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Ensuring A Strong U.S. Engineering Workforce For Technology Innovation And Competitiveness: Creating A Culture For Innovation In Industry

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2008 Annual Conference & Exposition


Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Publication Date

June 22, 2008

Start Date

June 22, 2008

End Date

June 25, 2008



Conference Session

Professional Graduate Education & Industry

Tagged Division

Graduate Studies

Page Count


Page Numbers

13.558.1 - 13.558.14



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Paper Authors

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Roger Olson Rolls-Royce Corporation

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Randall Holmes Caterpillar Inc.

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Donald Keating University of South Carolina


Thomas Stanford University of South Carolina

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THOMAS G. STANFORD is assistant professor of Chemical Engineering, University of South Carolina.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Ensuring a Strong U.S. Engineering Workforce for Technology Innovation and Competitiveness: Creating a Culture of Innovation in Industry

1. Introduction

This is the third of four invited papers prepared for a special session of the National Collaborative Task Force on Engineering Graduate Education Reform that is focusing on the need to create a culture of innovation in industry to ensure a strong U.S. Engineering Workforce for Technology Innovation and Competitiveness. This culture of innovation: is needed to ensure that the U.S. stays at the top of the game in the industrial world. Creativity is by far one of America’s most reliable competitive advantages. But what sparks creativity and how does it get engineered into products? Does it come from a fortunate few that miraculously hit on the next best thing?

In reality, creativity is an on-going process that requires a collaboration of talent, knowledge and experiences from many different aspects of the value chain, from the shop floor of our manufacturing facilities to engineering to the marketing team to the customer. True creativity is far from a science; it is more of an art. There is no one recipe that produces innovation and creativity, but it tends to evolve from many ideas, perspectives and experiences that are placed on the table of design and seasoned with the chemistry of a team and its leader. Leading innovation teams requires that the leader not only knows and applies the tools of his/her craft, but also has the leadership capabilities to facilitate collective intelligence, including recognizing, and listening to, the voice of the customer. This paper addresses the issues and known attributes required in building effective cultures that foster creativity, innovation, and the leadership abilities of the nation’s engineers within industry.

2. Addressing the Voice of the Customer

Over the last several years industry has learned that listening to the voice of the customer is vital not only to product design, but also to the rate at which new or improved products make their way to the customer. Although this in itself is not a new concept, building a culture of innovation within the corporate infrastructure may be a bit more unfamiliar to today’s industry. While having customers actually sitting at the design table giving their input early in the creation process (such as what Boeing did early in the 787 program) can greatly help the success rate of the overall design, it also takes a very talented leader to blend the voice of the customer with the voice of the business to create a true culture of innovation. This type of culture is especially important to product design, as well as to the sustainability of further growth as technology- based organizations dominate industrial productivity.

2.1 Building a Culture of Innovation

In today’s innovation-driven economy, the vast majority of engineering innovations are needs- driven and market-focused, requiring deliberate engineering problem-solving and responsible leadership. Today the practice of engineering for creative technology development and innovation is a very purposeful and systematic practice. It is not the linear or sequential process following basic research as portrayed in 1945, by Vannevar Bush 1. Rather, creative engineering

Olson, R., & Holmes, R., & Keating, D., & Stanford, T. (2008, June), Ensuring A Strong U.S. Engineering Workforce For Technology Innovation And Competitiveness: Creating A Culture For Innovation In Industry Paper presented at 2008 Annual Conference & Exposition, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. 10.18260/1-2--3336

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