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Bechtel’s Next 125

Driving Innovation in an Organization and Shaping the E&C Industry

By Catherine Irvin

Innovation is accelerating rapidly within the engineering and construction (E&C) industry. Building information modeling, artificial intelligence, mixed reality, autonomous vehicles, and additive manufacturing, are among the many driving forces of E&C’s future. Turning discussions about innovation into reality at an adaptive speed is becoming the differentiator within the industry.

In a two part series interview with Oracle, Bechtel’s chief innovation officer David Wilson comments, “Innovation is at the point where what was disruptive and progressive two and a half years ago, is now table stakes. As the industry accelerates it is increasingly difficult to disrupt and push the edge of the circle beyond the known and expected.” He understands that with innovation comes change; however, not everyone embraces new ideas immediately. He says to foster a culture of innovation “you must constantly be changing if you are really going to innovate in a sustained fashion.”

In his first interview with Oracle, Wilson classifies common groups encountered within any organization seeking to innovate, as excited, initially resistant, and cautiously hedging. The excited group immediately understands innovation and quickly sees the benefit or need to disrupt tasks and work processes to produce safer, better, faster and leaner delivery, and they do not see this change as an attack on their role or contributed value. The initially resistant group is smaller and may seem to work against innovative efforts but are really working to understand and rationalize how the change may affect them and their role – the best thing that we can do during this phase is improve communication and create transparency for how they will be able to continue to add value to the organization. Finally, the hedging group – this group of the population is waiting to see if the change effort gains momentum or is overcome by inertia before actively engaging to help accelerate the effort or further resist the change – the fastest way to win over this part of the population is to demonstrate adoption and impact from the growing change effort. The best thing we can do is harness the excitement to advance real innovation to our projects and demonstrate to those who may be skeptical that positive change creates more value for the organization while not diminishing the value of the individual.   

In his follow up piece, Wilson shares how emerging technologies, digital transformation, augmented reality, 3D printing, and robots offer the best opportunities for the E&C industry. Wilson offers his perspective on the availability and utility of resources at the workplace and how technology can help improve productivity and lower waste. For example, autonomous vehicles could potentially perform repetitive activities on job sites. Drones could also utilize computer visualization to report the status of a project. 3D printing is on the horizon, while a robot could aid a person’s craft. These various digital transformations foster innovation but also come with restraints. The challenging component: data inconsistency because of every project’s uniqueness.

To learn more about David Wilson’s views on how to drive innovation at an organization and in the E&C industry, read his full interview with Dr. Burcin Kaplanoglu, senior director of industry strategy and innovation at Oracle. You can also read more about David Wilson’s perspective on emerging technologies with Dr. Kaplanoglu here.                              

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