This is a fair question to ask, especially to many educated engineers that today have the image (mostly self projected) that a degree in civil engineering is the only ”education” within product development.
First of all we have to say that sometimes its better NOT to have an education. Read what Mr Olaf Diegel said in an interview here at Hintland.com. Education gives a person a deeper understanding, but also a more narrowed insight: you learn how to do it in a single way – the only way due to the education. This is not only engineers that get this ”single way” – all other kind of educated people get it as well. But here, the issue is product development.
So, in a project when five persons with similar education from similar schools need to solve a problem, it’s very likely they think the same way. Their own educated way! How creative and problem solving is this?
A Story From A Product Development Meeting
With my experience as communication manager during three years in a product development consultancy, I have seen this very problem with people with same education and background.
In a project concerning how to develop a better process to clean the surface in sheet fed printing machines, seven persons participated (six engineers and one not = me) in a creative workshop and discussed ”how to do”.
I noticed that all engineers direct discussed ”how the paper run through sharp edges or other mechanical issues. Everyone tried to follow the papers way through the process, and then get a solution. After a while I asked them if they had thought about the particles of dust, that is the critical issue in the process.
Then I asked them how ”act” the particle of dust? And how ”act” the paper? Why not figure out how the dust acts when the dust is the ”enemy”?
– 10 seconds later the whole process was solved (in theory, and later it worked perfect in practice as well): The engineers considered how the particles of dust act and thereby constructed a 90 degree turn for the paper combined with a vacuum cleaning process that absorbed the dust when the paper turned 90 degrees!
I believe that this is not the only story that has the same result (check above interview again). The question is how we come further?
In Sweden the engineer historically have a very strong position in society and in the work of life. This is understandable when something needs to be built up, as it was during the 50-ies and 60-ies in Sweden. But today, when the period of industrialism is long gone, we need another mind-set beyond excel-sheets and narrow-sighted thinking, which have been taught at technical universities, and that even today can be seen in many companies and organisations. We need transparent, open-minded, curios and humble approach before the final solution!
In several meetings, seminars and other venues I have participated, I tried to get an answer why engineers only think an engineer can solve a technical problem. Can you image the answers?
Never-mind. Let’s stop the single-minded mind-set, from all habitats, and work for a solution that helps all and everybody. Not only in product development issues, but in all easy and difficult questions we humans face today.