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Engineering Innovativeness

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

Student Entrepreneurial and Innovative Mindset

Tagged Division

Entrepreneurship & Engineering Innovation

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.551.1 - 25.551.18



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Paper Authors


Daniel Michael Ferguson Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Daniel M. Ferguson is a graduate student in the Engineering Education program at Purdue University. He received his B.A. in pre-engineering in a five-year B.A./B.S. program at the University of Notre Dame and a M.B.A. and M.S.I.E. from Stanford University. Prior to coming to Purdue, he was Assistant Professor of entrepreneurship at Ohio Northern University. Before assuming that position, he was Associate Director of the Inter-professional Studies Program and Senior Lecturer at Illinois Institute of Technology and involved in research in service learning, assessment processes, and interventions aimed at improving learning objective attainment. Prior to his University assignments, he was the Founder and CEO of The EDI Group, Ltd., and The EDI Group Canada, Ltd., independent professional services companies specializing in B2B electronic commerce and electronic data interchange. The EDI Group companies conducted market research, offered educational seminars and conferences, and published the Journal of Electronic Commerce. He was also a Vice President at the First National Bank of Chicago, where he founded and managed the bank’s market leading professional Cash Management Consulting Group, initiated the bank’s non-credit service product management organization and profit center profitability programs and was instrumental in establishing the revolutionary EDI/EFT payment system implemented by General Motors. He is a two-time award winner of the Best Paper in Cash Management awarded by the Bank Administration Institute.

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James Edwin Cawthorne Jr. Purdue University, West Lafayette


Benjamin Ahn Purdue University, West Lafayette

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Benjamin Ahn is a Ph.D. student in the School of Engineering Education at Purdue University. His research interests relate to higher education reform, graduate teaching assistants' roles in engineering classes, undergraduate engineering syllabus and curriculum development, and professional engineering practices in universities and industries.

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Matthew W. Ohland Purdue University, West Lafayette Orcid 16x16

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Matthew W. Ohland is Associate Professor of Engineering Education at Purdue University. He has degrees from Swarthmore College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the University of Florida. His research on the longitudinal study of engineering students, team assignment, peer evaluation, and active and collaborative teaching methods has been supported by more than $11.6 million from the National Science Foundation and the Sloan Foundation, and his team received the William Elgin Wickenden Award for the Best Paper in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2008 and multiple conference Best Paper awards. Ohland is Past Chair of ASEE’s Educational Research and Methods Division and an At-Large Member the Administrative Committee of the IEEE Education Society. He was the 2002–06 President of Tau Beta Pi.

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Abstract: ASEE 2012 "The first step in winning the future is encouraging American innovation.” President Barack Obama, January 25, 2011 (Obama, 2011) An innovation is the “implementation of a new or significantly improved product (goodor service), process, marketing method, or organizational method in business practices,workplace organization or external relations” (Ferrari, Cachia, & Punie, 2009). Acting asinnovators and as the translators of new or existing technology into innovations that benefitsociety is the torch that engineers are expected to carry. Multiple vague and overlappingdefinitions of innovative behavior by engineers lead to much confusion in our society over therole that engineers play or can play in the stages of the innovation process. In this paper andaccompanying research we explore the innovative behavior of engineers and the relationship ofthat innovative behavior with the creative, design, problem solving and entrepreneurial behaviorof engineers during the three principal stages of innovation (Ford, Kousky, & Spiwak, 2007).Different perspectives of defining the innovative behavior of engineers illustrate the societalconfusion over the definition of innovative behavior by engineers. The key question that we areexploring is: “What set of intrinsic abilities (skills, knowledge, personality traits, or attributes),when combined with domain knowledge, experience and other extrinsic factors, enable andinspire engineers to create innovations that benefit society?”(Ferguson & Ohland, 2011) This paper discusses a qualitative research study set in an interpretivist framework whichexplores innovative behavior in engineers. The data is drawn from a set of 8 interviews ofengineering innovators and entrepreneurs each with 30-40 years of industry, academic andinnovation experience conducted in the summer of 2011. This study employs a grounded theoryapproach to produce a description of engineering innovativeness, an ill defined social construct.This paper and analysis builds on a previous analysis and development paper which focused onthe relationship of the innovative and entrepreneurial behavior of engineers. The initialinterviews were also expanded with supplementary questions for this analysis to include a focuson the three stages of the process of innovation, inhibitors to innovation and pathways tobecoming innovative or more innovative. “the science and engineering research enterprise… these are disciplines that lead to innovation across the spectrum of modern life”(National Academy of Engineering & Medecine, 2007) Pp90-91. The ultimate purpose of this exploratory study is to inform a process to develop or adapta measurement instrument so that innovative engineering behavior or potential can bebenchmarked in student and professional engineers. A benchmark of engineer innovativenesswill enable tests of interventions or the identification of intrinsic or extrinsic factors that increaseinnovativeness attributes or skill sets in engineers, thereby potentially benefiting society. Ifengineers become more innovative as a result of changes in engineering behavior or theenvironments in which they learn, work and live, society stands to benefit from their innovations.Ferguson, D. M., & Ohland, M. (2011). What is Engineering Innovativeness? International Journal of Engineering Education, in press.Ferrari, A., Cachia, R., & Punie, Y. (2009). Innovation and Creativity in Education and Training in the EU Member States: Fostering Creative Learning and Supporting Innovative Teaching. European Commission Joint Research Centre.Ford, G. S., Kousky, T. M., & Spiwak, L. J. (2007). A Valley of Death in the Innovation Sequence: an Economic Investigation. Washington D.C.: The Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal & Economic Public Policy Studies.National Academy of Engineering, & Medecine, I. o. (2007). Rising Above The Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for A Brighter Economic Future. Washington, D.C.: National Academy of Sciences.Obama, B. (2011, January 25). [State of the Union Address to the U.S. Congress].

Ferguson, D. M., & Cawthorne, J. E., & Ahn, B., & Ohland, M. W. (2012, June), Engineering Innovativeness Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21309

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