Will Reddaway: Better Engineered Month - Collaborate to Innovate

For my penultimate piece as part of Better Engineered month, I’m talking all things collaboration. Defined as “the action of working with or in partnership (willingly) with others to produce something” one would assume that as an industry we do this very well. However, I think it is fair to say we collaborate in silos, or at least within our project teams. This is valuable, however, we do need to behave in a more holistic fashion to really exploit the opportunities around us. Successful innovation is based on the “3Cs” – Culture, Capability and Collaboration.

Ultimately, to innovate you must collaborate.

Crucial to effective collaboration in any industry, and specifically in ours, is enabling the cross fertilisation of ideas from outside our industry or even of our internal disciplines – and diversity is central to this.  At Murphy we pride ourselves on our impressive multi-disciplinary team with a diverse range of skills and experiences: from ground works; to plant; through to design and heavy civils and everything in between. We cover the entire lifecycle of many projects, and can offer specialisms to more generic civil engineering, which helps enable our Better Engineered solutions. That said, even within our own business that cross pollination of ideas, solutions and problems is not as mature as it should be.

Diversity is also essential for enabling innovation. Diversity (in all meanings of the word), is fundamental to really stimulating change, enabling collaboration and delivering value to teams. The point of this is to challenge and test existing preconceptions and push people to defend outrageous propositions – often this throws out some interesting thoughts that would not ordinarily come about. However, the environment needs to be right for this to occur – the right behaviours; allowing for each person to have their say; encouraging the “yes and…” behaviour works well, rather than the more typical behaviour of turning ideas down before they have had a chance to be considered. That is where a truly collaborative environment comes into play.

Collaboration and inter disciplinary working is key to stimulating new and innovative ideas. Without challenges from outside an area of expertise or a team it’s very easy for ideas to be stuck in the same box that they have always been. Third party or “naïve resources” are important to stimulating ideas, but also bring with them new perspectives. True collaboration is not having a room full of likeminded individuals or engineers, but a broad spectrum of people (ideally as diverse as possible) to not only challenge your thinking, but stimulate opportunities for debate.

Innovation and collaboration must be approached as a joint effort within an organisation, and collaboration is also a tool that needs to be learned – it cannot be forced.  Allowing people time to brainstorm in private; having 1-2-1s; some allowing some anonymity; and celebrating individuals can also enable better collaboration, as this empowers different personalities to be able to contribute in an environment they feel safe. Ultimately, it leads to a more open way of working but importantly gathers more ideas, and stimulates discussions which is a key to delivering even better works.

Innovation is not owned by the Innovation lead, it’s something that everyone has a responsibility for. It is underpinned in our strategic driver for Better Engineered and value of Continually Improve – it is not one person’s responsibility to engage with innovation, rather it is a commitment that each individual in the business must engage with, and collaborate in order to achieve.


Posted Friday, June 29, 2018 by Will Reddaway

Innovation, Opinion, Engineering

About Will Reddaway

Skilled and adaptable project and programme manager with experience in implementing and overseeing complex multi-track projects. Ability to engage at all levels of an organisation to manage and broker relationships. Hugely passionate, enthusiastic behaviour with a thirst to learn and share experiences to help change and improve business processes. Particularly interested in innovation, change management/delivering change, and technology.


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