E87: David Wilson, Chief Innovation Officer at Bechtel – Interview

January 12, 2017


This interview with David Wilson is all about innovation around construction and engineering. David is the chief innovation officer at Bechtel Corporation. Bechtel is gigantic; it is a global engineering, construction and project management company with $32 billion in annual revenue in 2015 and has over 55,000 employees worldwide. Bechtel has been ranked as the number one contractor by Engineering News-Record, the leading U.S. publication for the engineering and construction industry, for 18 years in a row.

Bechtel has developed over 25,000 projects throughout its 118 year history in over 160 countries and on all seven continents. The company is also renowned for building some of the world’s most iconic projects including the Hoover Dam and it has been behind some of the largest energy and infrastructure projects in the world including the famous chunnel, connecting France and England and last year, completed an unprecedented three LNG megaprojects in Australia; all of which were constructed at the same time.

David has been with Bechtel since 2001 He has served in a number of roles which you’ll hear about.

David and his team help breathe innovation into Bechtel’s work. That’s not easy at such a large established engineering firm but as you can hear from the podcast, Bechtel has been a pioneer in innovation for quite some time.

Here are some other things we talk about:

-What technologies are you interested in for 2017?
-Tells us about your Future Fund and how that works.
-What things wish you would’ve done differently when starting the innovation group at Bechtel?
-What’s your process to take an idea, provide resources for it and get it into the field?


David Kruse: Hey everyone. Welcome to another episode of Flyover Labs and today we are lucky enough to have David Wilson with us. And David is the Deputy Chief Innovation Officer at Bechtel Corporation. And as many of you probably know, Bechtel is gigantic. They are a global engineering, construction and project management company worth about $37 billion in annual revenue and nearly 60,000 employees and they build some of the largest energy and infrastructure projects in the world, including the famous tunnel connecting France and England.
So David has been with Bechtel since about 2001 and he has served in a number of roles which we can hear about. And so now David is helping breathe innovation into Bechtel and so that doesn’t sound too easy at such a large established engineering firm. So I am curious how he is doing it. I’m also curious to hear what David is interested in now as far as technology and innovation and to hear more about his background. So David, thanks for coming on the show.

David Wilson: Well, it’s great Dave. Thanks for the opportunity. I really appreciate the chance to share and to have a discussion. I think the fact that the innovation community continues to share and grow and we have a lot to learn from you know participating as well as being exposed to what other folks are doing. So a great opportunity to share and I appreciate you giving me the time.

David Kruse: Definitely, and we definitely appreciate it. And before we dive into what you are doing now, can you give us a little background and how you got to where you are now?

David Wilson: Yes, so it’s a winding road. So I’m a Mechanical Engineer by degree. Started out at the University of Utah, graduated in Mechanical Engineering; had my heart set on the automotive industry and just before I graduated, the automotive industry took a pretty significant downturn and so I actually ended up of all places at a construction company that I hadn’t heard of when I was in school. So if you’d asked me who Bechtel is when I was in college, I couldn’t have told that I didn’t know and they just happened to be at the career fare and things kind of worked out and I had a chance to go work on one of the projects that we are working on, and actually still continue to work on the Washington State, WTP project. So it’s – I couldn’t have predicted it. Wouldn’t have found me telling you that I thought I’d end up here 15,16 year ago, but I have enjoyed every minute of it and it’s a constant learning experience and constant opportunities for something different.

David Kruse: And what was that first project you worked on. In Washington what did you do?

David Wilson: So I was – I stated out in mechanical design for the waste treatment project and spent a couple of years doing line sizing, pump sizing, tank size calculations just straight out of college, the typical things you do as an engineer. You get parked in a cubical and you start doing calculation.

David Kruse: Got you and so you understood how much sewage and stuff was there in Washington. Where was it in Washington that this plant was going on?

David Wilson: So the plant, it’s called the Hanford. We were – actually the project office was in the Tri-Cities, which many folks who are familiar with Washington State it’s between roughly Seattle, Spokane and Portland; it’s kind of right there in the edge of Washington and Oregon.

