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While creativity is normally associated with writers, artists and musicians, these are not the only fields where creativity is essential.

In order to successfully solve problems, engineers must be creative. An inventive mindset is essential for them to design new products and services or improve upon those that have already been created. Engineers need to constantly innovate in order to continue to drive economic and societal successes.

That said, defining creativity is a daunting task, given the wide range of definitions. Some educators look at creativity in the engineering field as a series of levels. The first level includes expressive creativity, the ability to develop a unique idea with no concern about its quality.

This is illustrated by the engineering student who is asked to design a shelter using two square meters of cardboard, 3 meters of string, and 30 centimeters of duct tape, and invited to sleep in it for one night.

The second level might be defined as technical creativity, the proficiency to create products with consummate skills, but with little expressive spontaneity. For example, an engineering student emulates the exact behaviors in a laboratory assignment as modeled by the instructor, replicating the production of an existing structure, such as a bridge.

The third level could be called inventive creativity, the ability to develop a new use of old parts and new ways of seeing old things in an ingenious manner. Here the engineering student creates a prototype, the first of its kind based on the process of combining older ideas and synthesizing them into a new product.

The fourth level, innovative creativity, is the ability to penetrate foundational principles or establish a school of thought, and formulate innovative departures. The engineering student is able to think outside the box to move beyond the current thinking of engineering and develop a new way of creating and designing. For example, students are asked to design a motor driven by water as fuel.

The fifth and highest level has been referred to as emergent creativity, the ability to incorporate the most abstract ideational principles or assumptions underlying a body of knowledge, as in the example of Einstein’s work on general relativity.

Want to learn more? Tonex offers Engineering Creativity Workshop, a 3-day course that helps you explore various factors that enhance and prevent creativity in people, teams and organizations, in the field of engineering. Engineering creativity workshop introduces participants to a series of tools and methods for generating new ideas as an individual and as part of a team, containing opportunity identification, reframing problems, linking and integrating ideas, and challenging statements. 

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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