New York — Jaros, Baum & Bolles (JB&B) unveiled Aurora, an in-house think tank and laboratory for new ideas and approaches in engineering design. Aurora aims to foster the creative spark in JB&B employees and establish a new paradigm for innovation and collaboration both in the engineering industry and the firm’s culture.

Aurora is the brainchild of Associate Partner Chris Colasanti, who, prompted by his experience of mentoring young engineers — and inspired by his reading of the Antoine de Saint-Exupéry classic The Little Prince and its celebration of creative freedom — saw the opening for an initiative that would instill the free-ranging creativity of childhood into the more structured thought processes of engineering. In short: a playground where the left brain can play with the right.

As Colasanti puts it, “We want to create the time and space to set aside the regimented processes by which the world operates and reach back into the spirit of self-exploration and inquisitive creativity that got us interested in engineering in the first place.”

Launched in April 2018, Aurora has already had a firm-wide impact, encouraging employees to expand their focus beyond the immediate deliverables of their day-to-day projects, to tap into their own experience as engineers and apply it to industry-wide issues — and to engineering itself. Proposals are submitted outlining the purpose of the project, desired outcome, schedule, budget and team (though individuals may apply as well).

Each project is overseen by a member of the Aurora committee — notably, by someone not in the same discipline so they can ask informed questions but from an outsider’s point of view. To date, around 10 submissions have been approved for a wide range of projects, from new ways of cooling water to more efficient means of time management. The hope is that the outside-of-the-box projects will someday be industry standard, that the intuitive will lead to the institutional, that the creative impulse unleashed by Aurora will ultimately revolutionize the industry.

A new — and renewed — dynamic

Though Aurora isn’t so much a revolution as a renaissance. It’s often forgotten that Leonardo da Vinci, the quintessential Renaissance Man, while famous as an artist, was also an engineer, one whose greatest ideas lacked only the technology to fulfill them. Aurora aims to kick off its own renaissance with a generation of engineers gifted with the creative drive to reimagine the world and the artistry to change the face of the industry.