differentiated thought before cutting metal

On one of my recent posts, you kind people pointed out that there are many
ways of doing something. Simple observations are often the most profound.
I'm not a master at being able to see a problem from different angles and
visualize different solutions. It seems that some parts of one idea affect
another so the ideas are not independent, not "clean" and compartmentalized.
I met with my guys today and discussed if we could figure out how to think
about different ways of doing things we are developing. I want multiple
solutions presented and thinking out of the box. It seems there is always a
brute-force method of doing something yet the "other" idea, the one that
springs into existence at the odd hour, is often better, cheaper and more
elegant. How do you attract those "other" ideas?
Is there a method or exercises to develop creative thinking? Cutting metal
and drilling holes is the easy part, how do you completely forget an idea in
order to "see" a new idea? This may come easily for an intelligent person
but I struggle with my mental limitations.
Reply to
Tom Gardner
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"Tom Gardner" wrote in news:Ku2wk.228$ snipped-for-privacy@flpi143.ffdc.sbc.com:
Depending upon the individual, there may be several methods.
1. Read a good Sci-Fi book and get your mind out of this Universe. 2. Go back to basics: step through the problem incorporating the most minute level of detail that you can envision and, then, break each step down at least 4 times into smaller parts. This will often show up gaps in prior analysis. 3. Before attempting an automated answer, carefully step through the process of making 1 item manually. This may show the need for either additional steps or an additional machine. -Then- automate it. 4. If none of these (or any combination of them) seem to work, address the problem in reverse: start out with the finished product (visualized or actual) and then determine what the immediately-preceding step would have been. Repeat as necessary until each component has been resolved back to a rod/bar/block of material. Carry out steps in reverse order to produce more of whatever it is.
Personally, I tend to use all 4.
FWIW, when in doubt, my practice is to use the lowest-level of technology that can possibly deliver the desired results when working out either a new idea or a new item.
I've found that, all too often, low-tech can accomplish tasks (albeit more slowly) than high-tech off-the-shelf can for the simple reason that high-tech is simply a means of speeding up one aspect of low-tech. (Example: A prototype can be "adjusted" more easily with manually- controlled equipment than on CNC gear.)
BTW, there's a Fifth Method: find the laziest person skilled enough to understand what you're looking for and hand HIM/HER the problem (preferably with a deadline).
You can rest assured that he/she will find the easy way.
Reply to
"Tom Gardner" wrote in news:Ku2wk.228$ snipped-for-privacy@flpi143.ffdc.sbc.com:
Don't even try to force them: they'll either come on their own or they won't come at all.
Keep a tape/digital voice recorder handy so that when the idea -does- come you can make a record of it that you can refer back to.
A pad of quadrille (graph) paper and something to write/draw with is another good thing to have at hand.
Take time to play "What If" in your head: What if we could extrude our own wire - could we feed it directly into a machine while it was still hot and, if so, could the cutter do double duty as a "pinch" feeder?"
Things like that.
Reply to
Distraction, un-direction, mind clearing Breakdown Visualization Top-down/bottom-up Simplification Delegation
You understand exactly what I'm trying to say!
Reply to
Tom Gardner
Oh yea, I learned a long time ago to have paper and pen within reach at all times.
Reply to
Tom Gardner
There are a bunch of methods. Consultants make big bucks devising and presenting various silver-bullet schemes. They're all pretty much uncommon sense but managers who never had an original idea in their lives are easy marks for these pitchmen.
I think a very good way to do this is to identify someone who is naturally good at it, however irritating they might be, and try to learn a bit how they do it by observing them. Hurt yer head a bit, have damage containment measures thought out in advance.
