Lets Kill Innovation

Geoff Smith Portrait

BY Geoff Smith


Seriously. It’s such an overused buzzword now that it gets routinely ignored – most importantly by the people closest to the action who know how to improve things.

I love this story: Guy named Herb Barnes from our FM group suddenly appears in my doorway about nine months ago, salutes and says ‘Permission to talk to the boss, sir!’ (It was neither respectful nor disrespectful, Herb’s a happy guy.) ‘What I want to know’ says Herb, ‘is why we aren’t in Newfoundland? There’s lots going on there, including a $400 million hospital in Cornerbrook, resources development, St. John’s is booming, and I grew up there, so I can help. So, like, what gives?’

I gave the honest answer: ‘Beats me.’ So we walked into the Procurement VP’s office, who gave a slightly better response: ‘Good question’. The point: Within two weeks that VP and our Senior Maritimes VP were in Newfoundland scouting out projects and partners. Turns out a senior guy in Public Works there used to work for EllisDon – a great guy who left on good terms, he just wanted to go home. It took us several months, a couple of different approaches and about four bids to land our first job, a $50 million residence at Memorial University which we got by $200,000 by carrying our own formwork price even though we have no tradespeople, equipment or experience on the island.

And the ex-ED senior Public Works guy has rejoined EllisDon as our Area Manager, so now we have local, experienced leadership. And Herb was right, there is a lot of opportunity there: We are optimistic that over a few years, Newfoundland could triple our profits in the Atlantic region.

So I’m guessing that “Let’s go to Newfoundland” wouldn’t earn anyone a graduate degree in innovative studies. But it was a hell of a good idea from a determined fellow who saw that we were missing a big opportunity.

When you preach to most people about innovation, their eyes close. But they have lots of great ideas, and a fair amount of courage, which is what we need. Down with innovation, long live Herb Barnes.

Thanks for reading.