We’ve all seen “Back to the Future,” where Marty McFly travels through time in a DeLorean DMC-12, a time machine made by his friend, scientist Dr. Emmett L. Brown – “Doc Brown” for short.
Even if they are science fiction, that movie and many others let us see how important it is to understand where things are headed and the impact our actions can have on the future. What CEO wouldn’t want a DeLorean like that to make the best decisions they can?
According to Einstein, traveling into the future is possible (Don’t believe me? Ask him yourself, I just work here). Here at Ferrovial, we’re sci-fi fans, and we have our own way of seeing the future through it, just like Doc Brown.
Okay, so we don’t have a cool car. But we have had a research agreement with the best tech university in the world – MIT – for over ten years. We do foresight exercises, and we’re watching the most disruptive startups quite closely. This is a pretty good approach for “seeing the future,” or at least understanding potential trends and technologies.
We don’t work with Doc Brown, but we do work with many leading experts from MIT, including Prof. Sanjay Sarma, Prof. Moshe Ben-Akiva, Prof. John Hansman, and Prof. Markus Buehler, as well as many other brilliant minds. Together, we’re working on our own “flux capacitors” that enable us to see where the future may be headed. For an infrastructure company, this is highly important.
Not only does this relate to the financial benefit of new business models, proofs of concept, or operational efficiencies achieved by collaborating with scientists. Rather, the new knowledge generated through rigorous application of the scientific method leads companies like Ferrovial to make the best decisions. That’s how you make money!
And it’s not just the money. Making the best decisions entails improving our planet in addition to profits. Everything is and must be compatible.
This luxury of outside advice that comes from working with scientists means that decisions are not only made by looking at a spreadsheet on financial returns and impacts. It also means that decisions are made with the most important factors in mind: the impact on our planet, the benefit for our society, and our purpose as a brand.
We can affect society immediately by publishing our results, which is one of universities’ goals. This is also a good example of our companies’ commitment to the regions where they operate and, thus, to the entire planet.
Cooking with love and the Harvard dish
So why aren’t more companies out there working with academia? What is there to lose? It offers financial, environmental, and social benefits. Here, my friend, is where the immediacy of results comes into play. Working with researchers takes time! The minimum is one year of research, while the average is around two. Some CEOs won’t wait that long.
We can find a good analogy for results and time in the kitchen. What do you prefer, a hearty stew fresh from the slow cooker or microwaved Beanie Weenies? You can live on Beanie Weenies, but for how long? At what cost?
To flesh out this analogy, working with academia not only offers a new recipe for homemade stew. It also tells you what local foods to use and in what proportions according to the “Harvard Plate.” That way, it’s healthy for restaurant patrons. This method also ensures that you’ll have future demand from customers who want stew and maybe even croquettes or Cuban-style shredded beef for dinner – and that you’ll be able to meet that demand.
Three steps to making your business profit from science
You might find yourself wondering how mature your own company is in terms of science. The good news is that if your business isn’t involved in research, you still have time to change course. Here are three steps we recommend:
- Awareness: The first step is to be aware of each company’s scientific capacities. Knowing that your company does not have them is a big first step! If you do, any time is a good time to evaluate the type of collaboration, or even expanding into other fields or consolidating existing collaboration agreements.
- Communication and commitment: The second step is more fun – and the most critical. It is all about conveying and facilitating the relevant concerns to employees so that they can enjoy continual knowledge and learning. There’s the two-pronged goal of opening minds and considering new possibilities. How? Continuing education plans are a good idea. These shouldn’t only be for acquiring standard job skills like language learning, Office proficiency, negotiation skills, or Agile It is about acquiring knowledge while enjoying the process. Sites like YouTube are quite powerful in this regard, but many corporate tools are also helpful: Capaball, Linkedin Learning, and many more. A fun, powerful, effective way to take on these scientific questions is to follow educational YouTubers specializing in science. Spanish channels we recommend are “El Robot de Platón,” “Quautumfracture,” and “Date un Vlog, ” and “Physics Girl” and “ Up and Atom ” are great English channels. When workers are open to continual learning, they automatically become more open, employable, courageous, and self-confident as professionals. This is ideal for the entire staff. Starting with key positions – and managers, of course – is a good way to get the ball rolling.
- Connection and cooperation: use your favorite search engine to look for a university or research center and schedule a one- hour video call to meet them and chat for a bit. Like Doc Brown, some scientists are oddballs with bizarre hairstyles, but most of them are quite friendly and committed to society. They will generally be happy to work with you on researching a useful challenge for companies and, thus, for society. You just have to find a “win-win” situation for everyone and have mutual empathy, which is the basis of any successful collaboration.
Try it out! Fear of failure is the greatest enemy of any company that believes itself to be innovative. Dispel those fears, open your mind, and think about what you prefer to eat. Haute cuisine, or Beanie Weenies?