Analysis of client-led innovation enablers in construction projects

PhD Thesis

Fernando, Samson. 2019. Analysis of client-led innovation enablers in construction projects. PhD Thesis Doctor of Philosophy. University of Southern Queensland.

Analysis of client-led innovation enablers in construction projects

TypePhD Thesis
AuthorFernando, Samson
SupervisorThorpe, David
Goh, Steven
Institution of OriginUniversity of Southern Queensland
Qualification NameDoctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages389
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

'There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.' — Edward de Bono

Creativity is the single most important factor that distinguishes humans from other species, and putting creativity into practice, i.e. innovation, has contributed to all the progress that human civilisation has achieved. Innovation has gone through the fabric of all aspects of human life, bringing in all the improvements with which we live today. For the construction industry, which is responsible for providing much of the infrastructure to the world, the benefits of innovation are enormous.

However, innovation has not brought much benefits to construction projects up to now, mainly due to the difficulty in finding ways to promote innovation within projects. The complex dynamics happening within projects have been a barrier to improving our understanding of the innovation process within projects. The fact that no two projects are identical to each other has exacerbated this difficulty. Therefore, there is a compelling need to study the innovation related dynamics within projects helping us to identify the ways to promote innovation in projects to achieve enhanced outcomes. The research seeks studying innovation related to projects and deriving a model that depicts the actions that can be taken to promote innovation in projects, focussing on client activities in construction projects.

This study was inspired by the importance of innovation within the construction context, the capability of clients to enhance innovative outcomes in construction projects and the difficulty in identifying the innovation process at the project level. This abstract explains the model derived, how it was developed, benefits from the proposed model and other key findings of the research.

It was possible in this research to derive a simple and easy to use model identifying the groups of activities to promote innovation in project situation. The model developed was based on four innovation enabler categories (i.e. model constructs) of idea harnessing (use of new and beneficial ideas), relationship enhancement (employing actions to improve relationships between parties to the project), incentivisation (providing incentives/rewards to romote innovative activities) and project team fitness (deliberate actions taken to strengthen the project team and improve its capacity to focus on innovative activities).

The identification of what promotes innovation possible in projects was approached first by studying the fundamental research on actions that make innovation possible in workplace situations as executing a project is a workplace endeavour. The model was tested in the space of construction environment confining to client’s action, first by using the findings of other researchers through literature review, followed by undertaking a survey of project personnel working on construction projects. The data obtained from the questionnaire survey was analysed through rigours statistical procedures using a sophisticated software computer package SPSS Version 23. This followed in refining the conceptual model to a new model, termed as the Australian-specific model, as it contained data from Australia. Although looked different, this contained all the constructs of the conceptual model as it was derived using the questionnaire based on the conceptual model constructs. Both models were validated using case studies in construction projects. The conceptual model was recommended to use for the identification of actions that clients (or any other party) to promote innovation in projects due to the following reasons:

• It was derived using the findings of fundamental research, which has no bearing on the geographic locations, type of industry or the enabling body of the project.
• The model was tested through literature review, case studies and expert interviews with industry practitioners, both in the construction industry and out of the construction industry.
• It is a simple and easy to use model.
• It can be applied to any project irrespective of the industry, by any party such as the client, project manager, contractor and the designer.
• On the other hand, the Australian-specific model contained characteristics believed to be specific to the Australian construction industry and was somewhat complex and not easy to interpret and use. In addition, the model was developed using the factor analysis, and the selection of factors in factor analysis is subject to individual interpretation.

The derivation of this model is pioneering work and the model developed is the first in the world in this area as revealed by the comprehensive literature review. The thesis was written to contribute to both the theory and practice as it provides value to the academic community as well as to industry practitioners. There is a long list of recommendations for industry practitioners to adopt, if interested in using innovation in their projects to enhance outcomes.

As the fundamental research findings that used to derive the model were independent of the project area and the party promoting innovation, the model was tested using the findings of other researchers through literature review and through case studies and expert interviews, which reaffirmed the inference that it could be used for projects in general by any party interested in promoting innovation. This opens up wide benefits to the area of project management.

Many researchers have pointed out that contemporary project management approaches contribute to achieve only limited project goals. With this breakthrough, project owners and project managers have found a new tool to achieve enhanced
outcomes from their projects. It may compel contemporary project management approaches to integrate innovation management for greater benefit to project owners and project managers.

In addition to deriving a model to depict actions to promote innovation in projects, this research introduced a definition to describe project level innovation, for the first time in the world.

Innovation can result in ideas to improve productivity and sustainability, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in projects. Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to state that this research has the potential to bring immense benefits to the world.

Keywordsconstruction, projects, innovation, client, industry, enablers
ANZSRC Field of Research 2020400504. Construction engineering
Byline AffiliationsSchool of Civil Engineering and Surveying
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Related outputs

Introducing an innovation promotion model for construction projects
Fernando, Sam, Panuwatwanich, Kriengsak and Thorpe, David. 2021. "Introducing an innovation promotion model for construction projects." Engineering, Construction and Architectural Management. 28 (3), pp. 728-746.
Analyzing client-led innovation enablers in Australian construction projects
Fernando, Sam, Panuwatwanich, Kriengsak and Thorpe, David. 2020. "Analyzing client-led innovation enablers in Australian construction projects." International Journal of Managing Projects in Business. 13 (2), pp. 388-408.
Project-based innovation: perspective of construction organizations
Fernando, Sam, Thorpe, David and Goh, Steven. 2014. "Project-based innovation: perspective of construction organizations." 11th International Conference on Business ManagementDriving Productivity through Innovation: From Thought to Practice. Nugegoda, Sri Lanka 12 Dec 2014 Sri Lanka.
Role of clients in driving innovation in construction projects
Fernando, S., Thorpe, D. and Goh, S.. 2013. "Role of clients in driving innovation in construction projects." Gonzalez, Vicente and Yiu, Tak Wing (ed.) 38th Annual Australasian Universities Building Education Association Conference. The University of Auckland, New Zealand 20 - 22 Nov 2013 New Zealand.