‘Arup is different’. This is a phrase that I use frequently within the firm and with our clients.

The idea of Arup being different goes right back to the founding principles of the firm and echoes throughout Sir Ove Arup’s Key Speech. Yet while we actively encourage and celebrate that ‘difference’, it is also worth thinking very clearly about how we adapt and nurture the concept of ‘difference’ for the future.

This is important, because the marketplace is changing rapidly around us. Contractors are buying consultants and there seem to be more mergers and acquisitions that ever before. At the same time, the economies of India, China and other rapidly developing nations are going to provide both opportunities and challenges for us over the next few years and decades.

I believe that in the future we will see much more partnering – both between different parts of Arup, and with other organisations. We are much better at this than we used to be, but we can develop more long-term preferred relationships that leverage our collaborative strengths.

This happens to suit us because we are good at sharing – it is very much part of the Arup culture. However, there are risks here too. One is that in adapting rapidly to this new world, we lose the qualities that make us truly different. The other is that simply saying we’re ‘different’ can provide cover for excusing complacency or indulgence. I don’t think either risk is particularly likely, but we must remain constantly on our guard.

Preserving the Arup difference is vital to our future. It means continuing to create the space we need to target quality and put innovation first. It also means giving Arup staff the space to come up with meaningful ideas and explore innovative concepts – but doing so in a way that involves taking managed risks.

Our projects stand among the very best in the world. We are a great company doing great things. Yet like most Arup staff, I also believe we can do better. That is why we have a robust group strategy in place alongside a continuous improvement plan.

However, the most important thing our people can do to secure a healthy future for Arup is to stay different.

Philip Dilley, Chairman of the Group Board, Arup

PS

I hope to add more ‘Thoughts’ in due course. There are a whole host of issues I could pick up, but if anyone has any particular suggestions for a topic they’d like me to focus on, feel free to let me know in the comments section below.