The word 'Imagine' is spray-painted on the wall of Greenhouse by Joost. Copyright Arup.

+ The creation of failsafe learning environments has enabled Arup to deliver truly innovative projects like Greenhouse by Joost, in Sydney.

The designers of our future are people who can see opportunities to create value and have the energy, skills and leadership they need to make the most of them.

They’re strategic thinkers, with a design ethic, creative impulse and the ability to clearly communicate their ideas. They work in teams and love to feed off other people’s energy, ideas and skills.

They come out of nowhere and can burst onto the scene from the most unlikely origins. They’re not the product of business schools, art classes or advertising courses. But if there’s one defining characteristic of these people, it’s their courage to fail.

At Arup, we offer creative, adventurous, client-focused people opportunities to test themselves and their ideas through learning-in-action in project, practice and research contexts. You might call this failsafe learning – the consequences of failure are tightly managed but the risk of failure is real and the success at stake is meaningful.

This is vital because it’s often the experience of a failure that holds the essence of future breakthroughs. As GE chief marketing officer Beth Comstock argues, we should make heroes of our failures and allow the power of passion and storytelling to sweep away the cobwebs of bureaucracy.

Making failsafe learning work

I work in Arup’s management consulting team. Here, as elsewhere across the firm, we create failsafe learning environments with collaborators from the academic, design and creative worlds. Together, we can employ the elements required for failsafe learning opportunities in cooperative research centres, industry partnerships, or open innovation platforms like The New Agenda.

The fruits of these learning experiences can be seen in Arup projects and collaborations around the world. They include HaloIPT, a company developing wireless charging for electric vehicles, Brisbane’s unique Kurilpa Bridge, and Greenhouse by Joost, the amazing pop-up restaurant we helped create on Sydney’s foreshores.

I believe that failsafe learning can have a profound economic, sustainability and social impact on the world. What do you think?