Some ideas take time...

Written by: Justin Cunningham | Published:

It seems the demand for innovation is greater than ever, yet it is getting harder to come by. As the world gets more complex, so too are the products and solutions expected from engineers. A survey by IBM of 1500 CEO's from around the world ranked creativity as the single most important competency in business today.

Yet, for the most part we are judged against short term quantitative targets. While it is important to regularly assess productivity we must not forget that as engineers it's our job to come up with ideas and innovation and not just produce variants based on a previous design that is a little bit better, and when we can't do that, a little bit different.

Short term targets are important in keeping us on our toes and on course for the immediate future. However, excessive workloads and encroaching deadlines often means that longer term goals are frequently pushed to the back and filed under 'not a priority'.

While some might talk about – and even claim to have – a five year plan, most in their heart of hearts know this is some combination of whimsical, vague and speculative. However, longer term goals often address something less quantifiable and ask questions that are harder to define and find a formula for. They can be more philosophical and for engineers it might be about being more creative and innovation.

While you can read up on the latest Japanese product development strategies that help identify what you need to do, the 'how' still needs to come from bright individuals with clever ideas. Innovation is a word we probably over use in the media, but it's something many firms struggle to harness. Ideas often need time to flourish to reach that 'Eureka' moment and while they might not show immediate return, spending time away from the day to day to develop them can lead to all sorts of unforeseen benefits from higher productivity to being kinder to the environment.

So it is time to ask yourself, is your balance between long term and short term goals right or does it need adjusting? Is achieving long term aspirations based on quarterly targets really the best way to do it? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment online or by Tweeting me. Or come and see me at next month's Engineering Materials LIVE! And while you are there be sure to check out the Innovation Zone for plenty of examples of other engineers coming up with great ideas for that bit of inspiration.

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