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Big Picture Thinkers in Industry—Who Are They?

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

College Industry Partnerships Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

College Industry Partnerships

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.230.1 - 24.230.18



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Paper Authors


Hadi Ali Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Hadi Ali is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He holds a B.S. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University and a B.Sc. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Jordan. He earned his Masters degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University (majoring in aerospace systems design, with a minor in astrodynamics and space applications), and a Masters degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Purdue (majoring in artificial intelligence, with a minor in fields and optics). His research interests include human-centered design and engineering; the empirical study of engineering systems; and reconfigurability of complex socio-technical systems. He is a member and the treasurer of the Purdue Karate Club.

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Robin Adams Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Robin S. Adams is an Associate Professor in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. She holds a PhD in Education, an MS in Materials Science and Engineering, and a BS in Mechanical Engineering. Her research is in three interconnecting areas: cross-disciplinary thinking, acting, and being; design cognition and learning; and theories of change in transforming engineering education.

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Big Picture Thinkers in Industry—Who Are They?Driving a breakthrough mindset is a critical step for realization of innovation for continuedbusiness success and growth. Big Picture Thinkers (BPT) have a role in driving this mindset.However, currently, the roles, responsibilities, decision rights, skills and behaviors of BPT arenot well characterized. There is a need to understand what characteristics of BPT are critical todriving a breakthrough mindset: to better clarify their role; and to train others for a successionplan for that role. Research to characterize the development of qualities of BPT is of value to diversestakeholders. This value stems from the need to address the critical issue of the loss of massiveamounts of experience, due to the retirement of Baby Boomer generation engineers. Thisresearch aims to find ways to capture technical knowledge in industry, and to transfer thisknowledge, efficiently and effectively, to the new generation of professionals. In this paper, results of research conducted within a Fortune 500 CPG multi-nationalcompany are reported. The project has two phases: In Phase 1, we try to answer the followingresearch questions: What are the characteristics of BPT professionals, and what are theirqualifications? In Phase 2, we try to answer the following research question: How is big picturethinking acquired? The project is still on-going; only the results of Phase 1 are reported in thispaper. In Phase 1, we present analysis of semi-structured interviews with “expert” BPTs, as wellas surveys to gather data from “expert” and “promising” BPT. The interviews and surveysprovide insight into prior experiences (personal, educational, and professional); motivations;training and mentoring background; a history of work roles and responsibilities (assigned andself-directed); and a short list of self-identified “breakthrough” accomplishments. Theinterviews provide pilot data, and with the survey data will drive the next phase, Phase 2.Analysis outcomes of this phase include descriptive data on experiences associated with (1)indicators of BPT (early indicators and track record); and (2) dispositions, orientations, andtraining experiences associated with those indicators.

Ali, H., & Adams, R. (2014, June), Big Picture Thinkers in Industry—Who Are They? Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana. 10.18260/1-2--20121

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