How Do Engineers Think?

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In this episode of the Create the Future podcast, we ask acclaimed biomedical engineer and policy adviser, Guru Madhavan, “how do engineers think?”

Along the way, Guru tells us how he started down the path of investigating the engineering mindset, why he advocates for engineers to engage with the arts, and how he applies his systems engineering background to his work. We discuss the origins of the word “engineering”, hear about the similarities between evolution and innovation, and learn what it means to be a barefoot engineer.

Episode Highlights

  • “There is no uniform approach to how engineers think because the varieties of creations and the consequences attached with engineering are just so different.”
  • “There are three essential attributes that characterise the engineering mindset. The first relates to bringing structure where there is none. The second is the invariable scenario for operating under constraints. The third is making judicious trade-offs.”
  • “Engineering is arguably one of the oldest cultural practices. Even the term engineer goes back to the 11th century, much before the word scientist was invented in the 1830s”.
  • “I don't want to live in a world where everyone thinks like an engineer […] I think the element of cognitive diversity is of the utmost importance to engineering sensibilities.”
  • “I like to think that engineers are dual citizens in the world of disasters and blessings. Simultaneously, using the tools of wonder and worst-case scenarios. […] I think bringing in the higher construct of cultural responsibility is crucial.”
  • “The notion of care-taking happens to be a big function of engineering that seldom gets recognised […] In fact, over 70% of engineers are in maintenance related duties that keep the world running.”
  • “I'm interested in focusing on the things that are right in front of you, but others don't pay attention to.”
  • “I was simultaneously taking courses in civil engineering, mechanical engineering, electronics, electrical, computing, and eventually found a fascination in biomedical systems and systems engineering […] In that regard, I was very fortunate to have a broad engineering education that still influences my thinking.”
  • “Engineering and evolution have so much in common. The best traits and attributes get selected and evolve. The only difference is that engineering is deadline driven and goal oriented […] I think there are a lot of synergies in bringing an evolutionary approach to engineering.”

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