“You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created. You have to rise above it to the next level.”
– Albert Einstein
Civil engineering is built on skill and precise methods. As times change, so does the profession. Traditional practices that were once tried and true may have grown outdated and ineffective. Civil engineers must now discover innovative solutions to problems.
Bright ideas, “a-ha” moments, and inspiration contribute to the success of civil engineers. When they succeed, so does the public that they serve. Here are four essentials for sparking innovation in civil engineering.
Reimagine tomorrow’s infrastructure
Advancing the civil engineering profession starts with finding innovative solutions to society’s problems. However, this goes beyond serving the needs of present-day communities. With the uncertainty of the future, civil engineers must assess current practices and prepare for the possibilities of tomorrow. Engineers must envision how the built world will look, function, and be maintained.
Incorporate design thinking
Civil engineers are problem solvers. But problems can come in many shapes and sizes. For many, the problem-solving process can be stunted by self-imposed constraints. To spark new ideas, engineers must break the mold of conventional thinking. Instead, they must take on a more human-centered approach, embrace change, and eliminate any preconceptions.
Brent Darnell, owner and president of Brent Darnell International and an emotional intelligence expert, discusses how design thinking can lead civil engineers to creative problem-solving.
Launch ideas with a business accelerator
Having a great idea is one thing. Bringing it to life is another. For many entrepreneurial engineers, failure is often seen before success. Innovation, particularly in civil engineering businesses, can be riddled with challenges. Technology developments, legal obligations, and financial aspects make ideas much more complex. So how can you ensure your ideas get off the ground?
Gregory Sauter, founder of Smart City Works, discusses how a business accelerator can help launch innovation and what differentiates a smart idea from a market-ready idea.
Foster a culture of careful innovation
Innovation presents as many obstacles as it does benefits to the civil engineering profession. And in an industry where the public’s health, safety, and welfare are at stake, some businesses may be more risk-averse. But over the past few years, issues such as the Flint water crisis and Washington, D.C.’s metro service prove that fostering a culture of careful innovation is the key to reinventing the approach to sustainable infrastructure.
Former D.C. Water CEO and General Manager George Hawkins discusses how he reinvented his organization and incorporated innovative ideas that benefit the public and the industry.