I am a fan of TED Talks. I frequently find them inspiring, informative, and interesting. Last week, I watched a TED Talk by one of my Vanderbilt classmates – Krista Donaldson. Krista is the CEO of D-Rev: Design Revolution, a non-profit product development company improving health outcomes for people worldwide, including people living on less than $4 per day.
Krista Donaldson’s talk inspired me for several reasons: solutions still exist for basic problems, small things really count, innovation is not limited to bells and whistles, and most of all, doing good in the world is a successful approach to engineering! A longtime proponent of making the world a better place myself, I have to admit, I occasionally fall into logistics angst – I want to get right to the answer and solve the problem at hand, right now. Today! If the D-Rev team did that, they would actually accomplish less.
So, how can a transportation engineer do good too? These are a few of my ideas:
-Scrutinize project characteristics for end users – have designated locations for traffic signs, fire hydrants, light fixtures and street furniture in the sidewalk created an obstacle course for pedestrians? If so, can we reorganize these essential elements so they perform their jobs without hampering mobility?
-Help decision-makers fully understand the transportation topics they are making decisions about – understanding action matters, but so does understanding inaction.
-Participate in the future of transportation engineering – the National Academies is looking for volunteers right now. As a new participant in this area, I have to say, “Wow!” The people I have met are transforming the practice of transportation engineering. They are setting a course for the future by donating their expertise and extending an American tradition of community service by scientists that dates back to the Civil War.
-Work with others to simplify logistics – the more we get out of our own way, the more we can focus on what matters most.
-Build a capable work force – be a mentor! Who knows, the young engineer down the hall might just be the next Krista Donaldson!
Have a rigorous 2014, keep innovating, and fight against logistics angst. Here’s a link to Krista Donaldson’s TED Talk.