Creative Engineers

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by: David Armano

A recent article in BusinessWeek talks creativity and says this:

“much of the hoopla over creativity is a crock. Why? Because we are already up to our eyeballs in it."

"Make no mistake: Innovation matters. Nothing is more essential for long-term economic growth. But to get more innovation we may want less, not more, creativity.”

And this:

“Innovation is no more about releasing your inner bohemian than it is about holding hands, singing Kumbaya, and believing in innovation.”

The article actually makes some good points about doing more and talking less which I’m a huge fan of—but here is the bone I have to pick with it.  I think the author is stereotyping creativity as whacky, artistic, “bohemian” thinking.  And I think this is dead wrong.  Creativity is not limited to “artists” or even people who “think different”.  Sure, creative people often see the world from a different perspective—but it’s not limited to this.  Especially if you consider creative problem solving.

Here’s an anecdotal to illustrate the point.  Can an engineer be creative?  Yes.  But traditionally engineers are not considered to be creative.  They are the ones who make things work.  They make sure that an architect's design won’t crumble to the ground.  Or digitally—they develop the designs we create through code and QA.

But they can still be creative.  Check out these engineers: (Tip of the Hat to Core77)

"Manufacturing Engineering students at Cambridge University held their 2006 Design Show, displaying a range of new products that they have developed as part of their course.

Shown above:

Axi-Shield is a versatile mobile accident screen capable of fast and safe deployment on major roads, to reduce the likelihood of secondary accidents caused by 'rubbernecking'. The students behind it say it could be deployed from a standard transit van in under five minutes to provide rapid protection around an accident scene.

The Snowshell arm guard has been designed from first principles, based around a thorough understanding of how the arm behaves during a fall. ess all of these concerns, providing a carefully engineered solution that prevents the arm 'locking-out' during a fall, as well as providing wrist support and impact protection."

The Axi Shield is a pretty creative idea, and even looks pretty cool.  That’s because It’s been designed—by a bunch of “engineers”.  Creativity, like Design is one of these words that evokes different responses from different people.  I just want to throw out there—for the record, that creativity isn’t exclusive.  In fact, it’s more inclusive than you think.

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