Setting the stage to be a changemaker


To create change in the world, we cannot simply sit back and watch the world revolve around us. Making a difference requires action, taking initiative, and being that driving force. We need to step outside our comfort zones, push the boundaries for what we believe to be possible, and set the stage for innovation. 


At Autodesk University – the Design & Make Conference, the buzzing topic was AI, better known as artificial intelligence. However, what is AI? During a workshop, attendees discussed the ambivalence of automation versus artificial intelligence. It seems many people believe these two items to be synonymous, and perhaps they can be to a certain extent, especially in the current phase. AI can be interpreted in a few ways, including analysis, automation, and/or augmentation. AI can help us analyze a design project in a more expedited timeframe than it would take with human power alone. Simple tasks can be automated, such as quickly labeling information or counting objects within a file.  In this manner, is AI replacing people? Perhaps. But honestly, do you really want to sit and count all the words in a document?  Remember, these tools are designed to assist us in our lives. AI is in the early stages of development throughout many industries, yet what is certain is that AI learns through people. We are the driving force for how this technology will evolve and the ways it will impact our daily tasks and processes. In the ideal world, AI will assume mundane and repetitive tasks, freeing our time to focus on innovation and advancement and allowing our imaginations to soar.


Technology is altering the way we approach life, both in our careers and at home. Although these advancements can be exciting, there can also be hesitancy to accept and integrate these new tools and features into our lives. After all, there is a learning curve to understanding how best to implement these solutions and an underlying fear of if and how it will replace people. We all want to feel that we have a purpose, something that propels us forward in our lives, but will the technology that surrounds us begin to take away our value? There is a general underlying fear that technology will start to diminish our purpose, that it will begin to make us irrelevant, replacing our human minds with automation and artificial intelligence. Although some tasks and analyses can be replaced with advancements in technology, it will not eliminate nor replace the human factor of critical thinking. Buildings will not be fully designed by robots or artificial intelligence, but these advances do have the ability to improve our workflow, assisting us in our design process. Perhaps we must evaluate what makes us feel valued in our work and examine the purpose that drives us forward.


As the Autodesk CIM (Civil Information Modeling) Manager for my company, my goal is to assist others to adopt the available technology and understand how best to implement it into their projects. In order to move forward and keep up with our competition, we must leave our comfort zones and rise to the challenges before us. In my realm, that means setting down the pencils, throwing out the paper, and leaning into the multi-dimensional world of modeling software where you can truly visualize your project coming to life and leverage the data available. Gone are the days when we used a computer to sketch lines on paper to depict our thoughts. Instead, we now insert pipes, walls, and curb elements. They are no longer mere two-dimensional representations of intent but rather a living model that we can integrate with various disciplines to understand how our designs interact. We have the ability to run clash detection, demonstrating how two elements interfere with one another in the same space, preventing issues that may later surface during the construction phase. Utilizing the modeling and review software facilitates a more cohesive and continual workflow, amplifying the communication between project disciplines and staff.


By embracing change and leaning into being a changemaker, as Steve Blum and Ryan Reynolds discussed on the main stage at AU, we can inspire others to move forward, both in the industry and in our personal lives. By lending a helping hand, guiding others through the new advances, helping them navigate the uncertainty, and providing them with the resources they need, we can help propel others forward. Redirecting and easing the fears of the unknown allows the excitement of innovation and new technological advancements to uplift us.  


After all, in Autodesk's 2023 State of Design and Make report, 23% of respondents, when asked what excites them about the future of their industry, “cited innovation and new technology—more than three times as many who mentioned any other development.” While recognizing the hesitancy some may possess around change, this statistic demonstrates the industry's desire to embrace technology and openness to change. And change is already underway. In my previous post about the State of Design and Make report for the Autodesk Community Blog, the fact that “72% of respondents stated the workforce has evolved more in the past three years than it had in the previous 25 years” resonated with me most. Being thrust into a pandemic forced us to embrace the technology available to continue our work, no longer having the capacity to conduct our business in person, around a table, utilizing paper and pencil. Embracing the software and cloud-based solutions was mandatory, allowing us to coordinate projects and design efficiently and effectively. 


The report also identified the competencies needed for the future, from technology, collaboration, and innovation skills to the capacity and motivation for ongoing learning. These skills will be the factors driving the workforce forward in the future, and new technologies are making it possible for us to embrace and develop in these areas, from utilizing the platforms for advanced collaboration and communication to allowing automation to free us to be innovative. We know that learning propels us forward, creating space for creativity and generating opportunities for innovation and imagination. Adopting AI to standardize our tedious and time-consuming tasks eliminates barriers for us to learn, opening our minds to explore alternative solutions.


To maintain momentum, embrace new technologies and learn new skills, we must work together. We cannot be selfish and safeguard our knowledge for ourselves. To effectively inspire change, sharing our knowledge should be normal practice, constantly in the pursuit of furthering the industry, hoping that we can all continuously inspire one another to press the boundaries and drive change into the future. We must push the envelope to expand the software beyond its current capabilities, set expectations of future functions, dream of the possibilities, and discuss how to implement change within the industry.


Although change can begin with one person, monumental, industry-altering change must be a cohesive, collaborative team effort. The question then becomes: are you willing to be a changemaker?




Read more from Steve Blum, Autodesk's Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer, about Building a Change Maker Culture

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