Saturday, April 2, 2011

Engineering Insight and Bear Shaving

At a very basic level, engineering is fundamentally about the discovery of opportunities.  As I have discussed before - - opportunities are totally context dependent.  Consider the following mental checklist involving engineering insight and opportunity recognition:
  • Workaround - - Does the insight suggest an opportunity to remedy the underlying problem itself, not just the symptom?  Global warming a problem?  Just shave the bears.  Let's define "Bear Shaving" as the efforts we make to deal with the symptoms of a problem instead of addressing the cause of the problem.
  • Values - - Does the insight suggest an opportunity to address a change in what consumers' value?
  • Inertia - - Does the insight suggest an opportunity to leverage a habit or break a habit?
  • Shoulds versus Wants - - Does the insight suggest an opportunity to turn wants into shoulds?  Or shoulds into wants?
Sometimes insight and opportunity comes from unlikely places - - observation quality as a function of the miles on a pair of shoes.  Toyota is infamous for the fact that their employees study junkyards all over the world.  A common problem, broken side-view mirrors that actually led to the invention of the folding mirror, started with a walk through a junkyard.

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