Brick Laining – An Innovative Systems Example

Have you ever watched an expert team of bricklayers work as they form the beautiful exterior shell of a new home? To this day, I can see vividly the cohesive and hard working team of folks who built the home that my wife and I built a few years ago in Michigan.

I remember visiting the home on a day when a pile of bricks had just delivered and were still sitting on pallets. I returned the following day to find the majority of the brickwork to have already been completed. It was not the fact that the bricklayers had bricked almost the entire home in less than a full day of work. I personally experienced many top performing service providers who amaze me with their efficiency and rate of production. However, there was something else at which I was taken aback.

The only portion of the home that had yet to be bricked was the top quarter of the two-story colonial. The workers had built an intricate maze of scaffolding in order to reach the areas still exposed with exterior wallboard. Some bricklayers were on top while others danced around the pile of bricks on the ground.

I looked at the pile of bricks sitting atop the scaffolding platform and thought to myself, "Wow – that sucks having to get all of those bricks up onto that platform". Without hesitation I had assumed that the bricks were lifted from the ground to the platform with a Skytrak. It was only a few minutes later that my claim was proved wrong.

I looked up and saw a bricklayer on the ground literally throwing six bricks at a time up to another bricklayer who stood up the scaffolding. While in the air, the bricks separated just as a stream of water fans out once leaving a garden hose. With each toss, the bricklayer on the platform calmly scooped all six bricks out of the air, grouped them, and added them to the growing pile. I stand for several minutes and stared in amazement.

My mind had assumed a standard system. Would not it just make sense to lift bricks using a machine? Instead the bricklayers had developed an innovative set of actions that streamlined the bricklaying process. There was no need for a Skytrak or any sort of third party equipment. The only thing needed was traditional human ingenuity that led to bricks being tossed up in a manner to expedite the entire process.

The next time that you engage in thought about your business systems, challenge yourself and your team members to think outside of the box. Innovation is not something only for the world of product design. Systems can (and should) be improved by interjecting a dose of innovation.