Haskell still has an old-fashioned suggestion box to gather team-member input. Some good ideas can be found there: Stripe the parking lot. Add more healthy choices in vending machines. Replace the worn carpet in a heavily trafficked area.
Without a doubt, such ideas address essential workplace needs. But they hardly qualify as the sort of disruptive innovation that will keep the company on the cutting edge of the Architecture, Engineering and Construction industry.
For idea-sharing that engages employees in rethinking company operations and strategies, the kind that requires development and a business plan, financing and a presentation to decision makers, Dysruptek, Haskell’s venture capital arm dedicated to scouting, piloting and investing in emerging technologies, adopted the Brightidea innovation platform.
Brightidea is a cloud-based collaboration tool that provides Haskell’s diverse workforce of more than 1,600 to engage and promote outside-the-box thinking. Transparency is its strength. Team members in different divisions, on different job sites and even in different countries can contribute to the discussion and exploration of new concepts developing there.
When a need or opportunity is identified, a division leader will sponsor it and issue a challenge to explore innovative solutions.
“Not everyone is always quick to engage. It helps that once one or two people begin sharing others will follow,” said Cutler Knupp, Haskell’s Director of Strategy and Technology Investment. “Once a challenge takes off, people become inspired to share and engage.”
The Steel Shop Challenge is a case in point.
With a team of more than 30 professional craftsmen on a 30-acre campus in Jacksonville, Florida, Haskell Steel fabricates building structural steel, platforms, stairs, crossovers, racks, frames, and embeds for its own projects and external customers. Most is custom designed and produced for each project.
Sponsored by Ryan Hollister, Director of Haskell’s Manufacturing Core, the Steel Shop Challenge asked Haskell team members to identify fabricated steel components that could be used across a range of projects, thus developing a standard catalog of parts. The contest launched early in 2021 and engaged 175 team members who submitted 23 ideas. It is scheduled to conclude with the announcement of selected ideas in late spring.
“We hope they are all great ideas and we can use them all,” Knupp said. “Some are more feasible than others.”
Brightidea takes an idea from “What if?” to “How can it happen?”
Since the platform launched more than 1,000 team members have used It to generate more than 250 innovations. Dysruptek is currently calculating the value of the ideas, from costs savings to revenue generation, as well as new services and markets.
In 2020, Dysruptek used Brightidea to stage its first large-scale business challenge, dubbed The Big Pitch, a Shark Tank-like contest that invited Haskell employees to submit proposals that would use existing solutions to enhance efficiencies, create new solutions or explore new markets and business opportunities.
Thirty-six entries were screened and the field winnowed to five finalists, each of which presented their pitch decks – virtually, because of the COVID-19 pandemic – to a panel of five judges: Jim O’Leary, Haskell President and CEO; John-Paul Saenz, Haskell Executive Vice President and COO; Donald Horne, Haskell Director of Application Development; Andrea Inserra, Haskell board member and EVP of Booze Allen Hamilton; and Kaustubh Pandya, Principal of Brick & Mortar Ventures.
Each of the top three places received cash awards, and the first-place winner received support for the implementation of their idea.
The inaugural Big Pitch winners came from Haskell’s Mexico City office. Colleagues Ramon Ramirez, Design Director and Orvin Lozada, Project Coordinator, had discussed the need for a streamlined way to enter basic data on the hundreds of documents required for each Process System design.
Rather than repetitive manual entry, their innovation was to create a platform through which data could be entered once and automatically populate other documents as needed. This process would also be applicable to annotations on drawings.
“This would save a lot of man hours, and the drawings would be more accurate and consistent,” Ramirez said.
Once they learned of The Big Pitch, Ramirez and Lozada, who have worked together for almost 15 years, developed the idea and worked on its feasibility and presentation over a six-month period. Ramirez, a fan of the Mexican version of Shark Tank, was familiar with the format. Coincidently, he said, one of the Mexican “sharks” has offices in the same building as Haskell in Mexico City.
“I think it speaks very well of Haskell that everybody in the company has the same opportunity,” Ramirez said. “It doesn’t matter where you are located, everyone’s weight is the same.”
As advertised, a development partner has been chosen, and their Process Design Automation project is now in development.
This year, once it has leveraged Brightidea for the second annual Big Pitch, Dysruptek hopes the event will culminate in a live, in-person event where Haskell employees and family members can watch the competition. Of course, it would also be available online around the world.
“I think it’s awesome that Dysruptek is hearing ideas from all over the company,” Lozada said. “People have had ideas for many years. This is a way to implement them.”
Haskell delivers more than $1 billion annually in Architecture, Engineering, Construction (AEC) and Consulting solutions to assure certainty of outcome for complex capital projects worldwide. Haskell is a global, fully integrated, single-source design-build and EPC firm with over 2,000 highly specialized, in-house design, construction and administrative professionals across industrial and commercial markets. With 20+ office locations around the globe, Haskell is a trusted partner for global and emerging clients.
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