David Kruse: So I’ve always been curious, we don’t have to dwell on this all time. When making those calculations are you trying to predict the increase in sewage as well so that you know you install the proper pumps and build the handle on future growth?

David Wilson: Well so we were really more geared towards doing process sizing. So we knew what we were trying to do from a process perspective and what the flow line would be and what the chemical processes were. So we were in our group, mechanical systems, we were doing more of the sizing for a process that had already been defined and taking into account what volume we were trying to treat or what, you know what conditions we were trying to work around. So we had a lot of that. It wasn’t really – In the group I was in, we weren’t necessarily factoring growth, but there was a process group that worked on process details and worked on the mechanical systems and I actually transitioned into controlled systems, which we just took that and expanded it. So we worked on control system design, system design around you know instrumentation and vales and the like.

David Kruse: Interesting and what was one of your, like I know you put a number of roles at Bechtel. What was one of your most interesting roles; maybe it was that one or before your current role at least what was the…

David Wilson: Exactly. So I went from that into Six Sigma and we got a pretty healthy Six Sigma program in Bechtel and Lean Six Sigma we do some innovation things within the Six Sigma. So actually the chance to – my career has really been – I went from Microscope to kind of process over arching scope to more of a holistic project scope. So it just keeps gradually growing in terms of how is the other process activity interacting; so Six Sigma is really interesting. From looking at the whole process and looking at how do we improve things across disciplines, across functions. How do we look at the right metrics, not all the metrics. Don’t create data just to create data, but look at the right metrics and drive improvements. That was a great chance to get the process exposure, process thinking, ideation thinking and really the collaborative and team aspect of working the people and presenting and communicating you know really happened as a part of that role I know. The job was strictly speaking process improvement, but I got so much out of it that really an invaluable experience in my mind.

David Kruse: And yeah, I mean can you expand a little more. I’m curious you know if you have an example of how you are thinking change and you feel it’s like a certain project where it changed or that might be hard to think of.

David Wilson: No. Actually there was, no – one of my – so I was a black belt and then I became a master black belt. Well I was part of becoming a master black belt, so I cannot – I got the shirt that says I got a master black belt crazy, it’s not the cool black belt right, so it’s not the one that…

David Kruse: You can’t beat up people.

David Wilson: Yeah. I can definitely put you to sleep, but I can’t beat you up right, so…

David Kruse: That’s why …

David Wilson: No, that is exactly right. So I still to this day when folks ask what do you do, I say I’m an engineer because it’s too hard to explain everything else.

David Kruse: Yeah, that makes sense.

David Wilson: So I think the most interesting was when I was a master black belt we had a project that we have been challenged with for years and doing the same approach to process improvement wasn’t going to work. So we went and got smarter about innovation and innovative design and that really thought me a lot about some simple frameworks and common terms you need to go back to Clayton Christensen and the job to be done concept and we started looking at – instead of trying to solve something with our know solution, our know process, lets step back and apply that job to be done for us and look at what are we really trying to do from a solution perspective and how do you take that and innovate and design something new to solve that job to be done. That really stated to shape a lot of my thinking in that project and it was specifically around vendor information which we were challenging, because we do design work, we do some contract work and trying to corporate information from other is a challenge.

David Kruse: Interesting and so that was probably across disciplines, like different divisions that you were pulling all that vendor information?

David Wilson: Yeah, actually it was across our different business. So having to work with – we are a global company with multiple business lines. We had to work with multiple businesses and multiple functions, yes absolutely.

David Kruse: Got you, okay. Well let’s talk a little more about what you do now, but first I gave a super brief intro on Bechtel. Do you mind giving a – maybe expanding on that a little bit more, give your maybe 30 second overview I guess.

