Why Engineering Thinking?

Engineering thinking can help you avoid wrong choices, from the purchase of a laundry detergent to the selection of a doctor, a mate, a career, or a congressional representative.

Engineering thinking is a proven method for achieving success. Just take a look around you and count the number of gadgets and gizmos that make your world comfortable, productive, and fun. All of the appliances, tools, cell phones, PDAs, autos, TVs, and other necessities in and around your home required the guiding hand of an engineer. The technology that supports your health — surgical tools, diagnostic instruments, life-saving drugs — are likewise the creative products of engineering expertise.

Why is engineering thinking so successful? Because engineers can’t afford to be irrational. They can’t afford to have their designs explode or their bridges collapse, so they learn to think carefully, where conclusions are arrived at unemotionally and methodically.

Why not put the power of engineering thinking to work for you? It won’t require you to learn any math, physics, chemistry, or even how to speak geek. It will only require that you be honest with yourself, that you set your slogans and labels aside, and that you learn some simple conceptual tools of the trade.

Here’s what I promise:

1.  No spin, no hidden agenda. I will not intentionally mislead, distort, shade, or engage in any other means of deception.

2.  You will learn how disciplined thinking can yield fresh and sometimes even startling perspectives that are completely at odds with the conventional wisdom. You will learn how to bypass emotional clutter, how to push aside irrelevant distractions, and how to puncture pomposity and dismiss grandiose claims.

3.  You will also learn how engineering thinking can lead to conclusions that may seem weird, wacky, even outrageous; e.g. America still treats some of its citizens as slaves, it may be bad for the environment to recycle, and it may be best to not completely trust your doctor or our legal system.

4.  Will engineering thinking always lead to correct conclusions? No, but such conclusions are likely to be correct a good percentage of the time. In other words, engineering thinking improves the odds of making good decisions, and that’s about as good as it gets.

5.  Other science-trained individuals may disagree with some of my conclusions. But the purpose of this blog is not to convince you of a particular view. The purpose is to present some important principles and show how to use them to arrive at useful — even vital — conclusions. You are encouraged to question everything I say, and to do your own research and fact-checking to see if you agree or disagree. Such independent verification is itself an essential component of engineering thinking.

6.  A major goal of this Blog is to provide a safe haven for civil debate. You are invited to challenge my posts, or to post questions or commentary on topics of your choice.

-Ed Walker

p.s. If you are curious to learn more about the engineering mind, please check out the DACI Newsletter; you may find the Sightings, Unintended Consequences, and News Bullet sections interesting.

-Ed Walker


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