Solver Uses a Lifetime of Learning to Tackle Challenges in Different Areas
Interview with IdeaConnection problem solver Girish Malhotra
By Paul Arnold
Girish Malhotra calls himself a disruptor. In his own words he is not afraid to challenge and has challenged a lot of thinking. “If we do not think differently we are not going to innovate,” he says.
“I have been fortunate to work with people who prompted me to think out of the box and that is what I still do."
His long and varied career has found him in numerous positions in chemical manufacturing, technology development and operations fields. Currently, he is the president of EPCOT International which he also founded. Girish is also a published author and has his own blog, Profitability through Simplicity. In this interview he talks about his several years of experience working on IdeaConnection R&D challenges.
What is your motivation for taking part?
Money. But also trying to solve people’s problems and the technology issues they have. Those are the driving factors.
What type of subject matter challenges have you been involved with?
They have been in different areas, but the general concept of these things is that they’re all chemical based, although chemicals is a broad spectrum.
Do you participate in challenges related to your expertise or that are outside your field?
If you look at my experiences, you will see that they are so varied. I can take what I have learned in my lifetime from one area and easily apply it to many other areas. Also, I’m constantly brushing up on technologies, and I get involved with anything that intrigues me. So all of this has helped me a lot, to let’s say, cross-pollinate. Those are the best words I can use to explain how my background has helped me to solve problems.
Do you enjoy the dynamics with your fellow team members?
It is very interesting. Even though I can’t see the other people who are working on the same challenge as me, their personalities show up. They have their own methodologies and many have been around the block for a long time and so they are set in their ways of doing things. That not only makes it interesting, but also challenging as well to communicate with them.
Are you one of those who are set in their ways or are you still open to new approaches?
I am very open new things. Basically, I am always refreshing my knowledge in the various areas that I work in. Even my grandchildren teach me all the time. It is very fascinating for me to see how seven and eight year-olds are thinking. Sometimes I say: “my gosh why didn’t I think of that?”
And you are still learning new things in the challenges as well?
Always. The learning never ends, at least for me.
Can you pick out one particular learning experience?
During one of the projects, there was a person on our team who we thought might not be able to provide any ideas. However, this person asked a lot of questions that made us think differently. I believe we came up with a better solution because the person was asking questions that lead us to a different area. We were all familiar with the subject matter, but had not thought to explore the particular area that the questions led us to. This was really interesting for us.
I feel that being on a team is very beneficial to all involved. I have dealt with people who have 20 years of experience, some who five years of experience and others with less than that. It is a give and take. You can learn from the maturity of others or you can share your experiences, and hopefully some of these youngsters will learn something from the old fogies.
What are the most enjoyable aspects of the challenges?
The different personalities, the experiences and the conversations. Then there is the camaraderie, which is incredible.