The importance of a creative mindset in engineering By Naga Abhinav Sujal K


Introduction and Importance:

The contemporary world is getting closer to an imagination becoming a reality. There is a constant need to foster the ideas that form from a deep design process and have the facility to bring life to those ideas. It is often misguided that, we have to only approach solutions or research on topics that have relevance of an existing domain or has a reference to verify from the conventional breakthroughs.

From the impact of fossil fuels to food and medical shortages, engineers are going to be integral to providing solutions across numerous industries. Nurturing an engineering mindset which emphasizes the importance of a creative imagination should be a key priority for engineers of the future (An Engineer's Mindset: Creativity In Engineering, 2021).

Once engineers fall in the loop of restricting themselves with respect to creative trials, then it will lead to a great impact on the future advancements in the field of science and technology.


(An Engineer's Mindset: Creativity In Engineering, 2021)

There is no rule that states that engineers who are working in a specific field should only relate and identify topics within that field. Engineering as a whole relies on collaboration between various different engineering skill-sets, and to create an end product, it is essential that engineers from these disciplines work together and apply their knowledge to ensure that the product meets sometimes vigorous requirements (Why is it important for engineers to have a good imagination?, 2021). By this every engineer from different discipline can work together, discuss ideas and reflect their thinking through a creative mindset.


History and how it shaped the principle of ‘Creativity’:

The greatest scientific discoveries in the history of civilization, have a great set of engineers behind the workshop. These breakthroughs were achieved, when the engineers broke their boundaries of parameters and expanded their creative thinking. From the invention of a telephone to that of an automobile, every invention has brought us a step closer into the realm of evolution. Here are just a few examples of creativity in modern engineering:


Bullet trains: Japan’s high-speed bullet train, or Shinkansen, is earthquake proof and the maximum operating speed is 200 miles per hour, an idea that once would have been implausible. To exist, it required someone to imagine a new possibility not yet invented and even drew inspiration on the composition of a kingfisher bird to reduce the noise it created.

Bagless vacuum cleaners. It may seem normal now, but it was only in 1991 that James Dyson began to investigate the standard vacuum cleaner and look for a new solution that would prevent the bags getting clogged and causing the machine to lose suction. Dyson created a brand new solution that hadn’t yet been thought of.




Traditional approaches to problem-solving can distort design teams’ views of problems. The most innovative solutions, both in product design and service design, usually come from designers who dared to step off the path of linear thinking to ask “Why?” Design problems are usually complex, with many hard-to-see factors at play between users, the diverse realities they face and solutions they would find most effective, helpful and desirable. To follow a vertical, linear train of thought when addressing these would likely soon cause some big obstacles. With outside-the-box thinking, you can challenge assumptions that would otherwise constrain you, therefore freeing you to sidestep the dangers of meeting a design problem head-on (Outside the Box Thinking).


Is there a way to get a head start in this path of introducing creativity in engineering? :

The answer is a yes. There are numerous paths to start the habit of including a creative approach while considering an engineering design idea. One of them is discussed below.

Creativity in science and engineering has moral significance and deserves attention within professional ethics, in at least three areas. First, much scientific and technological creativity constitutes moral creativity because it generates moral benefits, is motivated by moral concern, and manifests virtues such as beneficence, courage, and perseverance. Second, creativity contributes to the meaning that scientists and engineers derive from their work, thereby connecting with virtues such as authenticity and also faults arising from Faustian trade-offs. Third, morally creative leadership is important at all levels of science and engineering (Ph.D, 2006).

It is very evident that every new product has a team of engineers behind it, creating, researching and designing services that impact the physical world. In order to successfully solve problems, engineers must be creative. An inventive mindset is essential for them to design new products and services or improve upon those that have already been created. Engineers need to constantly innovate in order to continue to drive economic and societal successes (Why is it important for engineers to have a good imagination?, 2021).


Essentially, you want to reframe the problem and:

1. Understand what’s constraining you and why.

2. Find new strategies to solutions and places/angles to start exploring.

3. Find the apparent edges of your design space and push beyond them – to reveal the bigger picture.


Of the various methods you can use, a chief one is provocations, where you make deliberately false statements about an aspect of the problem/situation. This could be to question the norms through contradiction, distortion, reversal (i.e., of assumptions), wishful thinking or escapism (Why is it important for engineers to have a good imagination?, 2021).


Design thinking is ideal for outside-the-box thinking, especially since its fluidity as a process lets you iteratively research, ideate, prototype and more as you fine-tune your way to the best solution. Ultimately, you should be able to investigate your problem—including factors affecting it—and harvest insights from its many dimensions by brainstorming or other means. From there, you use convergent thinking to zero in on the best solutions (Why is it important for engineers to have a good imagination?, 2021).



What to do if we are stuck in the thinking box while trying to achieve a creative mindset during your learning curve of engineering (Knutson, 2013)?

It is a great achievement if you’re creative with a bent for operating out of the lines. But it’s stressful, when we’re stuck in a creative halt. What actually constitutes “thinking outside the box”?

The box is what you’ve learned: processes, methodologies, and scripts. Thinking beyond the box means using these elements as a foundation, then going beyond to create something new. You simply need to use what you know to create something new. That’s getting outside the box.

· Brainstorming: If creativity is all that “thinking outside the box” really is, then you can jump-start it by brainstorming. This is a tool that most of us have used at one time or another to generate multiple associations to a central theme. It’s effective if you need a process for generating ideas. I use it on everything from topics for these blog posts to determining strategies for infrastructure asset management.

· Inspiration: Outside the box thinkers are thought to be highly inspired. Inspiration that comes from knowledge of many things, then from being able to see patterns between what’s known. Inspiration comes from many directions, but it only comes to those who are constantly learning, expanding what they know, and remaining connected to their surroundings.

The best means to getting yourself outside the box in your thinking is through problem solving and decisions. The more problem solving you do in your life, the more complex the decision, the greater the opportunity to develop the processes you need in place to be an out-of-the-box thinker.




Conclusion:

We can postulate that in the present world, ‘engineering’ is the backbone of development towards the future. Hence, there is a huge responsibility on engineers to envision design ideas with great precision and accuracy to the real world applications. Along with the design constraints in place, every engineer should also inculcate the concept of developing a ‘creative mindset’ while designing an idea or approaching a solution for a given problem statement. This will not only bring a surreal outlook of knowledge, but will also guide the future engineers and learners to an ocean of possibilities and opportunities of learning and experimenting.



References


An Engineer's Mindset: Creativity In Engineering. (2021, 09 09). Retrieved from NES Fircoft: https://www.nesfircroft.com/blog/2021/09/an-engineers-mindset-creativity-in-engineering


Knutson, C. (2013, 01 22). What To Do When Stuck Thinking In The Box. Retrieved from engineering.com: https://www.engineering.com/story/what-to-do-when-stuck-thinking-in-the-box


Outside the Box Thinking. (n.d.). Retrieved from Interaction design foundation: https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/topics/outside-the-box-thinking


Ph.D, M. W. (2006, 09). Moral creativity in science and engineering. Retrieved from Springer Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11948-006-0043-6


Why is it important for engineers to have a good imagination? (2021, 04 13). Retrieved from greedhead.net: https://greedhead.net/why-is-it-important-for-engineers-to-have-a-good-imagination/


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