Turning a Free Lunch Into Food for Thought

by Christopher Scholes.

“Free food’? I’ll be there.” This was the hook that kicked off the Lunch and Learn programme at Orion. Whilst it’s an obvious strategy to generate interest, over the last 6 months that the Lunch and Learns have been aggressively in action, they have become a weekly highlight giving birth to some great ideas!

Engineers love to learn

As engineers, we are the doctors of steel, concrete, water and dirt. Developing new skills, challenging ideas and getting across the latest thinking from our research institutions (and making them practically relevant for our clients) is in our DNA. We are the champions of our own growth. That’s good and bad. Without regular forums for sharing, the expansion of knowledge and skills is patchy or non-existent. That’s where our Lunch and Learns are helping.

Creating a regular knowledge-sharing forum is key to growth

In just a few months, we have explored multiple topics hosted by our in-house designers, drafters, project managers and construction superintendents. We’ve discussed new automated-drafting methods, hydrologic modelling software alternatives and lessons learnt on critical path construction issues. We’ve pondered opportunities to streamline council approval processes, how to develop better internal methods for resource allocation and how to keep clients better-informed about project progress.

Share – then test

The emphasis is on sharing and then discussing issues, strengths, weaknesses and alternatives. Most of all, we are focused on practical application. How can this help our clients? How can we improve our own performance?

One hour, once a week over a pizza (and sometimes even a salad!). This simple formula has created a focus for sharing and development. In the past, we were probably guilty of learning individually but in isolation. Individuals would build personal libraries of ideas, resources and hacks, but they were rarely shared or examined.

More brain power equals better results

Lunch and Learn means if someone hears about an important new standard, discovers a piece of killer software or experiences practical problems  – we ALL get to know and fast!  Our simple weekly catch-up is helping to turn active collaboration from a nice idea into a business reality.  Already we are noticing greater consistency across business units, the ability to better-anticipate project challenges and respond proactively. Finally, the process of bringing together people from all parts of our business is great for the Orion culture.

Something for you?

What started out as a free lunch at Orion has turned into a fantastic focal point for the sharing and development of ideas. Whilst engineers, we are still human – and it’s great to get together over a meal to connect, challenge and grow – individually and collectively.

We are loving the journey. If you don’t have anything like this in your world, I’d strongly recommend it. All it takes to get started is the click bait …… FREE LUNCH!

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