Creativity is one of those things both innate and learned. Certain people have more natural comfort than others with the creative process. That said, we have definitely seen the impact that training and mentorship under other good engineers can have on a young designer cutting his or her teeth in the industry. Practice in engineering, like in most fields, is the key to long-term success. More than that though, practice is the “blocking and tackling” of engineering. Skills like knowing how to use CAD software, downloading and incorporating various COTS parts from manufacturers, utilizing 3D printer and CNC technology, and testing proofs of concept will lead to creativity. Although the untrained eye might think that developing products is mystical, the truth is that much of the creative process relies on the foundation of solid and repetitive engineering training. Image courtesy of TheOdysseyOnline
Why is practice so important to foster creativity in design and engineering?
- One of the most important things you gain with practice is an understanding of the different components that currently exist off the shelf (COTS parts). These components can be harnessed, combined, and re-configured with the proper know-how, for one’s own designs. In fact, most designs are far from original. Instead, they tend to be slight variations on an existing idea or the adaptation of an idea for one purpose to a novel use. This is key for design engineers to realize - that creativity does not always mean that you are starting from scratch or having to reinvent the wheel. An important component of creativity is to imagine new uses for previous applications. Each project you work on is an opportunity to repurpose other ideas, and the components of each project turn into future tools in your toolbox. This is why practice and experience can help an engineer to be more “creative.”
- Another benefit of practice is efficiency. Once you learn an effective way to do things, you quickly execute them that way out of habit. As you can read in this blog, the engineer (and the company) that can move fastest through the Design - Fail - Learn - Repeat process will deliver innovative solutions on time, and be able to improve upon the highest number of iterations. The more an engineer has gone through this process (ie, practiced), the more effective they will be at devising solutions for clients.
Here are a few simple steps to foster experiential, practical, and creative growth. These can be utilized whether you are designing for consumer products, medical devices, manufacturing equipment, and more.
- Ask questions - especially the dumb ones. Everyone has heard the advice that there is no stupid question, except for the one that goes unasked. If you’re worried that your question is too simple, find a mentor and ask in private. If you’re afraid that asking a question will show that you are inexperienced or don’t know something, chalk it up to the learning curve and show some humility on your path to excellence.
- Get comfortable with the tools you’ll use to communicate with clients. Many engineers and designers are proficient at design software like SolidWorks, but there is so much more to practice! Most companies use some sort of project management software, and one also needs to be proficient at communicating with clients on a platform that they are comfortable with. (Read here for SolidWorks tips from the pros.)
- Project management vs engineering - two different skills that both require practice. It’s great to have excellent design skills, but if organization and project management skills are lacking, then clients will ultimately suffer, and the creative process won’t be as successful. The same goes for great management skills but mediocre design or engineering skills. Thankfully, these are both skills that can be practiced. While project management may not directly impact creativity, being good at it allows you to free up some brain power for the design and engineering impact.
Do you need an innovative solution for your product development process?
At Creative Mechanisms, we have practiced and practiced an excellent system to deliver solutions for clients. We have used our system to create and develop products and devices across a multitude of industries - please visit our customer testimonial page to get a better idea. We pride ourselves on fostering an environment where our designers, model makers, and engineers are free to innovate, and our communication with clients is top-notch. Most important, we will deliver an innovative solution on time and on budget. Want to learn more? Contact us today!