As an Engineer, you are expected to thrive inside of complex problem solving.
Yet, most engineers are not taught or known for their creativity and innovation skills.At Stonewall Engineering, we approach our hires a bit differently.
And, we are okay with that.
It is common for engineers to exit college with a strong math skillset; but they are extremely weak when it comes to facing a problem with no recipe or formula for solving it.
The Typical Engineering Process
Typically, in the workplace, engineers are expected to:
Construct new, more efficacious designs and structures
And, again, conventionally, most engineers would follow the "engineering design process" in order to complete these tasks.
The process typically looks like this:
The engineering team is given or identifies a problem
They define the scope of the problem
They generate many ideas for solutions
They evaluate the ideas
They propose a solution
Think like an engineer
Throughout this process, engineers engage in convergent and divergent thinking.
Let's discuss the difference between these two types of thinking, shall we? We will start with how most engineers tend to think, convergent thinking.
Consists of going through a checklist or systematic steps in order to come to one single correct answer. This is how most machine's think in regard to machine learning or artificial intelligence.
Divergent ThinkingRequires exploring and thinking about a few different directions or possibilities in order to test and hypothesize several different outcomes. This type of thinking is best utilized when looking to generate new ideas that could possibly solve a problem that has yet to be solved.
Both types of thinking are important to finding the best final solution, but divergent thinking is particularly important for developing innovative solutions.
Any time you come across innovative solutions, you will most often find elements of presence and curiosity, which are both part of a fundamental human capacity called mindfulness.
Mindfulness is defined as intentionally paying attention with openness, kindness, and curiosity.
Although psychologists continue to discover which mindfulness tactics facilitate divergent thinking, there is convincing evidence demonstrating a causal link between being "mindful" AND excelling in divergent thinking.
So how does mindfulness help engineers solve problems? READ THIS
While the results from the study don't necessarily show an impact on the amount of ideas directly correlated with mindfulness, what you can see if the clear impact on the improvement in the quality and the originality of them.
There was also another study done with the Engineering Majors Survey that showed that a mindful attitude was the strongest predictor on innovation and self-efficacy (individual's belief in their innate ability to achieve goals).
Both are strong qualities in a high performance engineer.
The Engineering Beginner's mind
While growing our engineering consulting firm, we have also noticed these qualities in the engineers that seem to be, in what we call, the "learning mode." (Are You A Competent Learner? Take the test to find out!)
This quality is comparable to what is known as the "beginner's mind." This means that someone harbors the capacity to bring fresh eyes to a problem and engage in new perspectives for how to solve it.
Seems like a pretty important trait for someone whose role is to figure out a better way of building something or completing a project, no?
Despite the decades of research that has demonstrated that mindfulness can be improved through practice. We have personally noticed the impact of it on our engineer's in their divergent thinking, the quality of their designs, their innovative drive, and their overall competence.
Want to read more articles like this?
"Specific Mindfulness Skills Differentially Predict Creative Performance": https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24857851
"5 ways to boost mindfulness even on busy days": https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/245613