Roads – and the Case for the Second Mover

We live and work in an industry that is highly risk-averse-and rightly so! As road-builders, we work in an industry that our communities rely on more than almost anything else.  

Having sound, high-quality roads is one thing towns never brag about, but is one of the first things that everyone notices. When cracks turn into potholes and the road gets rough, it impacts our communities.  We can’t afford to let the roads just fall apart. But repairing them costs our friends, neighbors and colleagues time, money, and sometimes their lives.

Knowing this, we make safe bets. We play the odds, using proven technology that has a predictable quality. We need to make sure we’re providing value to our customers:  the taxpayers. Real value means a great road that lasts a long time.

But can we be too risk-averse? Can we lose the opportunity to innovate while still managing our roads effectively? Certainly. By relying only on the tried and true, we can lose out on potential improvements and opportunities. Improved materials, better technology,  new processes- all ultimately create the opportunity to extend the lives of our roads.

Being a first mover with new approaches, products, or technology is appealing to entrepreneurs and investors because, though there is risk,  the payoffs can be huge. And if it doesn’t work, you move on to the next thing.

But being a first mover is less appealing to those of us who work in infrastructure. We can’t afford to gamble with our roads.  We have to be certain that the resources we invest into our infrastructure will result in a payoff.

The idea of being a second-mover, though, allows us to approach new innovations with confidence. Why? The second mover has all the benefits of innovation with little to no risk. You can take advantage of new, cutting-edge technology without on-boarding the risk of being the first to test it. As the second mover you have the protection of knowing that this new tech is tested, proven, and reliable before you try it out.

Here’s how it works:

1. Learning how it works in different situations

It’s always important to approach with a critical eye. A new solution that worked really well a few states over might not work for your state. Differences in climate, materials, spec, and other variables can make a world of difference- the Devil’s in the details.

The key part of being a second mover here in road construction is finding the guy with the roads just like yours that tried it and found success. You need to find evidence that this solution can be successful in the specific context you work in. Once you have that, you can confidently move forward with implementing that solution- with little to no risk to you.

2. Judging the value vs. expense

Budgets are tight and resources are limited. You have to decide what to repair this season and what can afford to wait until next year. Not all roads are created equal- some are more important to your community than others. When you’re making those tough choices, you have to evaluate the cost versus the value that you get out of your road. In other words, it’s key to understand where you get the most benefit for your community.

Being the second mover make you the hero by giving you an edge when it comes to making those decisions about which roads to repair. Relying on data from the trailblazing first movers  lets you implement smarter solutions to your toughest problems without taking on a lot of risk. This allows you to adapt, manage, and create the best network possible.

3. Creating a lasting advantage

Balancing budgetary constraints, limited resources, political willpower, and the needs of your roads is tough. Adopting the strategy of the second mover allows you to make the best decisions possible for your network because it gives you the best of both worlds.

You can make evidence-based decisions, confidently using data that the first movers provide to guide you. Risk is minimized because you’re not the very first person to try a new technology.

But you also have the advantage of moving quickly, adding value, and improving our infrastructure. Saving time, money, and lives is easier than ever when you’re in a second-mover position.

But what about first movers?  There’s a definite need for cutting edge innovation in roadways – and it’s something we’re dedicated to. Check out a future article on the benefit of being the first mover and what it means to pave the way.

The Magnificent Mile in Chicago