Paul Kallee Grover
So much more than a logo and a colour palette, a brand is actually the culmination of everything that an organisation says and does – a set of tangible and intangible values a consumer buys into when engaging with a product or service. In this episode of our blog we speak to Paul Kallee Grover about how the Arup brand has been built through nurturing an innovative and truly diverse culture from the outset, and how this brand is the driving force behind their incredible work around the world.
Sara: Sir Ove Arup is described as an engineer
and a philosopher, but he was also a real visionary.
How much do his original values and philosophy
inform the business today?
Paul: Sir Ove’s philosophy was key and also making sure that the philosophy continued as our business grew. One thing that’s been critical in this is Sir Ove’s Key Speech which every employee reads. The terminology has evolved over the years, but we have retained the essence and it comes down to being ethical and collaborative in everything we do. Whilst the Arup logo is visibly present in all offices, fundamentally it is the Key Speech that drives our brand.
Sir Ove Arup’s Key Speech
Sara: So it’s pure culture that drives the brand?
Paul: It’s embedded culture and bringing new people into the business who are aware of the culture but also understand that they can add to it. As more people come in we have more challenges, more ideas, and more opportunities. The brand is all about challenging norms and projects such as London Zoo’s Penguin Enclosure, or the classic Sydney Opera House came from taking things we already did but presenting them back in a different way.
Sara: So, it’s a hugely collaborative culture?
Paul: It has to be. We work across the whole of the built environment and we are still only 14,000 or so people so we have to collaborate. And we don’t just collaborate with architects or engineers, but we also work with communities. We’ve recently partnered with Lego working with children under 5 to understand what they think a future city looks like. We’re doing similar pieces of work with Help the Aged to understand the environment from a dementia vantage. If you make the environment work for people who find it more challenging, whether they are young or old, then it improves for everyone. But it’s always about balance and that is why collaboration is essential. Collaboration can completely change the narrative.
Sara: How diverse are the collaborations?
How do you make sure you’re getting enough
diversity to change those patterns?
Paul: One of the challenges is that we do need real diversity in our collaborations. Within Arup we aren’t a single voice or a single entity but still when working within the community if we identify that there’s a key gap, we look to fill it. It’s not about producing a team which 100% reflects the community we’re working in, but we do need an awareness of that community to understand their drivers and bring everybody together and forward towards the same aim.
Sara: It’s a tricky balance though isn’t it,
when there’s a certain level of knowledge,
education and experience required
for any task in hand.
Paul: It is, and the roles we have require a certain educational attainment and that drives a certain background into the organisation. One of the things we’re doing to address this is bringing in apprentices from different areas and backgrounds, with different ways of thinking. There is definitely a strong awareness that the organisation needs to reflect the different voices in our communities.
Sara: You’re also working a lot with schools…
Paul: All of our offices work within our local communities in schools. A university education teaches you to produce a balanced opinion, whereas what we’re trying to instil is not to provide a balanced response but an answer to the question. We do a lot of debating workshops where you can be given a topic which you’re personally opposed to and have to argue in its favour – be able to argue coherently, listen and respond. Working with Salford University we’ve been bringing schools from completely different socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds across the north west together to debate, and it was great to see how different genders, ethnicities and age demographics are debating some very challenging topics.
We can’t innovate in a world where people think the same, and so within Arup different thinking, and forming and voicing opinions is actively encouraged.
Sara: And that’s not altruism is it?
Paul: There’s more and more evidence of its importance – from research coming out of Harvard, from the fact that MI6 actively seek out people with autism, and that Microsoft have a special division of people with Asperger’s specifically recruited for their different way of thinking and their ability to process data quickly, in a slightly different way. There is empirical evidence to say that if a business can innovate and move forward it will be successful. So how do we innovate and move forward? We find people who think differently and generate new ideas.