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How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

(OP)
Hey Everyone, I am not an engineer. I don't have an engineering degree, but I did study Computer Science. However I do work with a long side engineers as kind of an assistant. I prepare summary reports for ship ballasting based on current design data. One specific reason I was hired was to write scripts for a number of applications to expedite processes. I have been employed for almost 2 years now, and in those 2 years I have been able to turn myself into an asset because I have been innovative. I developed some tools to make my departments workflow more efficient and accurate. I have always tried to approach things with a keen mind to improve and change things if necessary.

However after being here for almost 2 years I find myself out of ideas, like I am not quite as innovative as I use to be. I am having a lot of trouble developing and brainstorming ideas in the recent months. I guess my question is; how do you sustain an innovative mind-set? In your experience, as your career progresses do you find it harder and harder to develop and change as time goes on? It seems like when I was a new hire I found it super easy to develop ideas into something very useful, but not so much anymore. I'm not sure if this is because there isn't anything left to improve (I doubt it), or because I am becoming complacent with the way we do things.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

3
I find that when I stop feeling innovating, it's because I've found the absolute best way to do something, it's perfect, and can no longer possibly be improved.




But seriously, it's because I'm in a box. Solutions to this is to see what others do. Use online forums, more reading than posting, and follow links/subjects that are unfamiliar. Read about them. If you see something that sounds like a buzzword, industry term, or some TLA you're unfamiliar with, take a few minutes to google it. Becomes a member of industry associations. Attend some networking. Find ways to adopt ideas from completely unrelated industries to your own. Go take a tour at another company. Ask questions. Keep your head on a swivel and notice everything. Take pictures if allowed. Take notes always. You might not give a darn about their weird system for doing something, but when you find out what it replaces or what else it does, it might be a EUREKA moment for you.

The very fact that new people are so useful at innovating is because they are fresh. They are from the outside. They are not comfortable in their surroundings. Everything they see is new. You're questioning everything. You're adapting to a new environment and finding ways to make the environment more comfortable.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

Open your eyes (& ears) to the issues others around you are struggling with.
Look at your industry from a higher perspective, take "side effects" into the heart of your considerations: Environment, sustainability,.. there's more.
Check, whether you might become someone taking on rookies & give them the first tours and onwards training and so on (this might be esp. rewarding, for those questions "why not doing this like that.." you remember yourself).
Aspire perhaps to lead positions, hone personal skills of communication and interaction: If you mastered a respectable skillset, it might be worth the try.
Regards

Roland Heilmann
Lpz FRG

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

I think the other thing too is that most really good ideas take a lot of time and thinking to develop. Yeah, there is a eureka moment but it came about after a lot of head banging. Good ideas don't just float to the surface without spending a lot of time thinking about things and making connections. Unless you work in an extremely inefficient organization, most of the low hanging fruit probably has already been plucked. And that which hasn't been plucked probably has other hurdles like pessimism, inertia, and risk aversion, which might be more difficult to solve than the problem at hand.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

Probably a good analogy is that you have been playing with the same LEGO set for two years and have used the pieces in every possible useful way. You need a new LEGO set to add to the possibilities.

Here are some of my endeavors which have helped me:

  • Take courses only tangentially related to my current duties.
  • Take up a hobby that will require me to study and learn new concepts.
  • Regular lunches with other technical people in other industries.
  • Conferences and trade shows.

I used to count sand. Now I don't count at all.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

An innovative mind set can be influenced by many factors.
Some engineers naturally are more innovate than others. But we all can be influenced by workplace factors like:
- Job function (innovation is directly in your job description), for example new product teams must innovate to create anything worth while
- Type of office (The traditional cube vs. the new more open type with lounge, couches, tech..etc.)
- Creative mind set
- Thinking outside (or inside) the box (https://www.amazon.ca/Inside-Box-Creativity-Breakt...)
- Initiative - Some engineers think they learned everything in school, or from their previous experience. This is never and will never be true. This realization will motivate learning every day and learning to innovate.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

Work in an environment which doesn't view innovation as a threat, and hence doesn't squash it any time it attempts to rear up its head.

Preferably, work in an environment which rewards innovations that actually work out, and doesn't punish innovations that fail.

It absolutely helps to have some interests, both related to work and not related to work. Hobbies have been a huge learning opportunity for me, and very often something I've been doing as a hobby creeps back into my professional life in an extremely useful way.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

Create a giant bureaucracy and have a ton of meetings?

<please note the sarcasm>

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

And also be sure to be afraid to fail in anyway,

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

I'd see about getting an engineering degree. With more basics in your tool box you may be surprised at what you can come up with and then progress. At your stage you probably can pick a field of study that will be most useful in the future. Engineers with a talent like yours really progress and become very useful to the profession and have a very happy place for themselves.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

Fugeguy, you forgot your sarcasm tag in your second post!

To be creative, just mimic what the musicians of the 60' and 70's did! (Just kidding!) I would also add break systems down into smaller pieces and see how each piece can be improved. It's hard to arbitrarily improve a system, but if you look at each step - each click of a button or transfer of information - and ask, "why?", then I believe any system can be improved. Why is this data created and transferred? Who uses the data and is ALL of the data used or just parts. If only parts of the overall data are used, then why are the unused parts transferred.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

While sub-optimizations can work well, it's possible that a system of subs that are individually optimized could result in bad performance at the system level

To wit: we once had a product that had awful yield in EPROM portion of our chips, but we didn't really notice it because there were other yield limitors. Then, one day, we started manufacturing a part that was mostly EPROM (it was one of the very first embedded debit card chips), and the resulting yield was spectacularly bad. Given that it was a major cooperative project with a sister division, tiger teams were rolled out. After numerous process experiments it was discovered that many years ago, an enterprising process engineer determined that he could double the life of an oxidation furnace by turning down the temperature of the furnace from 1150C to 1100C, which was a minor change and oxidation time could be increased to compensate for the slower growth rate. It turns out that measly 50C change was responsible for hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenue due to the poor yield. Turning the furnace back to 1150C brought the EPROM yield up and saved the day. Moral: always verify that system performance is not adversely degraded in a subsystem optimization process.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
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RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

Change your viewpoint on the same problems.

I ran out of 'innovative thinking' after about 2 years at a former company where I designed assembly tooling. I decided to spend one day a fortnight working on an assembly line using my own tooling. It was all too heavy and awkward to fit to machines. So I went back to the office, set up a project number for weight reduction and spent a couple of hours a week stripping mass from tool designs, writing guidelines for mass reduction techniques in design and setting about getting funding in place to make changes.

I never would have seen this problem had I not changed my perspective.

Note that many in the company saw this as 'tossing it off' and wanted to know why someone earning twice an assembly wage was doing assembly. You will very likely see some resistance to wanting to 'change your perspective', make sure you have something to show for it if you want to keep going.

RE: How to sustain an Innovative Mind-Set?

Change job.

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