When Paul Laurer invented the precursor to the barcode system, the Universal Product Code, in the early 1970s he demonstrated his prototype by recruiting a top softball pitcher to throw code-labelled beanbag ashtrays as fast as he could over a reader to prove that it could read labels with an accuracy high enough for it only to mistake one in two hundred thousand.
This is just one of the examples that biomedical engineer Guru Madhaven uses to illustrate the sort of ingenuity that distinguishes engineers from the rest of the population in his fascinating book, ‘Think Like and Engineer’.
As Laurer put it: “It’s just a case of sitting down and thinking out every possible solution, step by step, one after another, and also having confidence that there’s a solution out there and you can find it… Not saying, oh well it can’t be done.”
Madhaven believes he’s been able through close analysis to reverse-engineer the engineering mindset itself. At its core lies what he describes as ‘modular systems thinking’, or the ability to bend different techniques and principles and apply them to a problem. Above this is ‘the one-two-three punch’: the ability to see structure where there’s none, the ability to design within constraints, and the ability to make dynamic trade-offs between different factors. Another metaphor he likes to use is the Swiss army knife approach to problem solving, combining structured and abstract thinking, common sense and imagination whilst also cross-pollinating information from as wide a range of sources as possible.
With the help of a cast of star engineers and fascinating, unexpected real world examples, Madhavan offers a framework for you to think like the best engineers – more creatively, systematically and strategically so that you can learn to make better decisions and create innovative solutions in a complex world.
If you’re fascinated by the kind thinking that has helped to shape our world, or want to broaden your horizons, and learn to think more strategically, then ‘this book should take priority as your next piece of bedtime reading. To help you on your way E&T and Oneworld have teamed up to offer one lucky reader the chance to win their very own copy, just in time for the bank holiday weekend. To be in with the chance of winning, simply enter our giveaway below.
Terms and conditions
This giveaway is open to UK entrants only and runs until 24/05/2017 at midnight. There are five books available. There is no cash alternative and the prize is not transferable. Employees of the IET and their families may not enter.
A winner will be picked at random and contacted via email. If they do not respond within three days, another winner will be picked. Entrants’ details will be used only in connection with this competition and not retained or passed to any third parties.
E&T, as the promoter, reserves the right to cancel or amend the giveaway and these terms and conditions without notice.