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Innovation in Engineering

I can spot them, the engineering companies that trade in formulaic solutions, even when the problem is begging for innovation. Perhaps it is the opportunity to reuse existing infrastructure, or try out a novel technique – all too often these firms will step back from the challenge and choose the “safe” option.

If you are looking to innovate – choosing team members based on whether they are just like you is a sure way to fail. Innovation comes when a company is challenged, when the status-quo to deemed unacceptable, and the organization is convinced of the imperative to change as a result. The decision to change direction is a necessary but not final step in innovation, courage is needed to convert the desire to change into an ability to listen to new ideas that conflict with your worldview.

Many engineering firms fail to innovate because the owners or managers are looking for people just like them, rather than the people they need to carry inspiration through to innovation. The management culture in engineering needs to embrace opportunity and hold a discerning, balanced view of risk and innovation. The opportunity to innovate is daunting and it takes strong leadership to pull it off without backing down from the challenge.

As a client, are you seeking out the firms that can drive innovation?

As an engineer, are you part of an organization that actively innovates?

As a manager, do you challenge clients and staff to have the courage to innovate?

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.