5 Ways to Be More Innovative

July 10, 2023

With 37 patents to his name, Curt G. has a lot to show for his 25-year career. Curt’s engineering innovations have made an impact on products such as the 988G wheel loader, the ACERT engine and dozens of remanufacturing parts and processes. 

“Some of my fondest memories are the ones connected to work that really helped Caterpillar and our customers,” Curt shared. “A lot of it is tied to sustainability. Today I can look back and tie back to the value for the company, customers and the planet.”

Throughout his career, Curt has seen the impact of innovative thinking in every field of work. Here’s what he had to say about how anyone can accelerate personal innovation.

Idea #1: Jump in and learn.

Spend as much time as possible dedicated to diving deep into a topic. That action can pay great dividends later because you’ll understand your product backward and forward.

Curt shared, “I started right out of college in the machine engine group. During my five years there, I worked on a few New Product Introduction (or NPI) programs, including the 988G wheel loader. That machine was completely new from the ground up. It was my first role and I only had 2 weeks with my predecessor. I had to work hard but that was good because it gave me a sense of needing to dig into details, learn and absorb everything I can.”

Idea #2: Know how things work.

Understand what’s happening or what’s causing things as well as the function of a part or product in your work. If you understand how things are working – you can change them and know what those changes are going to do. Understanding the detail will lead to great things.

According to Curt, “I like to get into the details of how things work, and that kind of mentality pays off. You can’t innovate something if you don’t really know how it works. Most of the time innovation comes from a small team that really understands the product and what it needs to do. That deep understanding leads to innovations.”

Curt receiving award for patents

Idea #3: Know the power of the team.

You can be innovative by yourself, but the best thing you can do is find a group of people working towards the same goal. It really works then.

Curt shared, “Of my 37 patents, the majority have been group efforts. This speaks to the power of the team.” He continued, “Getting recognized for the innovation – recognition of the effort, hard work and time that went into it. It’s with a team, so it’s always been a team recognition. It (the plaque) gives you something tangible to look at and reflect on. The U.S. government has it on file – you can look it up for years and years to come.”

Idea #4: Experience builds upon itself.

Take on a job role where you work on new stuff. That will allow you new opportunities to expand what you know and apply what you’ve already learned.

As Curt shared, “Today, I can see one great design in one product and apply it to a new project. Your experience builds upon itself. You make the necessary connections. There have been gadgets you look at and by asking how it works, you store that information and can apply that knowledge to what you’re doing. I love to know how stuff works and it drives my family crazy – I’m horrible to watch a movie with because I will say it doesn’t work like that.”  

Idea #5: Find a mentor who pushes you.

Good mentors will push you, stand up for you and pull you up.

Curt said, “A good mentor will challenge you to do more. They see the value in people and know that if you invest in a person first, then you’ll get a return.”

A Legacy of Innovation

At Caterpillar, we have a proud history of innovation – from pioneering the first commercially successful track-type tractor to 50 years of leading-edge remanufacturing. What’s at the heart of our innovation? Our expert engineers. “All it takes is a quick walk through any of our Cat Reman facilities to see how innovation is a critical part of the culture, our business, and how we enable our customer’s success," said Jeff S., Remanufacturing Product Manager. "I can’t think of anyone who embodies that culture more than Curt…his ideas and contributions are present in literally every facility we have worldwide.”