A key trick is not to suppress creativity. Really! If you have a strong need to be viewed as "The Leader" or "The Mind", you'll suppress some very creative but non-assertive folks. You've said before that you enjoy arguments. Some don't, particularly with the boss. Based on stuff you've written before, You might need to subordinate self to mission to achieve what you say you'd like to achieve, and you might have a bit of difficulty doing that. Stick your ego in a drawer and lock it. Then be patient because smart folks are suspicious of changes in behavior. Give it at least months. Study how small children approach problems. There is nobody more creative than a child. I'm not kidding! You need to adapt of course, but little kids naturally think out of the box because they've not yet been indoctrinated into paradigm paralysis.
Avoid PhD's. I've known a couple of very creative PhD's but most of them had all the creativity beat out of them by the educational process. Winning a PhD is often more a matter of endurance than brilliance, albeit with some very notable exceptions.
Warning: creative people tend to be "wierd", and they can be hugely irritating to some.
How do I know this? I ran a skunk works for 15 years. I picked up talent off the layoff list, people that were regarded as "unmanagable". My own personnel folder had a flag saying "unmanagable". Everyone in my little band of mavericks won at least one patent, most had several. Two of them won the corp's highest awards for technical achievement though neither of them had engineering degrees at the time.
I won a bunch of patents, domestic and foreign. Coupla dozen I guess. I deliberately avoided filing any disclosures during the 15 years I ran the skunkworks because I wanted it very clear that I was not in competition with my teammates. I diverted my creativity toward defending my team from bureaucratic bullshit. That was fun!
I irritated the hell out ofsome folks, not intentionally but shit happens. They chose to be irritated. Having fun was high on the priority list for my little band of mavericks.
None of us got rich. None of us cared. Our next reunion is scheduled to happen in a couple of weeks. Khanh Vu is coordinating.
I wasn't supposed to hire Khanh, she was a check-the-box minority interview. I got yelled at by H.R. for actually hiring her. She didn't speak English as well as most applicants. She'd been in charge of a lot of stuff in Saigon, was on the last plane out with a 50,000 piaster price on her head. I liked her attitude: "no probrem!" "OK, but how will you accomplish your assignment?" "I don't know yet, no probrem." (You're hired!) She became a teammate very quickly.
Reply to
Don Foreman
Take your crew out for a pizza one day and announce that you are going to have an idea contest.
The concept here is to let the crew that sits and stares at the machinery all day long put forward ideas to increase profitability.
Then offer to share some of the increased profits with those ideas that are implemented and make the company more money.
I seem to recall that Henry Ford did this, and some of the best ideas came from very surprising sources.
Reply to
Roger Shoaf
Listening helps a lot. I mean really listening, not forming counter-arguments in your mind while somebody's talking. The other thing is to take the ego out of it. People love to talk about their stuff if they think you're there to help instead of take credit.
I do this stuff a little, in addition to my project work. Supervision will send me to a lab where progress is not being made, or they don't think things are going the right direction. Mostly, I just go, drink coffee, bullshit, and convince the recipients of the "help" that I really don't give a damn about the credit. That part's easy, because I don't.
Then I watch, listen, and ask questions when I don't understand something. My experience is they'll usually tell me exactly what's wrong during the first day, sometimes the first hour. The last time, I told them I could help, and how, designed the fix (a better controlled tiny reactor), had it built, flew back with it and helped them install it. They were off to the races, and it was their project. I got out of there. Except they had some other cool ideas so I built them some other stuff to help them get more experiments done.
It was fun.
Pete Keillor
Reply to
Pete Keillor
It's been said that Necessity is the Mother of Invention. False; Laziness is the true Mother ;)
Free men own guns - www(dot)geocities(dot)com/CapitolHill/5357/
Reply to
nick hull
Thereby showing great wisdom. That one answer would have done it for me too. "I don't know yet, no problem:" priceless!
Reply to
John Husvar
One way is to take the preferred/1st method and think about what you'd do as a backup because 'that' machine is out of service, or 'that' process will damage the workpiece.