David Wilson: You know you actually nailed it pretty well. So a large company, lots of projects, we have done more than 25,000 projects in 160 countries and we got 115 plus year history. I think we are now at 118 in think ‘ish since 1898. So we have been around for a long time, different business units. So we do oil and gas, we do nuclear safety environmental, so a lot of work with the government, mining and metals and the infrastructure where we do lots of roads, rail, thermal power plans. So if you think of a heavy industrial project or megaproject it’s probably a Bechtel project and one we would be interested in, one we have done or one we would be you know well suited for. So that’s kind of a high level new of the company, a really broad expertise and you know global reach. We are a private company right, so I don’t know if a lot of people know that, that’s why we are not typically heard about as much, because we are a private company, family owned and led for the majority of that history. We have our new CEOs as of September, Brendon Bechtel, who you know is the great, great grandson of one of the Founders. So a long history of a family owned and operated company and a lot of cool history goes with them.

David Kruse: Yeah, that’s quite nice story. And I’m curious how Bechtel is involved with these projects? Are you guys generally essentially the general contractor and would you sub out certain pieces or do you take over a lot of the sub contracting work or how does that work?

David Wilson: So, it’s a mix. We typically prefer to do self performed engineering procurement construction, so the whole scope. But we do do a lot of project management, a lot of construction management skills. It depends on the country, depends on the customer, depends on the project, it’s a variation. We do some JV works, so we will partner with companies to either run the P&CN aspect of the project or to go with self perform and execute the project. So mixture, you know mixture in contract from loan sum to cost rate, a variety of customers from government to private, public partnerships. So it’s a pretty good variety and it really is – one of the things I found to be really true is if you work with one company and feel like you have the opportunity to work for many companies that have changed different views and perspectives to that which is nice still. So you get the best of staying with the company and you get the benefit of having a lot of different opportunity.

David Kruse: Yeah, it’s a good way to put it. I mean you guys are 60,000 employees, you guys are like a small city, so you can jump around.

David Wilson: Yeah.

David Kruse: So can you give us an example of one project. You know I mentioned the tunnel, but maybe one existing project that you guys are working on and any stats you have just to give people a feel for the size of the projects you work on.

David Wilson: Yeah I – so when I came off before, and I’ll just speak to that, it’s the one I’m closest to. I was currently worked on an AT&T project for about what we were working on, the wireless deployment. So we were working on doing LT and insulations for the AT&T customer and that was across the nation, so many, many different locations. We had nursed – we worked for them, we currently are still working on that project for 15 plus years in multiple markets. We would go out and hang antennas and run the power and work on helping deploy their network and so that was one that had some complexity around logistics and geography and having a distributed work force where everybody is not in a fence and that created some challenges. And then we had other projects that are mega oil and gas projects that have just massive quantities of piping and steel. There is a lot of work in Huston in that space, and we’ve got a project that is going to out in Edmonton for a rail project and we are doing work out in the Middle East for Riyadh Metro and then Muscat airport and just a really strong variety of projects in the portfolio. We get thermal combined cycle power plants. We are working on a couple of those in Maryland and Virginia and kind of the surrounding area. Again for different customers, different sizes and different scales, so we do have projects that you know are in the 500 million range and then projects that are in the $1 billion range in terms of total revenue. So it just is a mixed variety of size and scale. What jobs would have a couple 100 people and while projects will have you know 7,000 people.

David Kruse: Wow! That’s crazy. And one reason why people don’t know you as much all the projects you are working and all the things that we don’t really think about when you are walking around, you know the sewer plants, the cell system and like you know all these oil and gas infrastructure projects, it’s just you know – you are not building the fancy new office building downtown with your name plastid all over the place.

David Wilson: Exactly right. You don’t see our name posted on a lot of the exteriors of the project, but we do work for big customer. The customers know us but the public doesn’t always you know recognize that was a Bechtel project.

David Kruse: Yeah, it’s kind of nice to stay a little quite but. So anyways let’s talk about your current role. Can you kind of tell us about your current role and kind of priorities and focus areas?

David Wilson: Yeah, so it’s been interesting, because it really was the first. Nobody was in that role before I was. So it’s kind of been a, yeah it was one that we just defined a year ago. We defined both our innovation, the Chief Innovation Office and myself as the Deputy Chief Innovation Officer got kicked off a little more than a year ago. So it’s been new unchartered waters to shape a program around driving internal innovation. It was actually I would say globalizing, right. We got a history of – a strong history of problem solving on projects and so one of the things we are trying to do is recognize, but a lot of what we have done has been innovative and we are trying to make sure folks understand that. But then understanding is not enough, how do we push beyond even a more disruptive and innovative and take ideas further than we may have historically and maybe we press forward in terms of how we deliver.

