Creating Creativity in the Engineering Field

Experience in a certain job or field can be a blessing or a curse. In the book, Rookie Smarts, Liz Wiseman states the following; “When the world is changing quickly, experience can become a curse, trapping us in old ways of doing and knowing, while inexperience can be a blessing, freeing us to improvise and adapt quickly to changing circumstances.” I have found that over my short career, my inexperienced peers seem to come up with more creative solutions to problems than my more experienced cohorts. Why is this?

Inexperience breeds curiosity. When you are inexperienced, you don’t get stuck in the trap of doing it the way it’s always been done. As a “newcomer”, you don’t know everything, but you know those who do. You begin to seek out information from those more knowledgeable than yourself. The novice then begins to compile all of their resources before making a decision. They do not let ego get in the way of seeking out helpful information. The greenhorn often seeks out knowledge from everyone that is located along the supply chain including; shareholders, producers, suppliers, and even end-users. This glut of data often gives the tenderfoot a unique perspective of a problem or process. He or she does not pretend to know everything, because they simply don’t. This is often seen as a disadvantage, but when harnessed correctly, it can be a giant benefit.

As consumption of resources continues to increase in the world we live and work in, creativity will be ever more important to ensure longevity for future generations. Consumption of resources include; fossil fuels, potable water, forests, etc. Implementation of creativity can ultimately decide the fate of future generations to come. As cheesy as this may sound, we need to embrace creativity as a necessary skillset and not let it fall by the wayside with other nostalgic skills, such as, imagination and curiosity that were so prevalent in our youth.


Increasing Natural Disaster Occurrence?

With the recent flooding in the Midwest & Southwest United States and the occurrence of devastating tornadoes in Texas, are we seeing more and more devastating natural disasters? Oftentimes, people in this part of the country say that, “if you don’t like the weather here now, wait 5 minutes.” This is often a poke at the seemingly constant change of weather in the area, but is there more to it?

Yes, in a simple answer. According to the EM-DAT International Disaster Database, Center for Research on Epidemiology of Disasters, University of Louvain, the occurrence of geophysical disasters has increased three-fold in the first decade of the millennium when poised against the 80’s decade. According to The New England Journal of Medicine, “natural disasters, particularly floods and storms, will become more frequent and severe because of climate change. Organized deadly onslaughts against civilian populations will continue, fueled by the availability of small arms, persistent social and political inequities, and, increasingly, by a struggle for natural resources. These events affect the mortality, morbidity, and well-being of large populations. Humanitarian relief will always be required, and there is a demonstrable need, as in other areas of global health, to place greater emphasis on prevention and mitigation. ”

So what can we do as engineers to mitigate these disasters? Our calculations and designs are already very conservative. What more can be done to protect the citizens in which we serve? It appears that the inadequate calculations used in the past have not been able to keep up with the rate of devastation caused by these superstorms. As the trend continues, engineers like myself will have to constantly monitor our systems to insure that they have not become antiquated and continue to “Hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their professional duties. ” (From the ASCE Cannon of Ethics).

Much to learn you still have…This is just the beginning. A guide to Lifelong Learning.

The title to this chapter came from a scene in “Star Wars Episode II, Attack of the Clones.” Yoda was having one of the most intense battles of his life with his nemeses Count Dooku. If you are not a fan of Star Wars, this is still one of the coolest fight scenes in screenplay history. It’s worth a YouTube. But I digress, at age 874, Yoda still believed that there was much to learn. Talk about lifelong learning! I always enjoyed hearing Yoda’s wisdom and the backwards grammar he used so eloquently. This phrase stuck out to me though. Yoda’s pursuit of wisdom enabled him to survive for hundreds of years (900 to be exact). He must have been doing something right! As Yoda would probably express it, “Learning a lifelong endeavor, you must make.”

As Henry Ford so eloquently stated it, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” To be able to compete in the workforce, you must never stop the pursuit of knowledge. This was not a concept I understood straight out of college. I was naive to think that college had taught me everything I would need to know to excel at my job. Why is it important to continue learning though? What are the benefits to lifelong learning?

Through the art of lifelong learning, you can propel yourself light years ahead of your stagnant peers. You will be able to adapt to change much quicker because you have never stopped the art of learning. By making simple changes in your life, such as adding the habit of going to one seminar a year or reading 10 books a year, you can catapult your career ahead of your peers. Out of all of the lessons in this book, I think this is the most actionable and beneficial for your life. I challenge you to take a step-in learning more in your everyday life, whether that means listening to an audio book in the car on your way to work (instead of that sports radio talk show with outraged fans) or setting aside 15 minutes a day to read non-fiction books. Just these little shifts can produce habits that persist and grow your entire lifetime.