Reply to
Old story, supposedly about Henry Ford:
While Ford was guiding a visitor through his plant, the visitor saw a guy sitting with his feet up on his desk, apparently half-asleep. The visitor asked Ford how he could tolerate such blatant laziness. Ford replied: "Last year that man came up with ideas that either saved or made me millions of dollars. He's about due for another one or two. He can sit at that desk forever for all I care!"
The old Bell Labs/Western Electric supposedly incorporated a pond and a few boats. There were always a few boats out with guys laying back, thinking. Wonder how many improvements came off that pond.
Reply to
John Husvar
I don't think that can be either taught or learned, it is one of those things that some have and others don't. ...lew...
Reply to
Lew Hartswick
Don Foreman and Pete Keillor have already presented excellent recommendations. Let's look at some of the starting assumptions:
1. This is a group-think approach - everyone leaves their title and authority at the door. Pulling rank stifles creativity. 2. The hard facts and the negotiable concerns are written on a board where all can see. There will be no surprises at the end to kill an otherwise good idea. 3. Courtesy and respect are obviously present. There are no "crazy" ideas. Just write them down and move on. Each speaker has a time limit and is not interrupted unless they choose to invite another person to speak. 4. There's always a contrarian in the crowd. That's usually me. Questions as to why something has to be done a certain way. Just like a person's first day on the job. Question assumptions. 5. There is a moderator/facilitator for the discussion and it's not a manager. It's someone who has that skill to ensure that each has his say but no more. 6. Closure is essential. The ideas presented and the ones selected are written and all participants get a copy. The attendees are listed. It is a form of "recognition" for their participation.
A truly great discussion is the result of polite presentation of apparently conflicting ideas that ends with consensus. I realize that personalities and egos are at stake. Those get left at the door as well. A person is not "bad" for making a suggestion or asking a question that does not work. Just keep a time limit on it.
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Reply to
Tom Kendrick
Write out a complete description of the problem as if you were explaining it to a new person. This forces you to examine every aspect of it. I think up a lot of new ideas while composing postings here.
Reply to
Jim Wilkins
My experience was that solutions to problems often popped up after leaving work and overnight when the day's pressures were off. I suggest having your staff brain-storming sessions first thing in the morning when everyone is fresh and rested (and never at the end of the day when they're tired and just want to go home). Include the secretary and the floor sweeper; sometimes these folks know a lot more about what's really going on than they're given credit for.
There is a tendency in brain-storming sessions for the natural-born critics to jump on every new idea and expound at length on why it won't work. Don't allow this (at least not beyond the point where the identification of legitimate considerations are being politely identified). Criticism and censure stifle the expression of thoughts formed "outside the box".
David Merrill
Reply to
David Merrill
Cool! You've got to tell us more stories about this - unless this is the kind of skunk works where you'd have to kill us after telling us.
Reply to
Jon Elson
Tom, This is a great question and I very much enjoyed the replies.My observations pretty much follows the other replies, but I would like to add one other observation. Engineers are born engineers. Universities do not make engineers, they give engineers tool bags. If a graduate did not arrive at the school an engineer, he will not leave as one either. Too many very valuable people have been excluded from opportunities simply because they did not possess a sheepskin. Steve
Reply to
Steve Lusardi
I won't name anybody here, but there's this guy on this group you might want to talk to about that. He comes up with very clever and incredible ways of doing simple things in new ways.
Reply to
Cydrome Leader
This is really TWO subjects: 1.) How do you think of good ideas? 2.) How do you encourage creative thinking in others? The second one has been well addressed by most of you. The first is more difficult. Some people spontneously bring various viewpoints to the problem, and automatically go into a "what if" mode when somethingt needs to be done. These same people go into a "what if" mode when they see something being done in the same old way. I think this is a talent, not easily taught.
The mind keeps working on a problem even when you are not aware of it--even in your sleep. If you are not satisfied with the answer you have, don't be in a rush. An inspiration may jump into your mind when you least expect it. And then you'll say, "Why didn't I think of that in the first place?"
Reply to
Leo Lichtman

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