David Kruse: And how are you attempting to formulize innovation. Like you brought up a good point of, you’ve always been innovative right. You probably won’t be in business if you weren’t innovative, but how do you share that innovation across the other projects or yeah, what’s kind of your focus or are you more about the internal innovation or working with outside parties. There is a lot of questions that I asked you.

David Wilson: Yeah, sure. There are several questions here. So I’ll tackle, I’ll go backwards, so I’ll start from the last to go forward. So we do – we are looking at driving internal innovation or entrepreneurial right, that’s only a piece of it. So we are trying to foster that internal culture, but also I’ve got some guy on my team that is working on external. How do you find the startup, or the academic in a student group or the professor or the partner organization that is really working on some very interesting technology or processes or organizational innovation that we really should be aware of and figure out what we can bring in to organization. So we are trying to drive it internally but also bring it externally, knowing that we don’t have all the answers. We know our problems are not solved but how we go find out who is got the best solutions that we can either help you know just go and implement or help co-develop, take a role as a VC if it makes sense. So we are not limiting internally, that’s probably where most of our time is spent but we are also mindful of what’s happened externally and try to draw whatever we can in that can help us execute. Except that would…

David Kruse: Okay, go ahead.

David Wilson: No, go ahead.

David Kruse: Well I was curious, how do you find or how do you. Yeah, I guess that is kind of like – that was part of the other questions I had for the internal innovation. How have you encouraged that and recognize it and give people the flexibility to be maybe drive things?

David Wilson: Yeah. So one of the things the company did and I think it’s been very key. So actually the big company set aside a future fund, a $60 million fund over a three year period to go and invest in internal ideas. And really what it works out to being is that for folks who have always had good ideas, implementing our projects as times is a challenge, because a project has profit loss responsibility. So doing something new or bringing in something untested, it creates some risk and it create some challenges. So the future kind of really allows us to take an idea that’s just a concept and go through some phases. And you know this is, the other folks are doing this, but how do you take that concept and incrementally fund it to see what sticks, what works. How do you get it to where you can prototype it and then if the prototype works and shows some benefit, how do you scale that and go into a project pilot? And if then that makes sense, that demonstrates results and returns value how do you then institutionalize that across the organization? So we go through that process and we get, we have this fund that allows people to have the hours and the dollars and you know support externally to go and take a concept they might have, advance you to do that lifecycle, so they can deliver a mature innovation to the organization. So we really reach out to the organization, creating awareness of what we are doing and trying to drive the idea for the ideation into that concept to develop a process.

David Kruse: Interesting and I think you are right. Well, I know you are right. The corporations are doing kind of something similar. But you guys are quite committed. I mean that’s a large amount of money over a three year period. I haven’t heard that big of a sum over a three year period for just internal kind of innovation, that’s interesting. And do you have an example of – well, first I was going to ask. With your employees you know part of that fund, do you have like an incentive plan to say hey, if you come up with something and it works out and makes us a lot of money or saves us money you get a bonus or do you have something like that in place?

David Wilson: Yes so that question actually comes up quite a bit. What we tried to do is not necessarily monetize ideas for folks. So with any company right, if you contribute and you participate and you don’t advance the company, there is no well compensation and bonuses and rewards and recognition programs in place. And so what we are trying to do is leverage those as they make sense and so if you are stepping up and you are advancing the company you will get recognized as a part of that process. But what we tried not to do is say, if you submit an idea, we are going to make it transactional. So if you give us an idea that works, we are going to give you whatever the dollar amount is. So we try to retain you know more of the social dynamic of ideation, innovation and not monetize because of some of the potential negative repercussions of going into a transactional environment where we say you know, we are going to monetize your idea and your engagement well that creates a lot of challenge. So we are going to monetize enough to encourage you to participate, or you are participating for the wrong reasons and you are just kind of taking advantage of it. So we tried not to make that direct connection, while people are, the ones that contribute are engaged and it definitely is a factor when you look at the performance reviews and compensation planning, we just haven’t made it a true transactional, you submit when where we give you a return kind of a thing. But we have seen really good engagements just by saying, we know you got good ideas, we know you are frustrated. What we will do is we will give you the money and resources to take your idea and mature and give you the exposure and opportunity to actually you know solve something at present. So all these factors and drive concentrate. So the autonomy, the purpose and the mass here, we are trying to tap into those aspects of motivating and you know encouraging our entire team to engage.

