Preparing engineering minds for invention and innovation is a team effort

‘Employment 5.0’ is not a particular point in time but an approach to the workplace that supports innovation through resilience and sustainability. Without entrepreneurial teams, the technical systems that we depend on cannot evolve to deal with rapid business change. Employee’s 5.0 will need to be continuously open to  re-designing their work-place and systems and understand the key differences between design and engineering thinking.

Iterative-ness is the ‘mother of Invention’

Invention is less about ‘light bulb’ moments and ‘blue-sky’ thinking than a gradual and iterative process. Collaborating in small groups, figuring things out incrementally and taking multiple wrong turns are what writer, Matt Ridley, associates most with innovation. The ‘soft skills’ needed to work well in teams and a willingness to accept being proven wrong need to be learnt and nurtured as much as design methods.

What both invention and innovation have in common is that they rely on mental resilience and change-ready cultures where workers are open to making mistakes. The ‘Nobel Prize’ is awarded for ‘prepared minds’ rather than inventions themselves and the Engineering Skillnet supports projects and programmes that build entrepreneurial teams who embrace can even embrace uncertainty. After all, therein lies new possibilities.

By creating ‘safe-to-fail’ learning spaces, teams get better at effective collective thinking including challenging other in 'adversarial collaboration'. For example, the half-day “Team Thinking for Innovation” programme uses facilitated dialogue and thinking techniques (like inversion and association) to show how problems can be turned up-side down to ignite action. Participating teams discover that creativity is often about asking the right questions to challenge their prior assumptions.

Read more about this and enrol below for the upcoming 1-day course on February 23rd -

Design thinking or versus engineering thinking

As engineering thinking usually starts with a well-defined (existing) problem to solve, success or otherwise is pre-determined. Design thinking, in contrast, is about sneaking up on the future by creating prototypes, getting curious, trying things out, learning something and doing it again but slightly differently next time. Like Henry Ford famously said, our failures are often what we most build our knowledge and future success on.

The Engineering Skillnet has co-created a new programme in 3D Modelling and Prototyping that introduces design thinking in a ‘safe-to-fail’, expert-coached and (mainly) virtual settings. Learners have the flexibility to engage with the extensive video content over a number of months, with one-to-one tuition support given for five weeks and the camaraderie of a small group to keep them going on their prototype portfolio.

Engineering and design prototyping differ, and this course embeds both including the practical aspect of learning 3D software and the design elements of selecting materials e.g. considering the elements of Form-Fit-and-Function. The 3D printing of a prototype helps to test if a solution to a particular problem works correctly while collaborating with others on ideation of prototypes inspires the learners to find out what they want to do in the first place. Anyone who can read technical drawings and free-sketch their ideas will benefit from this highly accessible and (soon) CPD points-recognised programme.

or watch an interview with one of our learners from Cohort 1 below -

Curiosity to learn sparks innovation

The Engineering Skillnet applies the principles of 'high-impact learning that lasts' (see previous Blog) by creating of a sense of urgency to learn. Challenging old ways of thinking and identifying pain-points on teams including a gap between current and desired states works to spark curiosity. We hold regular free webinars and will launch an introduction to and five free lessons in critical thinking early in 2023 as well as running formal programmes in critical thinking to help engineers switch cognitive gears.

Curiosity begins with asking questions and the ability to skilfully enquire is one of the big cognitive advantages of human versus artificial intelligence. While Aristotle inspired the 3D design course mentioned earlier (as the original inventor of Form-Fit-Function) our on-going programme in Critical Thinking teaches a ‘Socratic Method’ to formulate better questions and logic-mapping to clarify rationale.

Request a pre-recorded introduction to this course and the free critical thinking lessons below -

Register interest here for the upcoming Critical Thinking (2-day virtual) course resuming in February -

Helping ideation and innovation

The Engineering Skillnet helps to build innovative cultures through encouraging a human-centric workplace. With greater complexity and the tsunami of data that Industry 4.0 brings, the future of work is more complex and abstract. The various courses above help people to see their ideas brought to life in animated discussion and as tangible prototypes and products. Workers seeing themselves reflected in their own creations helps to build more resilient and sustainable talent.

To find out how Engineering Skillnet can support your company’s learners and to request or book individual programmes, contact Fiona Fennell, Network Manager