Being at the centre of our wellbeing as well as the development of future generations, engineering is continuously fascinating, rationalizing and transforming our existence. Engineers occupy, in fact, a major role in the achievements of mankind. That said, don’t we need more ingenuity in the engineering approaches or, at best, don’t we need more ingenious engineering instead of the widely prominence of process-oriented engineering?
Ingenuity is the quality of being clever, original, and inventive (Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary). It is not necessarily a quality of all the engineers or of all engineering approaches. The latter are often organized around the mathematical rationality and the scientific modelling processes, but they intentionally or unconsciously neglect ingenuity through creativity and innovation.
We need to recognize that each of the four levers of engineering (rationality, science, modelling and ingenuity) is important but should not be over used compared with the others. Unfortunately, the first three levers are often more dominant compared to the last one. Engineering is more dominated by rationality, logic, and mathematical approaches while usually banishing creativity, emotional intelligence and intuition. Whether this trend is recognised or not, it is unanimously a global one, and it widely limits the contribution of engineers dealing with real world problems or situations they ought to solve. Rationality has its limits as it often seeks to build a better world, while ingenuity aims to create a more beautiful world.
To reinforce engineering’ ingenuity, we should rethink the paradigm of how engineers are educated, trained, and managed. Engineers, around the world, are selected among the ‘best’ and ‘good’ mathematicians. This is certainly a good way to ensure that engineers are highly rational and process oriented, but this is not necessarily the best way to reinforce innovation and creativity. Why don’t we create engineering courses for historians, decorators and literature specialties? Are these disciplines and others more productive of ingenuity? The answer is definitely YES! Steve Jobs famously stated that what made the Macintosh great was that the people working on it were musicians and poets and artists and zoologists and historians who also happened to be the best computer scientists in the world. Many other examples of highly creative and highly successful world-renowned people prove that Steve Jobs was definitely right!
We continue to train engineers while standardizing their thinking and rationality. Do not be surprised not to see extraordinary results following the same ordinary methods. Beyond the initial training and education, the issue of ingenuity is also a matter of the way engineers are managed. Promoting an ingenuity culture within the engineering teams through a proper empowerment and innovation mind-sets is the responsibility of each manager at all the levels of the organization. The expectations of all the stakeholders with regards to engineers should also incorporate more creative added value, not only formal deliverables. This will enable the company to create products and services for a more beautiful world, not only more rational one!
Article published at Morocco World News on the 28/07/2015