David Kruse: You know I think that’s smart and do you have an example of a project that started out as an idea and has now turned into more of a – I know you just started this recently, but do you have an example of a project that’s well on its way?

David Wilson: Yeah, I’m trying to think through. Yeah, I’ll use one that is – we have – there is a lot and there are some you know, I can’t share some, right. But I will share a couple that – there is one that is a really good example of somebody and its going to sound obvious and it doesn’t, it’s like anything with your innovation need. A lot of times you are hearing, well that’s obvious, that’s pretty much common sense and so it took some engagements, some participation to get it to tease out. But right now we are working with – so we had an idea about using Virtual Reality or an HTC vive and say hey, what if we could do this and what if we put people in it for training. It’s not a new idea right, but we haven’t done anything with it. So we said yeah, that sounds promising, let’s go see what it looks like. Look here is some hours to go investigate and figure out what we can do. So the person went out, we got a HTC vive, we got a laptop they could run it. They did some investigation. We actually discovered that one of our jobs sties for safety training had created a physical markup of several different scenarios. They have gone into a facility and build different environments or scenarios to do safety training right and that’s great, that works well for that project, but it doesn’t, you can’t take it anywhere else right. It’s really hard to take that and so those others to. So what we found, the person who had the VR idea said, ‘you know I found through my investigation and kind of getting more familiar with this idea, there is this company that can come and lazar scan and can map and model that physical environment according to VR.’ So now what we have is we have that same physical environment where we were using it for safety training, we put it into a virtual reality train, so that anybody that has the vive and the setup which isn’t terribly expensive can hop into it and can go through and so safety training with lock out and tag out and can do basic fall protection and you know checking to make sure at the end of scale what it looks like to assess scaffolding. So a lot of stuff you would have to done physical you can hop in and get the experience in Virtual Reality and we think that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how do you deliver the content and training that’s experience based instead of a narrative based training which is a less effective.

David Kruse: Yeah that’s interesting. I mean, I am an interesting person in VR and training, but I’m curious, have you found – because you have like a perfect example where you have kind of the physical compared to the virtual reality. Like you – have people done. Like I was going to say people have done both. I’m curious to see how good the VR is compared to like the actually environment and if you can keep it going as much.

David Wilson: It’s fantastic. I mean everybody that we saw – you know almost without failure people say that’s going to be or what if that’s kind of gimmicky or flash. I mean so every walks have some skepticism. Ever time that we are out there we get somebody in it and they do it, they are like ‘Wow! You know I can see how this can really change things from a training perspective; and that’s just the tip of their ice. And the next, if anything you should talk about the aligning de-collaboration, how do you do side walk downs, how you do constructability. So it starts to – you know you start pulling the tread and there’s lots of potential for training that and virtual real experience that is at a much lower cost than doing a physical mock up or doing a physical prototype to create the experience and so everyone’s walked away and said that’s great and they – you know they get the concepts, they understand what a confined space looks like and feels like without even ever actually having gone into a confined space. So you’re doing quite a bit where you can do virtual reality and expose somebody to a safety scenario that you never want to expose them to in a physical environment, right. You can’t – you wouldn’t want to put them in a situation where they were you know not tied off on a beam or they are – you know they are exposed to confined space without having them trained. So this allows you to do that, create that experience without actually putting them in harm’s way.

