STEM Connection
Engineering Creativity Peaks in Kindergarten

Taylors's Hierarchy of Creativity consists of five levels. Engineers typically operatesomewhere in the middle of this hierarchy.
Taylors's Hierarchy of Creativity consists of five levels. Engineers typically operate
somewhere in the middle of this hierarchy.

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Re:Engineering Creativity Peaks in Kindergarten
AnandY   4/19/2013 7:43:26 AM
Yes, creativity among young children is high compared to adults. I was amazed to see how my one year daughter started recognizing colours, shapes, birds, animals, vehicles. They have very keen observation capacity. They will be in their own world busy in doing something or the other without thinking about end result.

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My Granny
tekochip   4/19/2013 9:15:58 AM
It's not often I quote my sainted grandmother, but after raising more than her share of children she always said that children lose their intelligence as soon as they go to school. She lamented sending another off to kindergarten because she knew that the child would be stripped of all his creativity. She was saying that 50 years ago, and the schools have only gotten that much worse. For everyone's safety, of course.

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Not suprising, and perhaps not important
naperlou   4/19/2013 12:04:09 PM
Joe, this is an interesting exercise, but I am not sure of how important it is.  Frankly, your article seems to imply that building off of existing ideas and concepts is not good.  Frankly, it is the source of our prosperity.  If every designer had to, or felt they had to, start from scratch, then we would not make the progress we do.

Many years ago, while working for a large compnay, I saw a study that was done internally regarding patent production.  The suprising result is that people who were involved in patents tended to be productive at the begining of their carreers, and then late in their careers.  Yes, they were as productive late in their careers.  When we looked at what was going on we discovered that in mid-career people were more concerned with career and building families and the like.  Once they had settled, if they were still involved in design they became creative again.  My experience since then has just reinforced this.  I have even found in small companies, where the owner was also the creative spark behind the engineering, that this trend continues. 

Engineering is, by definition, a creative activity.  Engineers solve problems and create new things.  Many times these new things can be the creative use of existing things.  One the other hand engineers often come up with totally new ways to do things.  I worked in aerospace in the first part of my career and there were many times where this was required.  And we did not use any kindergarteners.

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Re: Not suprising, and perhaps not important
trevormilli   4/19/2013 4:38:40 PM
Naperlou - wrong.

This article does not imply that building off of existing ideas is not good. 

Reread the paragraph, "Some people believe that, as engineers, we never need to rise above Taylor's second or third levels. As engineers, we may never operate at the emergent creativity level. By the very nature of the definition of engineering (applying the laws of physics to convert science into products meeting needs), we don't need to become an Einstein or a da Vinci. That's OK, and it's a concept supported by the findings of others. It's what we do as engineers. We find ways to build on the work of others. The challenge, in most cases, is finding the appropriate approach and using it creatively."

You are correct - and Joe agrees - that engineering is an inherently creative activity.  Joe goes on to state that engineers typically exercise expressive, technical, and inventive modes of creativity. 

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Re: Not suprising, and perhaps not important
trevormilli   4/19/2013 5:13:38 PM
Mark Z.'s Facebook is a prime example of inventive creativity.  Facebook took an existing idea and created a new design.  Facebook went on to exercise innovative and emergent creativity in their program which has changed the world so much that we are beyond the point of no return.

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“N-I-H”, means Not-Invented-Here
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   4/19/2013 6:12:11 PM
Your summation of Engineer's developments is absolutely true.  We are homogeneously blended into the world around us, and cannot help but behave in predictable fashion.

Regarding patents,  I'd estimate that 99% of all patents granted at the USPTO are derivative in nature. Ironically, one primary criterion used to actually "grant" a patent is novelty.  (I speak from experience, I have 24 granted. ONE is pretty cool; the others,,,,not so much). Almost seems to be an oxy-moron, doesn't it-? 

Conversely, when I was in the thick of on-going product development for an electronics Giant in the 90's, the vast engineering community, rewarded for patent disclosures per person, had the common slang, "N-I-H", meaning Not-Invented-Here, so they would always attempt to derive around the most obvious solutions in order to get a new feather in their cap.

Greg M. Jung
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Hierarchy or Circle?
Greg M. Jung   4/19/2013 9:52:23 PM
Interesting article.  Looking at Taylors's Hierarchy of Creativity and its definition, it almost looks like Emergent Creativity should flow back into Expressive Creativity as the next step for continuity like a circle, rather than a pyramid.  (Reminds me of the Tao sign where things flow back to their original source).

Dave Palmer
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Childs' play
Dave Palmer   4/19/2013 11:06:05 PM
My favorite movies are almost always kids' movies or nature films, and I usually have one or more Happy Meal toy on my desk at work. Now I have an excuse! I'm enhancing my engineering creativity.

Charles Murray
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Borrowed ideas
Charles Murray   4/20/2013 10:23:36 AM
As a writer, I find myself getting ideas from previous articles in Design News or articles I've seen elsewhere. I often read other magazines -- the New Yorker, for example -- that have content that's completely unrelated to the content in Design News. Sometimes, I find that the treatment of a certain topic can be applied to our articles, resulting in a fresh approach. I also look at old DN articles for ideas. Next week, for example, we're running an article about famous people who started out as engineers. That article idea was taken directly from a story I wrote in 1998. So, now, I'm actually borowing ideas from myself. The bottom line is, I'm at an age when most of my ideas ar borrowed. I can take a fresh approach or put a new twist on it, but part of the idea is nevertheless borrowed from a bank of experience.

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Re: Borrowed ideas
mrdon   4/20/2013 2:23:15 PM
Charles, I totally agree to what you wrote. I do the same for writing my books, and articles: I put a new spin on previous written material and I use personal experiences. As adults we have been conditioned to using experience as a way of putting a new spin on something old. Although, I still believe creativity in adults is not dead.

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