Engineers Need To Innovate

Submitted by: Engineering Crossing

Engineers, by their very nature, are problem solvers. Most engineering jobs come with demands to apply creativity in a scientific manner, and engineers need to innovate day in and day out. However, while engineers always study innovations, the thought processes and techniques that are used to build innovations are rarely studied. Mastering lateral thinking processes is the key to being innovative, and this article gives you information on how to do that.

The creative thought process has been the subject of research and study for quite some time in other fields like marketing, but people in

engineering jobs

rarely understand its importance. According to Philip Kotler and Fernando Trias De Bes, “innovations are a result of connecting two ideas which, in principle, had no apparent or immediate connection.” Innovations are as important to marketers as to engineers, since innovative new products and services provide the chance of creating new markets. The process of creating innovations involves focusing on an existing product and redesigning it to cover needs, situations, uses, or targets that are not currently covered.

While redesigning or innovating, an engineer has to focus on:

How can the existing product be made more cost-effective?

Which changes would increase the utility of the existing product?

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What are the features of competing products in the market?

What new products can be derived from the current product?

How can the product be changed to provide additional value?

To produce innovations from an existing product, an engineer needs to be creative, thinking about what to do with the product, where to start, how to go about it.

To analyze the techniques leading to innovation, Alex Osborn suggested seven questions that were later termed “SCAMPER.” Each of the letters of the acronym SCAMPER stands for a separate question that gives rise to a separate train of thought regarding innovating from an existing product. The questions asked about the product by SCAMPER are respectively: Substitute; Combine; Adapt; Modify; Put; Eliminate or reduce; Reorder or invert.

To create an innovation, an engineer first starts with an existing product and finds the common logical sequence that flows from the existing features and functions of the product. Let’s take a pen as a product to focus on. Now, a logical sequence flowing from a pen would be: “A pen is used to write.” Now, let’s see how the logical sequence can be broken by generating a lateral displacement. “A pen is used to paint.” Once the gap is generated, you can use SCAMPER to bridge the gap.

How can one paint with a pen? Substitute any component? Combine any component with something else? Adapt any component? Modify any component? Eliminate or reduce any component? Reorder or invert the arrangement of components?

Answering such questions has led to innovations like the sketch pen or the pen-cum-torch that are standard products nowadays innovations that derive from the principal product, a pen.

Innovations with existing products typically fall into three categories:

1.The same product with new utility

2.A new product with new utility

3.A new product with same utility

They also come with another final product: your recognition as an outstanding engineer.

Work Cited:

Philip Kotler, and Fernando Trias De Bes. Lateral Marketing: New Techniques for Finding Breakthrough Ideas. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2003.

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