David Kruse: And can you share what that training is. Its fine if you can’t for confidentiality reasons, but…

David Wilson: Well, it’s a lot just like I was talking about, so just getting familiar with scaffolding assessments and understanding what we need to look for as you lock out the scaffolding and make sure its green carded, so you can actually sort of – your making sure that folks understand where we need to be positioned if there is you know welding operations or grinding operations. If you are in a place where you need ventilation, where you put the ventilation so that you make sure that your getting adequate ventilation through this space that [inaudible] are you able to see the trash or the space and identify hazards. So it’s a lot of just hazard recognition training within different environments.

David Kruse: Got you, okay. And so that’s a really good example of a project. So I’m curious how kind of you’re processing, how will you identify that was a good idea and then how do you allocate, decide – how do you decide how to allocate resources and how much? How does that process look?

David Wilson: Yes, so we try to minimize idiocracy [ph] and so anybody in the company can send in an idea and it doesn’t have to be approved by their supervisor, it doesn’t have to be approved by their functional manager, they can send it in and it comes to myself and a small team and we just really look for a couple of things: is it disruptive? Does it – do we think it’s got an 18 month give or take time to get matured? Is it effectible to the business lines? And is it something that’s new that we’re not already working with and we take that initial branch and say, okay it looks pretty good and it passes those first hurdles and then we say, okay go develop more of a pitch or a business case and well actually business case, I do not mean a business case of ROI but just – well lets go push it out a little bit more, check out whose new space, who do we need and what are we going to do to advance it. So we release funding to take that initial concept. It doesn’t have to be very well baked and develop it. So a few hours to go put some more structure around it and then if that comes back and it looks promising and you know we think there is something we can go partner with or someone we can go partner with or a technology we can potentially go in for it, we go figure, okay, how much is that going to cost in terms of hours and dollars for services and so yeah, that looks promising. Let’s go fund it to prototype and then as that comes back we start to get more people involved with its functions or projects and then look at, okay the next phase. We think it’s going to cost you know X dollars and we’re going to go, you know we’ll go fund that. And I think to answer your question, what we look at, so we look at both of those criteria to fund and to implement. We’re also looking at – you know there’s three, kind of three horizons of innovation and this is willing to do this, this is out there and in the space, you know we’re looking at – you know there’s incremental innovation which probably puts more in terms of the process improvement whereas the sideways or your mimicry while we’re looking outside to bring in to implement and there’s disruptive. So we do get a sense, much like any and we seize to give this idea a décor. Is this an idea, a one or two times impact idea that we will pick and choose when we tell for extending the idea to equal and we find those ideas that we want to accelerate an amplify with the limited resources we have, within my team and we really try to go press on those to move faster and then a lot of other ideas kind of mature more naturally.

David Kruse: And how do you – okay, yeah that was kind of my next question and I think you kind of answered it, but yeah I was curious about do you go after certain focus areas saying hey, this year we really need to innovate around and I won’t build in an example, but – or do you just kind of have ideas that naturally arise and then pick the best ones, the ones that come to the top, those are the ones that you work on.

David Wilson: So we do have – you know the first phase of this last year we’ve kind of left it open. Going into – coming into next year we’ve started to structure a little bit more and so we know we wanted to focus on these areas, because we think you’re going to have a big impact or we’re going to prioritize ideas that come in in these spaces. So augmented reality, virtual reality, big data, so none of that I think is terribly different. We got a few others, but those are a couple of the areas that I don’t think are terribly different than a lot of folks in the industry. So I’m trying to look at how do we advance ideas and advance our experience and understanding in those spaces and we can get it into our construction and execution.

David Kruse: Got you, that makes sense. And how do you guys – I think you might, you said you have somebody who kind of looks for ideas and start ups outside of Bechtel. Is there somebody that doesn’t need to do that and yeah, how do you find kind of the innovation around the world?

David Wilson: We do have a person and you know he helps us run some stuff. He helps us run things to the ground, but really we’ve said newer innovation. You know everybody who would be looking you know don’t look just internally, look outside and if you find something that’s interesting or you know of somebody that’s doing some you know very innovative activity or studies, you let us know how to connect the dots and they go talk to that company or that professor learns some more and figure how do we get them connected with the right technical group or community within our company to then go and figure out how do we stay engaged. So where there’s a lot of and you could use the term – I’ve heard the term used internally; there are a lot of hunters and gatherers that are out there looking and then I’ve got one person that kind of helps crowd you know what’s the nature of the engagement once we go and we have identified an external point of contact.

