Exploring Cutting-Edge Innovation in Engineering

Innovation in EngineeringIn this episode, I talk with John Guilfoyle, Chief of Technology and Innovation at Stanley Consultants, about his career journey and the establishment of Stanley’s innovation program. He explains how the program operates, involving various stakeholders and addressing internal and external challenges. John also highlights the role of AI in the program and shares advice for engineers looking to drive innovation in engineering.

Engineering Quotes:

Innovation in EngineeringInnovation in Engineering

Innovation in EngineeringInnovation in Engineering

Here Are Some of the Questions I Ask John:

  • Why did Stanley establish the innovation program, and how does it align with the company’s broader goals?
  • Could you guide us through the operations of the innovation program and highlight the specific problems it aims to address?
  • How does Stanley promote collaboration in its innovation program, giving credit to junior members and involving others?
  • How does Stanley measure the success of its innovation program?
  • Do you have concrete data supporting whether this was a success, needs further improvement, or any other conclusive insights?
  • How does AI integrate into Stanley’s innovation program, and are there any specific AI projects or initiatives you’d like to highlight?
  • What major challenges have you encountered in managing the program, and what insights have you gained from overcoming them?
  • What advice would you offer to engineers aiming to lead innovation in their respective fields?

Here Are Some Key Points Discussed in This Episode About Exploring Cutting-Edge Innovation in Engineering:

  • Stanley, with 900-1,000 employees, is adapting to economic changes by ditching direct competition with bigger firms. Led by the CEO, they’re all about disruption and collaboration, pooling the best ideas across projects. The key is their innovation program, evident in a solid three-year deal for a tech platform. They’re committed to a comprehensive, cradle-to-grave approach across various sectors.
  • Stanley is all about innovation in engineering, aiming to improve internal processes, staff satisfaction, and project efficiency. They’re tackling challenges from small tweaks to global issues like public health. Their tiered approach involves internal collaboration through challenges and external co-creation with partners. At the top level, open innovation engages a vast network of experts for groundbreaking solutions. It’s a comprehensive strategy to drive innovation across the board.
  • Stanley is breaking down hierarchies in engineering by promoting diverse voices through their Innovate @ Stanley program. With dedicated sponsors, they turn ideas into action, avoiding duplication and aligning with business goals. They extend innovation beyond internal staff, involving retirees and external partners for collaborative problem-solving. It’s a powerful approach, uniting diverse perspectives within and beyond the organization.
  • In its two-year run, Stanley’s innovation program prioritizes impactful metrics. Internally, they measure efficiency gains, like the finance team saving a thousand hours annually. Externally, the focus is on project efficiency, utilizing innovations like AI to reduce task hours. Introducing new services is directly tied to revenue, demonstrating financial success. The metrics approach is tailored to specific concerns and objectives within the company.
  • Stanley openly acknowledges challenges in their innovation program, with some initiatives providing clear results, while measuring engagement improvement, especially with the young professional group, proving more complex. Despite not having perfect metrics for every aspect, they are dedicated to continuous improvement, aiming for measurable success where feasible.
  • In the third year of their innovation program, the company takes pride in learning from challenges. They emphasize continuous improvement, recently updating metrics to fit evolving needs. Innovation is a core part of their strategy, showing a commitment to adapt and get better over time.
  • In 2019, Stanley’s CEO identified a talent shortage in the industry, prompting a challenge to reimagine work delivery with fewer people. The solution involved adopting technology, from robotic automation to ChatGPT for business development. They foresee transformative impacts, not just in text but also in multimodal capabilities like images and videos. Already partnering on water and energy projects, Stanley is committed to leveraging AI for productivity and quality improvements in engineering tasks.
  • Stanley’s innovation program keeps them ahead in a changing industry, aiding clients with funding and infrastructure challenges. Focused on exploring a complex market, they collaborate with partners to stay updated. Next, they plan AI-centric challenges to harness the creative ideas of junior engineers, aiming for efficiency improvements, particularly in tasks like plotting work.
  • In the AEC industry, Stanley faces the challenge of expanding innovation beyond internal expertise. To overcome skepticism, they embrace open innovation networks, securing executive support and funding. Highlighting the importance of diverse ideas amid dynamic factors like climate change, they prioritize transparent communication to navigate the engineering culture.
  • At Stanley, the main goal is to solve infrastructure challenges collaboratively within the client supply chain. By bringing together expertise from various businesses, especially in program management, they aim to benefit clients and the broader community. John stresses the commitment to improving the built world and underscores the importance of executive support, funding, and ownership for a successful innovation program based on their experience in revitalizing a dormant program at Stanley.
  • Engaging in open innovation in engineering challenges and utilizing diverse problem-solving networks is vital for engineers. The PFAS challenge, leveraging AI and tech, highlights the synergy between human skills and emerging technologies. It emphasizes that these tools enhance, not replace, human expertise.
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More Details in This Episode…

About the Guest: John Guilfoyle

Stanley ConsultantsStanley ConsultantsJohn Guilfoyle joined Stanley Consultants in 2019, where he currently serves as the company’s Chief of Technology and Innovation. Before joining Stanley, John consulted in the AEC space for more than 15 years, where he helped utilities, municipalities, private sector companies, and government agencies improve their strategies, processes, systems, staff engagement, and stakeholder management. He has expertise in selecting, deploying, and improving business, operations, and program management systems, launching and sustaining asset management and capital improvement programs, and setting up strategic, data-driven decision support tools that focus on providing transparent, defensible results.

At Stanley, he has focused on making next-generation improvements to the company’s core IT stack, has built an analytics team, and launched the company’s first formal innovation program, Innovate @ Stanley.

About the Host: Nick Heim, P.E.

structurecarestructurecareNick Heim, P.E., is a civil engineer with six years of experience in the repair and restoration of existing structures, and host of the AEC Engineering and Technology Podcast (“AECTECH”), where he brings valuable insights and expertise to listeners worldwide.

Nick’s interests lie at the intersection between the built world and technology, and he can be found looking for the ever-changing answer to the question, “How can we do this better?” Nick can be found on LinkedIn, producing content about the use of technologies in his civil engineering career and small business.


PFAS challenge
Connect with John Guilfoyle on LinkedIn

This Episode Is Brought to You by Stanley Consultants

Stanley ConsultantsStanley ConsultantsImproving Lives Since 1913. Stanley Consultants has been helping clients solve essential and complex energy and infrastructure challenges for over 110 years, successfully completing more than 50,000 engagements in 120 countries and all 50 states and U.S. territories. Values-based and purpose-driven, Stanley is an employee-owned company of engineers, scientists, technologists, innovators, and client-service experts who are recognized for their commitment and passion to making a difference. For more information on Stanley Consultants, please visit

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To your success,

Nick Heim, P.E.
Host of the AEC Engineering and Technology Podcast

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