Champion of the second right answer

Bob Brinkmann, CE’71, credits something he calls the “second right answer” with saving his clients millions of dollars — and building his company into a $4 billion construction industry leader with a 35-state footprint.

“Engineers are left-brained problem solvers, so they look for the first right answer and move on,” says Brinkmann, founder and CEO of St. Louis-based Brinkmann Constructors. “The biggest task is getting them to look for the second right answer, which is often a better solution. They do that by moving to the right side of the brain.”

This focus on creativity is front and center at Brinkmann Constructors, where engineers participate in Monday training sessions 52 weeks a year. These discussions cover everything from site work and electrical work to inspired leadership.

“I’m not trying to teach them to be creative — I’m trying to teach them what creativity is,” says Brinkmann, who also speaks on creativity to S&T seniors in civil engineering. “It’s looking for inspiration, following your intuition, breaking the rules — and never settling for the first right answer.”

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