David Kruse: And with your experience of the innovation at Bechtel, is there – kind of how do you want to – where do you want to take it or is there something that you think Bechtel could be doing better? I guess you maybe have already implemented it, but where do you kind of want to take the innovation side of things at Bechtel?

David Wilson: So we are trying to really drive – so we are ultimately, you know the ultimate criteria is how is it helping us execute better, faster, cleaner, you know more higher quality and is it safe for us. That’s kind of the lines we look at. So what a drive of future state that continually progresses that and look at ideas to help us do that, so like a big criteria, so that’s one aspect. So we are not just looking at cool things for the sake of the fact that it’s cool and its interesting. We’re trying to drive that those aspects that meets your competitiveness. At the same time we’re also trying to develop more, more of an intracranial culture and continue to foster and encourage the internal cultural innovations. So it’s both the behavior and the people at the end of the day that drives and changes in this world, but it’s also how are we moving the business and becoming more competitive and focus on what’s better, faster we hire quality and safer new metrics.

David Kruse: And how do you guys know – I mean it sounds like you’re doing some interesting things, but how do you guys know that the innovation departments doing a good job. You know it’s probably more a grey area as far as criteria to me.

David Wilson: Yeah, that’s a fantastic question. I get that quite a bit. So we’re trying to – we’re trying to do a couple of things. We’re trying to – the first year we focused on the quantity of ideas just to get the engagement and the flow of ideas up, you know really get awareness out there, you know telling folks that it’s about this volume of engagement, so you get the great idea. So that was really our message in the first year and we start to now look at and I think that some of the concepts that you look at the text books like winning start ups and some other things, you really start to look at are we now – what’s the learning quotient, what’s the learning metric. Are we innovating and are we learning and are actually institutionalizing and implementing. So we start to look at, okay we did pretty well in awareness. Now are we actually advancing ideas and what’s the speed of maturation for a concept and idea to the life cycle and how are we tracking that and how are we moving those big ideas quickly through that life cycle, such one metric around the advancement of ideas. Let alone looking at the adoption, how are they being adopted and implemented and so there’s a metric around adoption and that we’ve done our job within the innovation space. You know we’ve encouraged awareness. When we picked a few, we advanced those few or encouraged the advancements of those few ideas to move to the process with a healthy flow and if we picked the right ones, adoption should be high. So when you kind of look at that whole life cycle of metrics around speed and adoption to assess how well we are doing.

David Kruse: Well, that’s good. No, that makes sense and those are I suppose those metrics as you said will change in 10 years than they will now, but that makes sense. And I was curious, what you would have done? Would you have done anything differently I guess starting up the innovation department? You know what mistakes did you make that you are – things you would have done differently looking back?

David Wilson: Oh yeah, we’ve made a lot of – I mean there’s been a lot of learning in the process right. You know we’ve recognized a few things right. Awareness is a big deal and just something as simple as awareness of what we’re already doing and I think this is you know – it’s pretty common that you know we ask for an idea and you need to get people feedback within the same gauge. So that’s not – so we can set up a process to do that. What we probably missed in the first pass of that was making sure folks had already access to everything that’s already happening within the company, so that they didn’t submit the exact same idea or they didn’t retread something that we’ve already violated or looked at and this isn’t just with the innovation program. It’s just within the corporate landscape and what that does because we kind of missed that, as folks send in ideas we say we’re already doing that and it’s a bit of a discouraging factor for them, because you know they feel like well, that was my great idea and now I’ve engaged and you said you didn’t want it, so they shut down a little bit. So what I wish we could have done better is provide that initial landscape perspective for folks to really absorb and digest before they submitted an idea, so that they do get – they didn’t get to – they didn’t get deflated because we said, ‘hey, we are already doing that, you know thanks for sending it in,’ right. So that’s one of the things I would have done differently and would have probably adjusted. And you know the other thing that we’re working through or we’re adopting is you know the idea and the tools to crowd source. So at first we had, I’ll call it digital suggestion box practice, which is great, it works fine, but you totally miss the opportunity for ideas to climb and for – right, so we miss the chance for any ideas shaping to happen within that community or with the social and we didn’t start off with that and I wish we had waited a little bit longer to pick the right platform to deploy a crowd sourcing module. Now we have one now, so we’re doing it now, but I wish we could have done that earlier so folks could have had that environment to collaborate on the first round of ideas and so there’s a couple of things to be asked, I’d liked to do that. I would have done that differently.

