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BLOG: ACEC SUMMIT: Creating an innovative culture in the workplace

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by Journal Of Commerce

The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies Young Professionals ran a session titled "creating an innovative culture in the workplace" at the ACEC Leadership Summit 2014 in Winnipeg, Man.

The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies Young Professionals ran a session titled "creating an innovative culture in the workplace" at the ACEC Leadership Summit 2014 in Winnipeg, Man.

The panelists were Perry MitchelMore of MECO, Jason Mewis, the president and senior engineer at ENGCOMP, Lin Watt of Dillon Consulting Ltd, and David Nagy, manager at AECOM.

MichelMore said as an executive the most important thing you can do is listen to your team, and promote an environment where if you don’t your employees can call you on it.

Mewis said the ideals of an innovative culture attract employees and creates retention. He said his business is fairly corporate and has a way to go before it becomes an innovation culture.

“When we aren’t working on billable hours, we don’t have cash flow and can’t support innovation,” he said.

“How do we give our people the freedom to fail, and how do we work through how to give them ‘free thinking time’?,” he added.

Culture has to be across the organization or it won’t be effective, Mewis said.

Watt said that it’s a new era with information more readily available than ever before.

But even if the information is available, delegation is still important, Nagy said.

Mewis said that given the accelerated frameworks and schedules of the industry, innovation becomes difficult.

“You can find faster ways to deliver, but that’s not innovation. If clients want innovation, they’ll have to come to grips with the fact that they have to give us time to do so,” Mewis said.

Mitchelmore said “ideas alone don’t cut the mustard.”

He added that his company has three rules for developing ideas. First, be disciplined to the idea, second, don’t try to do everything, and thirdly, focus on execution.

Watt said you can create a strong culture that isn’t innovative. She said to have innovation you need a sense of urgency, and you have to empower employees, giving them space to act on the sense of urgency and act on ideas.

Mewis said if we want innovation to spread in the industry, procurement issues have to be worked past.

Mitchelmore said he doesn’t like rapid “bang bang” decision making, but that can frustrate younger staff members. But it’s important for both sides to come to an understanding and collaborate, he said.

Watt said millennials are looking for an environment where they work in teams and where they can make a difference (ie: innovation). They also have respect for competent authority figures, so they need to be mentored.

“We don’t mind being told we’re wrong, we just want you to listen to us first,” she said.

Mewis said we need to stop thinking we can solve our problems by delivering in the same way. “We do need radical innovation,” he said.

Nagy said “Innovation doesn’t necessarily mean technology, but it has to mean change.”

Mitchelmore said accountability is important, and provides a guidepost for innovation.

Watt said a culture of innovation is a way for companies to be ready to adapt, and that clients should also innovate their cultures to be more receptive to new ideas.

Mewis said to innovate, you need financial strength, and you need business diversification.

“And that’s the challenge,” he said.

JOC DIGITAL MEDIA

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