials led to this technique that has many strategic advantages. Work is conducted on a custom engineered low-stretch polypropylene net, designed specifically for this task. On large scale projects with simultaneous operations, the net provides a stable surface for many workers to access the same space, easily stop and start or enter and exit without complicated and time-consuming suspension systems. Work is more comfortable, best practice can be followed with ease, it requires less mental and physical exertion, and lowers the likelihood of fatigue and injury. The installation is simple, cost effective and accommodates work in the same vertical space as the risk of dropped objects and falls is eliminated. Nets can greatly increase project efficiency and reduce completion time as multiple planes of work can be conducted at the same time.

The challenge is for leaders to move away from a one-size-fits-all mentality and choose a problem-solving approach and better measures for decision-making. Why are we completing this task? What are the parameters which indicate success? Can we manage the risk to workers? What is the best way of reducing business risk and increasing profit, client satisfaction, and key performance metrics? Does this align with company (or client) values? The alternative to embracing innovation and mindfulness is extinction as now extinct businesses with fixed models has taught us – Blockbuster, Kodak, and Myspace, among others. Like Darwin said about the rule of survival, it is survival of the fittest and thriving is not possible with a fixed mindset and without thinking beyond tradition.

Written by: Samantha Fodor