Bold, creative thinking gets results

Bold, creative thinking gets results

The best is, by definition, different from all the rest. So, you have to be different to be the best.

We embrace that idea at EnSite. So does engineering student Tinashe Chipako, who took home the top prize in a recent contest for emerging engineers in South Africa. His research exploring the use of urine as fertilizer and waterless urinals to offset drought embodies the spark of ingenuity and the willingness to look past the obvious. He found that seven tons of fertilizer could be made from urine collected on his school’s campus each year, far exceeding the four tons of fertilizer the school buys. That represents a potential savings of thousands of dollars.

Stanford engineering professor Tina Seelig encourages others to take similar roads less traveled in her 2015 book, “Insight Out: Get Ideas Out of Your Head And Into the World.” She points to Cirque de Soleil and Southwest Airlines as examples of companies that took well-known but often maligned frameworks — the circus and commercial air transportation — and put their own, successful spins on them by reimagining what they are. No elephants in the circus? Everyone can just sit in whatever seat they want on an airplane? Exactly.

The Danish engineering firm COWI came up with an unusual solution to the challenge of building a bridge over the strait between Denmark and Sweden: Stop the bridge right in the middle. If it were a full bridge, it would either be too low to let ships to cross underneath or too high to allow air traffic from the nearby Copenhagen Airport pass overhead. So the engineers made part of it a bridge and the other part a tunnel, with a manmade island to connect them.

Maybe a similar solution exists to the problems facing Southwest Florida. Perhaps there’s a way to deal with agricultural runoff around Lake Okeechobee in a way that won’t pollute the Caloosahatchee River and doesn’t threaten farming jobs around the lake. Maybe the solution to our traffic problems isn’t bigger highways with more lanes.

The solutions won’t always be conventional. Neither should our approach to finding them.

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