Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Hogwarts for Engineers

Last week, the New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, covered a topic that should be dear to all engineers - - innovation.  More specifically, Friedman addressed the issue of educating a workforce that knows how to think, ask the right questions, and innovate (Need a Job?  Invent It - March 30, 2013).

Friedman writes the following:

"That is a tall task.  I tracked Wagner [Tony Wagner, author of Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World] down and ask him to elaborate.  "Today," he said via e-mail, "because knowledge is available on every Internet-connected device, what you know matters far less than what you can do with what you know.  The capacity to innovate - the ability to solve problems creatively or bring new possibilities to life - and skills like critical thinking, communication and collaboration are far more important than academic knowledge.  As one executive told me, "We can teach new hires the content, and we will have to because it continues to change, but we can't teach them how to think - to ask the right questions - and to take initiative."

The engineering marketplace, from educators to practitioners, faces a future where innovation drives everything - - from product development to process improvements.  Civilizations and organizations have entered very disruptive times with epochal changes.  In many ways, the innovators have huge advantage over the non-innovators - - they have the ability to set the agenda.  The ability to focus, accelerate, and transform an engineering workforce toward "innovation ready" will be a critical skill set for our national competitive advantage.

Friedman continues with the following:

"Finland is one of the most innovative economies in the world," he [Wagner] said, "and it is the only country where student leave high school "innovation ready."  They learn concepts and creativity more than facts, and have a choice of many electives - all with a shorter school day, little homework, and almost no testing.  In the U.S., 500 K-12 schools affiliated with Hewlett Foundation's Deeper Learning Initiative and a consortium of 100 school districts called EdLeader21 are developing new approaches to teaching 21st-century skills.  There are also a growing number of "reinvented" colleges like Olin College of Engineering, the M.I.T. Media Lab and the 'D-school" at Stanford where student's learn to innovate."

Maybe not Hogwarts, but Olin is a good example of how you can think differently about the best way to educate and prepare engineers for our "innovation ready" future.  Hogwarts for Engineers should be more about the verbs and less about the nouns.  Creating wonderful innovative and creative experiences must be embedded in the organizational culture of the would be Hogwarts.  Learning how to watch customers and have an empathic heart is a must for the Hogwarts.  Master the act of observation - - watching what people don't do, listening to what they don't say.  Learn calculus - - but get the design space of desirability, viability, and feasibility under your skin during your time at Hogwarts.  Learn to network and lead on multidisciplinary teams - - Hogwarts is about moving beyond the individual.  Finally, Hogwarts should give you an attitude of experimentation - - be open to new possibilities and alert to new directions.  As a graduate of Hogwarts for Engineers, always be willing to propose new solutions and have a tolerance for risk taking.  Remember that the key to engineering is to be open to possibilities.  More than that, it means creating them.

1 comment:

  1. NICE BLOG!!! Engineering degree is a dream for many students who want to have a bright career in future. Thanks for sharing a nice information.
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