David Kruse: You know crowd sourcing is interesting. You know I have interviewed a number of innovation folks and I don’t think I quite – I don’t think I remember anybody talking about the crowd sourcing. But it means a ton of sense, right, because you have one idea which may not be great but you know makes a little tweaking to work in another area that they are not even in and yeah, that’s interesting. That’s a good one.

David Wilson: And its all based on you know the effect of authorizing the crowd. The wisdom of crowds you know get into – gets into – I mean you get the best when you can tap into a diverse group of people and get their ideas and you know their suggestion to collide and aggregate it up. So I think we’ve harnessed that now, but I would have done that sooner if I had the chance.

David Kruse: Makes sense. And so we are almost out of time here unfortunately, but I got one maybe two questions. But I’m curious how, you know when you are in innovation you have to cover a lot of different areas. How do you keep learning and kind of stay on top of the cutting edge across different disciplines? Do you – what do you read or who do you talk to?

David Wilson: Yeah, I started to read anything I can get my hands on and then talking to as many folks that have done this. It is possible that we learn though this and have gone through some of the early phase of learning. So we got folks that are on the Bechtel Board of Directors that have worked for other companies that have done some things, not directly similar but similar enough that you in and talking to them, talking to the stake holders, talking to folks that have run programs of setup programs and are trying to you know leverage anything I can find so we are not recreating something or relearning something that somebody has already done. So staying connected through podcasts like this and you know reading anything I can find, whether it’s in you know wired magazine or in a better homes and garden right. So it doesn’t matter right, there is all sorts of… I mean that’s not the best example, but I think you kind of get the point right. There is so much out there, you know getting simple, you know I find I use something on my phone just to use the flip board to go to articles and trying to figure out things that stick and you know what I can use and what I can reference and you know things that summarize books so I can digest it pretty quickly like Blinkist and doing some of those things to get exposed to as much, figure out what has the most depth and then kind of go into that more detailed to figure out what we can learn from and implement.

David Kruse: Interesting. And is there any one source where like Wow! This has been really amazing. It sounds like it happen a lot, so maybe there isn’t just one.

David Wilson: Yeah and its probably you know folks, it’s about – Harvard it comes out with consistently great materials and things they just did interesting series on rubble talent where they released articles on – I think it was almost a daily or released on a multiple times in a week basis. That was a really good structure for delivering ideas and thinking that wasn’t just in innovation, but that was both innovation and culture and people. So the Harvard HPR consistently has great content. You know I look at things from Wired and Ink and Fast Company and then just general stuff through – put forth an article is about innovation and we are seeing what GE is doing, what IBM is talking about, what are these major companies that have gone through these transitions. You know what have they done, how they are doing things differently, how are they incubating, what’s their approach and just you know soak it as much up as we can and you know figure out what works and what doesn’t. How do we shape our own programs? I think it’s one of the things that I had – like the core take away is you know each company has its own DNA and its own culture, so it has to develop its own program and no two programs are going to look the same and sometimes it’s what ours looks like and we are getting better and we are learning more and we are maturing so.

David Kruse: Interesting. All right, well I think that’s a good way to end the podcast and David, definitely I appreciate your time and thoughts and you have quite an interesting role there at Bechtel. So a lot of your days must be quite interesting.

David Wilson: Never are the same.

David Kruse: Nice, yes. But yeah, I definitely appreciate it and then as always I appreciate everyone for listening to another episode of Flyover Labs and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and look forward to seeing you guys on the next one and thanks David.

David Wilson: Thank you Dave. I appreciate it.

David Kruse: All right. Bye everyone.