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  • Writer's pictureSi Shen

Innovation in moderation

To answer this question, let’s do a little comparison that has never been done before. Let’s compare the risk profile between two industries the investment industry and the civil engineering industry.

Let’s say you are an investor. In this industry, loss is very common. You invest in some businesses, but 9 out of 10 go bust and the one that survives barely makes any money. BUT What’s the worst that could happen? You lose all your money. As long as you don’t borrow money, your loss is limited to the capital you invest in. your risk tolerance would be the amount of money you are willing to lose for each investment. until some day, boom, you invest in a company called Amazon, and it makes you a thousand times your initial investment. You recoup all your previous losses plus tonnes more.

Now let’s look at civil engineering industry. Projects normally run alright, and you are able to make small profit out of each. Cash flows in easy and steady. But your loss is unlimited, things could go horribly horribly wrong. What’s the worst could happen? People could die. Loss of many lives could happen on a single project. It’s no longer just about money. The risk tolerance is still there, but what can you do to contain the damage if disasters happen? Very little. If something collapses, there is nothing we could do to contain the damage. We are basically in the hands of god.

The construction industry is often accused of being slow to adopt new technologies, new product and new materials. I say we better be slow because there is a very good reason for it. We must use tried and tested technology, the ones that stand the test of time and take on small amount of calculated risks, otherwise there is a good chance that it might fail. Because some problems only emerge many years after the new technology is put into use. A lot of civil engineering disasters have major innovation attached to them. So we have to innovate in moderation, because we can not control how much downside risk we have. In fact, all industries that could result in people losing their lives are very backwards for the exact same reason. The pharmaceutical industry, the nuclear industry, the agricultural industry, you name it.

Talking about disasters, let’s have a look at a few cases. These are some pictures when things go horribly horribly wrong and see if you can recognise them. You probably have heard most of them before.

Can you see which ones have innovation attached to it?

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