Data driven BIM and the three brains

BIM Data and the 3 Brains

A few years back, there were a plethora of articles on the topic of what BIM is not. Popular headings like BIM is not Revit and ‘BIM is not just 3D modelling’ were trending in social media and the online BIM community was happy we were making an impact. Within the scope of Cobuilder’s timeline this was at the beginning of the internationalisation of our business. A couple of years, 4 new markets and over 50 international events later, we asked ourselves… why isn’t the message catching on? Why is that the majority of people we meet at the ‘it’ BIM events across the globe still think that ‘doing BIM’ is merely creating 3D visual models and ‘data’ talk always seems something new to the audience? In this article, we try to find the answer in an interesting neuroscientific theory.

The Three Brains: Or how we process an idea.

In a recent talk packed with neuroscience insights, the award-winning marketer and educator Nikolaos Dimitriadis explained that the human brain has 3 layers which act like separate organs with different cellular structures and different functions. The new brain is responsible for rational thinking, mid brain is responsible for emotions, and the reptilian brain is the seat of our basic instincts. According to Nikolaos, the way we process an idea is strongly connected to the hierarchy of these 3 brains. In its impact, rational ‘thinking’ is surpassed first by the more powerful emotional ‘feeling’ and second, by the most powerful ‘doing’ located in the reptilian brain. This influences everything we do. To illustrate this, let’s now go back to 3D-driven BIM and see why it is so hard for data-driven BIM communication to hit the mark.

3D, data and the Reptilian brain.

According to Patrick Renvoisé and Christophe Morin, authors of Neuromarketing the reptilian brain has the following characteristics:

  1. It is self-centered—always searching for ways to relieve pain and increase comfort.
  2. It can pay attention only to the beginning and ending of lengthy communications.
  3. It is visual.
  4. It likes contrast.
  5. It understands simple language best.
  6. And finally, it is triggered by emotion.

Imagine that you are at that new fancy BIM event. You are looking for a solution to bring efficiencies to your specific function in the construction business you own/ work for. This is an emotional event as your drive, your motivation, is connected to your desire to progress in your career, to be useful, to make a true change for the whole business/sector/society/environment (here we are talking top of the Maslow hierarchy). What do you see? Cool 3D renders everywhere, clash detection, 360o model view, 3D dynamic section views, a 3D object of a screw – it is all very cool. Visual. You know this will make life easy for you, as it is simple and user-friendly. Almost like a game.

Disclaimer! Not to offend anyone, we are obliged to say that you process all the BIM rationalisations (new brain) on top of that cognitive journey simultaneously, but as neuroscientist say – being rational is relatively new to us, while being emotional and instinctual isn’t.

At the same time, at the data-driven BIM stand, some geek is talking about ‘big data’, ‘structured data’, ‘semantic mapping’ and ‘ontologies’. You see databases and stacks of information that make your reptilian mind ache. The poor guys there even try to convince you it will bring efficiency to the whole supply chain, but your reptilian brain says – ‘Warning! Warning! – processing data is hard for me’. As your brain pays attention only to the beginning and ending of lengthy communications you end up going away with a message that data-driven BIM is complicated and you are still not sure what the benefits are. After all, no one is doing it yet. Everyone is doing 3D now. Instant gratification. Reptilian brain at full speed.

In conclusion:  Data is a hard sell.

Let’s face it: within the construction industry, and through the eyes of a neuromarketer, data-driven BIM is a hard sell. It is hard to explain, hard to grasp and mostly appeals to the ‘new brain’ that can process facts rationally. However, it is our job as communicators to elevate data to a level where it appeals not only to the new brain but also to the other two. In other words – Let’s make data great again!

BIM data is great.

Firstly, using product data in the construction industry has more than rational dimensions. Just imagine the frustration of having to change all the windows on a floor just because they do not fit the environmental requirements. Imagine the pain of going through numerous paper documents just to find the U-value of a roof window and then sending copies of those documents via email or fax. Imagine the emotional stress of sending in people to check the serial numbers of a defective batch of boilers recalled due to electrocution hazard… Imagine not being able to know what protective measures to take when working with hazardous chemicals. Yes, all the while, having interoperable digital data about construction products is actually the best way to relieve the stress of uncertainty on the construction site.

Data-driven BIM can be emotional

Secondly, data maybe a hard sell, but let’s argue that data-based software solutions are not. User – friendly tools such as Cobuilder’s goBIM make working with big amounts of data relatively easy and painless. It also enables the integration between machine-readable data and the cool 3D models, so that anyone can experience one of the greatest benefits of BIM – collaborative construction based on knowledge and coordinated planning.

An appeal.

In conclusion, as something of data-driven BIM evangelist ourselves, we make this appeal to the BIM community: Let’s use our creative strength to help people see the emotional and instinctual aspects of data. Let’s stay away from the tech talk and focus on the actual stories of people having a blast with data. Let’s keep it personal. Let’s keep it real.

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