For most companies, five percent devoted to assessment is a more manageable and realistic goal than the 20% that Google supposedly allows employs to devote to researching stuff that's not part of their job. At the same time, even 5% is a lot in the high-pressure, fast time-to-market, lower headcount world many of us work in. Let's hope they take your advice, Bill.
Nice article. The 5% recommendation for advanced development time is reminiscent of the old (maybe it's still exists) 10% rule at 3M. As I recall, 3M actually used to allow engineers to set aside 10% of their time to work on any kind of development (advanced or otherwise). I believe that's how Post-It Notes were created.
Bill, I hope companies will pay attention to your recommendation that engineers should be spending 2 - 3 hours a week on advanced development activities. It's absolutely essential for engineers to stay on top of the latest technology -- as much for their own good as for the good of their employers. And it's essential to do your homework before embarking on a new project. To a large extent, the success of a project is determined before the project starts. The best solution is a continuous commitment to advanced development.
Beth, thank you for your comments. You have highlighted another topic that I will be writing about soon, and that is the tendency for development teams to stick with only one design concept, which creates a ripple effect of difficulties in later stages of the project.
I think Bill shines some light on a big issue that doesn't get the due it deserves in terms of advancing the cause of more effective, more efficient product development. Process improvement is one of those necessary evils that people love to gloss over, particularly engineers who often want to cut to the chase of tinkering with and discovering new innovations without being burdened by what they see as boring, institutional boilerplate.
In reality, that mentality couldn't be more wrong. Bill lays out the very strong case for instituting processes within engineering that not only enourage and promote the exploration of advanced technologies throughout the entire engineering team, but also to do so early on in the cycle so potential problems and potential better solutions are found earlier, rather than later when it is too late and far too expensive to make changes.
California State University, Chico was the first school in California to offer an ABET-accredited degree program in mechatronic engineering. Now its California Mechatronics Center works with industry on machinery, robotics, and surveillance vehicles.
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